Threepenny Video

Top Ten Recordings of "Mack the Knife"

Louis Armstrong: The first and maybe the best. Well, not exactly the first, but the one that got the world's attention and launched a thousand tugboats by the river. Armstrong was definitely the first to incorporate Lenya's name into the lyrics. Maybe that was because Lenya was present at the recording session.

Ella Fitzgerald: Ella forgot the words and still made the song work. Must be nice to be able to sing like that. "Well, now, Ella, Ella and her fellas / Make a wreck, oh, what a wreck, of Mack the Knife."

Bobby Darin: The murderer Macheath becomes a super-cool anti-hero in this finger-popping performance. Probably the best-known version of "Mack the Knife." Banned by some radio stations because it was thought to encourage gang violence.

Dee Dee Bridgewater: She tries out a dizzying variety of vocal styles in this track from her all-Weill CD, This Is New, from prim and proper to swingy and scatty, with stops between and beyond. Some fine playing behind her goes nicely with the vocal variety show.

Robbie Williams: Brings the big-band era back to life with his 2001 CD. Sometimes he seems to be aiming for Sinatra, sometimes for Darin, but by the time he's done it just sounds like Williams.

Lyle Lovett: One of the slowest versions ever recorded-if you just heard the intro, you might think it was Mantovani. Lovett sounds a little like a lounge singer in this one, but that earnest voice puts the song across beautifully.

Sonny Rollins: Plenty of jazz saxophonists have covered "Mack the Knife," but none with the inspiration and intensity of Sonny Rollins. Ten feverish minutes with no letup. I'm still catching my breath.

Max Raabe: He's a big name in Germany these days, and it's easy to hear why. Raabe's deadpan humor cannot disguise his excellent vocal technique or his effortless evocation of Germany of the early 1930's.

The Young Gods: An industrial, almost grunge, version by the Swiss band. Lots of heavy drums and electric guitar-not your father's "Mack the Knife." Brings out Macheath's menace like no one else.

Frank Sinatra: Everything Frank Sinatra touched became a standard. If it was already a standard, it became an outstanding standard. Most people don't know this, but Sinatra recorded the song again in 1994 with Jimmy Buffett.

This list isn't final! Email us ( your favorites, including the name of the artist and a brief explanation. If we get enough for a new list, we'll put it up.

  • to the top

  • Introduction   Synopsis   Music   MakingOf   inAmerica   inEurope   Chronology   Authors   Quotes   offBway1954   Audio   Posters   Macheath   MackTheKnife   EZ Quiz   Quiz   Calendar   Links   Contact  

    Kurt Weill Foundation 2020