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Versions of Mack the Knife on YouTube

I was going to do a serious post about the new EU reform treaty, and how the UK's political discourse around it is totally absurd and lopsided. But then I decided to write about this important topic instead (I have been brewing this post for almost three years, since stellanova inspired me). I hope these entertain you as much as they entertained me.


Ernst Busch, 1931. Everything else has to be measured against this.

The original Lotte Lenya. Illustrated with only still photos of her and Weill, and her on her own, but aurally gripping.

Ute Lemper. At least, she sings in the background while a couple in Ghent have an argument.

SLUT, 2006. This Bavarian indie band just get it so absolutely right, converting the Brecht/Weill original into at 21st century idiom.

Brazilian musicians, 2006. Valiant attempt to create a proper 1930s feel, riffing off other great Weill tunes in the process.

Other languages

Miloš Kopecký, 1964. My God, this is superb. (In Czech.) For other languages, see also Hebrew and Italian.

English (apart from Liberace)

Nick Cave, 1997. This is the performance of a tortured artist who loves this song. If it had been directed by someone prepared to rein him in, it would have been fantastic. As it is, it is memorable but painful.

Liberace, 1960s. Much better than I had expected - almost variations on a theme of Weill. No singing, just piano.

The Achordants, 2007. 15 blokes doing the male voice choir thing. Works rather well.

The Cotton Club of Hungary, recently. An arresting performance, by three men and two women singers.

Dinah Shore and Pearl Mae Bailey, 1960. Hilarious.

Bobby Darin, 1959. Very much a fifties "big band" style production. Joyous to listen to, but to be honest a little embarrassing to watch. Inspired many others, including:

Louis Armstrong, 1962. The performance that inspired a hundred imitators, none of whom could match either Armstrong's trumpet-playing or his more understated menace.

Ella Fitzgerald, 1965. Cuddly Ella sings a nice song which shows off her superb voice very well. (We'll just forget that it's about murder, rape and violence, OK?)

The Jimmy Smith trio, 1962. Adventurous. Almost works.

Robbie Williams - at least not offensively bad.

Westlife, 2006. Certainly the worst of the performances in terms of getting the song. Although they are in tune, they seem to be reading the lines of the autocue at various points. The rolling subtitles of trivia about Westlife's personal history add extra shallowness to what is already a superficial performance.

Blake Lewis, 2007. Out of tune and just horrible.

A rather hilarious compilation including some of the above and some others. Audio, with still photos. Another compilation, from the same source.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 20th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)
Somewhere there exists footage of Caroline Quentin doing interpretive dance to Mack the Knife, unfortunately not on YouTube...

Oct. 20th, 2007 02:35 am (UTC)
Cheers for the education. I feel justified in staying firmly on the fence on pop music, even when it has classic lineage. ;-)
Oct. 20th, 2007 05:40 am (UTC)
I've always enjoyed the Lotte Lenya version best.
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
damn. amazon.de says Slut's dreigroschenoper album is unavailable. seerauber jenny is my go-to weill ~m
Oct. 21st, 2007 09:04 pm (UTC)
I must get broadband sometime. I also misread one of your names above as Kenneth Williams.
Oct. 22nd, 2007 05:37 am (UTC)
Hmm, the idea of him doing "Mack the Knife" is, er, strange...
Oct. 23rd, 2007 03:42 pm (UTC)
One more version you're lacking
Bruce Willis in Hudson Hawk singing that tune. Badly, very badly, apparently.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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