Die Moritat von Mackie Messer / Mack the Knife


Die Moritat von Mackie Messer (Mack the Knife) written by Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht (1928) — English lyrics Marc Blitzstein, arr. Turk Murphy (1954)

Excerpts (adapted when necessary) from the Wikipedia article:

Mack the Knife or The Ballad of Mack the Knife, originally Die Moritat von Mackie Messer, is a song composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama Die Dreigroschenoper, or, as it is known in English, The Threepenny Opera. It premiered in Berlin in 1928. The song has become a popular standard.

The best known English translation, from the Marc Blitzstein 1954 version of The Threepenny Opera, introduced the song to English-speaking audiences, with such lines as:

Oh the shark has pretty teeth dear,
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jack-knife has Macheath dear
And he keeps it out of sight

This is the version popularized by Louis Armstrong (1956) and Bobby Darin (1959) (Darin’s lyrics differ slightly), and most subsequent swing versions. Weill’s widow, Lotte Lenya, the star of both the original 1928 German production and the 1954 Blitzstein Broadway version, was present in the studio during Armstrong’s recording. He spontaneously added her name to the lyrics, which already named several of Macheath’s female victims.

The rarely heard final verse — not included in the original play, but added by Brecht for the 1930 movie — expresses the theme, and compares the glittering world of the rich and powerful with the dark world of the poor:

German English translation
Denn die einen sind im Dunkeln
Und die andern sind im Licht
Und man siehet die im Lichte
Die im Dunkeln sieht man nicht
There are some who are in darkness
And the others are in light
And you see the ones in brightness
Those in darkness drop from sight



Bertolt Brecht performs Die Moritat von Mackie Messer. Recording date and location unknown.


At the 1928 premiere, the Moritat was sung by Kurt Gerron, who was a noted film and stage actor in Germany, and who also played the part of the Police Chief Brown. Weill also intended for the Moritat to be accompanied by a barrel organ, which was to be played by the singer. — Wikipedia

Kurt Gerron – 1928(?)



Lotte Lenya (18 October 1898 – 27 November 1981) was an Austrian singer and actress. In the German-speaking and classical music world she is best remembered for her performances of the songs of her husband, Kurt Weill. In popular culture, she is widely recognized for her performance as Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love. – Wikipedia

Lotte Lenya (undated)


Louis Armstrong, Empress Hall, London – 1956

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Ute Lemper

Ute Lemper performs Die Moritat von Meckie Messer in Ilona Ziok’s internationally awarded musical film Kurt Gerron’s Karussell (world premiere: Berlin Film Festival, 1999)




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