Mack the Knife
Writer(s): Kurt Weill (m)/Mark Blitzstein (l)/Berthold Brecht (l) (see lyrics here)
First Charted: August 24, 1959
Peak: 19 US, 18 CB, 15 HR, 6 RB, 12 UK, 12 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 24.03 video, 44.7 streaming
Awards: (Click on award for more details).
About the Song:
“Mack the Knife” originated in 1928 as “Moritat,” which translates to “murder deed.” RCG Bertlot Brecht and Kurt Weill wrote the original German song about “a bloodthirsty Berlin gangster” RS500 on the prowl for the musical The Three Penny Opera. Despite the song’s gruesome subject matter, the irresistible melody made the song hit-worthy. KL Instead of translating the lyrics literally, Marc Blitzstein was assigned to give the song a rewrite. SJ
The song had become a standard before Darin ever recorded it. “Mack” charted six times in 1956; the Dick Hyman Trio’s #8 instrumental version being the most successful. However, Darin’s version trumped them all. A year earlier, at age twenty-two, Darin first hit with the “Splish Splash”, followed by three more hits which cemented his appeal to the teen market. However, Darin wanted the kind of longevity enjoyed by Frank Sinatra. At the time he even told Billboard, “In night clubs I learn to other things. I even do ‘Mack the Knife.’” BB100
Engineer and producer Tom Dowd said Darin’s label, Atlantic Records, was “always on the look-out for new and innovative artists who could preserve the blues or jazz tradition, but the company was concerned that songs should be timely and would cater to the root of the artist, and at the same time would be merchandisable.” TC Ahmet Ertegun, the co-president of the record company, was interested in taking Darin “out of the pop world and into a more adult sphere.” TC
For his standards album That’s All, Darin recorded the song, but he never saw it being a single. SJ Atlantic thought otherwise and the song transformed Darin’s image into that of “a finger-snapping sophisticate at home in the cocktail lounge.” RS500 It also gave the label its first non-R&B pop hit. TC
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First posted 8/24/2011; last updated 4/13/2021.