Mack the Knife

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composition date
Marc Blitzstein
Bertolt Brecht
Kurt Weill
related performer(s)
Frank Sinatra

Threepenny Pop Hit

This song was originally written in 1928 by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht for their theatre piece, Die Greigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), which was based on John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera. The song’s original title was “Morit’at,” an amalgam of the German words for “murder” and “deed.” Weill always said the song was inspired by the sound of Berlin’s traffic. When the show made its way to New York in 1933, it had lyrics by Gifford Cochran and Jerrold Krimsky, who called the song, “The Legend of Mackie Messer.” Nothing came of the song until 1954, when a revival of The Threepenny Opera opened off Broadway with lyrics by Marc Blitzstein. He titled the song, “Mack the Knife.” Blitzstein’s version was recorded by such diverse talents as Bobby Darin, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Rosemary Clooney.

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