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MACK THE KNIFE Louis Armstrong (1965)

MACK THE KNIFE Louis Armstrong (1965)

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Born playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898)

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Mack the Knife has a history as long and troubled as that account of the own song. The first time I popped this character of this topic was in The Opera the Beggar , a play written by John Gay in 1728 and starring a bandit named Macheath. But it was not until two centuries later, when the German playwright Bertolt Brecht decided to make his adaptation, the story of the life of this criminal began to become popular.

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Brecht titled The Opera of the Three Cents and, in collaboration with the composer Kurt Weill, updated the script and the music to make it into a marxist critique of the capitalist world. The character of Macheath has kept the name, but gave him the nickname of Mackie Messer (Mack the Knife) at the same time that he was introduced as a more cruel and sinister than the original.

A few days before the premiere, in August 1928, the actor who played the role of protagonist asked him to do a song of presentation of the character to soften his arrival on the scene.

As a response to this request, wrote a “moritat”, a ballad of medieval origin that until the beginning of the NINETEENTH century it was used to tell the misdeeds of a criminal. Brecht was in charge of the letter, that in the mouth of a street singer, she looked through the entire criminal history of Macheath. And on it, Weill composed a unique melody of sixteen bars that would be repeated throughout the theme.

The musical and its subsequent film version was a success. But this topic introductory everyone knew already, as Mackie Messer yet it was more (Die Moritat von Mackie Messer). So much so, that he ended up becoming one of the most performed in the cabarets of Berlin between the wars. However, with the advent of Nazism, Weill and Brecht were forced to flee Germany and the song was forgotten for more than two decades.

In his exile, Kurt Weill was installed in New York City with his wife. There the couple coincided with Marc Blitzstein, a composer much admired the work of Weill and Brecht. So when the first of them died in 1950, Blitzstein decided to pick up the themes of The Opera the Three Cents and make the adaptation to English. The work was premiered at the age of four with a box-office success, discreet. But fate wanted you to one of the representations to attend the record producer George Avakian, who quickly realized that this “moritat” that Blitzstein had already renamed Mack the Knife had great potential as a song, jazz instrumental. The offered to several renowned artists, but nobody wanted to do it. Until the proposal came to Louis Armstrong. The musician was so excited with the theme that, apart from touching it with the trumpet, also wanted to sing.

The version of Armstrong became the base from which many artists have made their own versions of the theme. The most acclaimed was Bobby Darin , who, in 1959, he took her to the top of the charts. But also got Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra , at the end of his career, often used as a closing song on his concerts. In the Latin world, the musician Rubén Blades, was the one who did the version in Spanish with a Pedro Navaja commit crimes to the rhythm of salsa.

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