HomeJazzElla Fitzgerald, The First Lady of Swing, Swings “Mack the Knife” Carl March 20, 2012 Jazz 4 Comments Mack the Knife is a beloved jazz standard. Besides Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin are heavyweights who recorded it. Here is a fabulous version by Armstrong. The song is from Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera. Weill’s wife, Lotte Lenya, sings it here in German. The song simply is not very nice. Commentary before she sings the song in English — the video has been taken down, unfortunately — describes Berlin as a degenerate pit in which Nazism grew. Lenya leaves no doubt who this much-loved song really is about at the end. Here are some lyrics from the song. Very pleasant stuff: Jenny Towler Poor wee Jenny, There they found her Knife in breast. Mackie’s wandering On the West Pier Hoping only For the best. Mind that fire burnt All through Soho. Seven kids dead One old flower. *** And those sweet babes Under sixteen Story goes that Black and blue For the price of One good screwing Mackie, Mackie How could you? It goes on like that. It’s also unclear why the murderer, Macheath, is not German. I have no interest in seeing a production or reading it, so I guess I’ll never know. At the end of the day, we have a song that is about murder and references Hitler. It’s beloved and sung by big stars. Actually, it’s a perfect pop classic for the 20th century. 4 Responses Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. Name* Email* Website Comment Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.