Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Mack the Knife

First popular English-language recording Louis Armstrong & His All Stars (US #20 1956).
Other hit version by Bobby Darin (US #1/R&B #6/UK #1 1959).

From the wiki: “First composed in German by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama Die Dreigroschenoper (known in English as The Threepenny Opera), ‘Mack the Knife’ had its original premiere in Berlin in 1928. The play opens with the moritat singer comparing Macheath (unfavorably) with a shark, and then telling tales of his robberies, murders, rapes, and arson. The song was a last minute addition, inserted just before its première in 1928, because Harald Paulsen, the actor who played Macheath, demanded that Brecht and Weill add another number that would more effectively introduce his character.

“The song was first introduced to American audiences in 1933 in the first English-language production of The Threepenny Opera. That production, however, was not successful, closing after a run of only ten days. The first popular recording of ‘Mack the Knife’ was made by Louis Armstrong in 1956, when his version with his All Stars band reach #20. Bobby Darin recorded his version in December 1958 at Fulton Studios, New York City. Even though Darin was reluctant to release the song as a single (Dick Clark had advised Darin not to record the song because of the perception that, having come from an opera, it wouldn’t appeal to the rock & roll audience), it would reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #6 on the R&B chart in 1959, and earn Darin a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Darin’s version is also ranked #3 on Billboard’s All Time Top 100.”

Bobby Darin, “Mack the Knife” (1958):

Bobby Darin, “Mack the Knife” TV performance (1960):

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