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On “Mack The Knife”

What have I been doing for the past week and a half? Mainly humming clicking my fingers and idly singing lines of “Mack the Knife” out of context, possibly provoked by this blog post. So let us take a few hundred words to discuss said song, in lieu of any real content for this sadly dying blog.

“Mack the Knife” has its roots in a German song, “Die Moritat Von Mackie Messer”, a 1928 soundtrack joint by Bertolt Brecht. Stunting London retro-kittens like to make out that Brecht was some folk hero to the louche sexual free-for-all that was Berlin before that Austrian chap fucked everything up. When you bother to look into his career, though, you find out he was basically Gilbert and Sullivan with slightly better jokes and slightly less annoying fans.

What I find fascinating about the English language version of this track, however, is how devoid of context it has become these days. Lounge singers and jazz musicians are two people you expect to sing songs about the down-and-dirty side of life: biopics have taught us that every jazz musician of note lived a life of unrelenting misery, while lounge singers knew who buttered their bread, and resultantly offered up a pre-narcocorrido brand of pro-organised crime bangers for the Vegas crowd (it may be worth noting that the further involved with the mob a musician was, the more innocent their outlook: Sinatra, who was never more than a weedcarrier, made sure to play up his Mafia roots at any point; Louis Prima, who was on some Suge Knight shit for all of the 50s and 60s, instead sang novelty songs about donkeys delivering Christmas gifts).

So these cats sang a song that referenced murder and rape and prostitution and drug dealing and da da da. I mean, even back when crack rap was back you wouldn’t find a chart single with a line as clear as “five will get you ten”, but back in 19whenever you had Bobby Darrin tossing this off before asking motherfucker to try the veal that evening. But now…. who sings Mack the Knife? Westlife. Michael Buble. Anyone looking for a little bit of vague danger for their Frank pastiche.

I don’t think it’s even a “Run for Your Life” deal, where people overlook how ign’ant the song actually is. People must process what “Mack the Knife” is about: every single line is related to a felony. And yet… nobody cares? This is what I mean, this is the most devoid of context song imaginable, as if people suddenly turned up on reality shows auditioning by doing the songs from that last Chris Brown song that are thinly disguised apologies for him kicking the shit out of Rihanna. Pop music is weird, imho.

You know a pre-fame Michael Buble appeared as a submarine sailor on an episode of The X-Files, right?

  1. MF
    August 22, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Where the King Kurt version at, yo?

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