[Dixielandjazz] Re: The Real Mack The Knife

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Dec 9 23:42:45 PST 2003

> Harold Smith s3856lpa at webtv.net wrote:
> To the best of my knowledge, Mack the Knife is the English version of
> Mackie Messer in a song from Die Dreigoschen Oper (Threepenny Opera by
> Kurt Weill and Bertold Brelcht), and is based on the play's character,
> MacHeath.
> The oriiginal song from the Opera is called Moritat.  Dick Hyman had a
> hit with it in the mid=1950's in an instrumental version.
> Don't really know who started it on its way as a swing tune, but I
> rather suspect it was Louis Armstrong, followed a few years later by
> Bobby Darrin.
> In its original version, it is a very sardonic and bitter song, sung in
> a nasal Berliner dialect.  Quite effective, and sinister.

Actually the original is the Beggar's Opera, by a Brit. Then modified by the Germans, then the Russians, remodified by the Brits etc. Below is one
paragraph of many that can be seen at:


"Macheath was birthed in The Beggar's Opera by John Gay (June 30, 1685-December 23,
1732). Gay was an English playwright and poet who lived in the eighteenth century and gained
fame as a satirist on the contemporary society. A friend of famous writers as Johnathan Swift and
Alexander Pope, who usually outshine Gay in the history books, but three of the most popular
works of the period: The Fables, which have been printed in over 350 editions; Trivia, which
went into five editions in the poets lifetime and is sometimes regarded as the best poem about
London life ever written; and of coarse The Beggar's Opera, probably the century's most beloved
play, are Gay's most famous works. The opera was conceived in a letter that Swift wrote to Pope
on August 30, 1716. The letter asks, "...what think you, of a Newgate pastoral among the thieves
and s there?" Pope suggested to hand the idea to Gay, but make it a comedy; A comedy by
a beggar."

Take a look if you want the FULL Story on Mack The Knife. Including who recorded the song after Louis Armstrong swung it. Like Sting and even
MacDonalds' hamburger joints which in the 1980s, borrowed it and coined "Mac Tonight" as a commercial. It really is a neat story.

It is also very long (too long to post) with some twists and turns along the way. VERY INTERESTING piece. So see:


Steve Barbone

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list