Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Mack the Knife

First recorded (as “Die Morität von Mackie Messer”) by Harald Paulsen (1928).
First English-language recording by Gerald Price (1954).
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, titled ‘Die Morität von Mackie Messer’ (‘The Ballad of Mack the Knife’). The play opens with the moritat singer comparing ‘Mackie’ (Macheath) unfavorably with a shark, and then telling tales of his robberies, murders, rapes, and arson.

“‘Mack the Knife’ was a last-minute addition to the show, inserted just before its Berlin premiere, because Harald Paulsen, the actor who played Macheath, demanded that Brecht and Weill add a number to the score that would more effectively introduce his character.

“The song was first introduced to American audiences in 1933 during the first English-language production of The Threepenny Opera. That production, however, was not successful, closing after a run of only ten days. The production was revived on Broadway in 1954 with greater success. Gerald Price recorded the arrangement that appeared on the 1954 original cast recording of Threepenny Opera.

“The first popular recording of ‘Mack the Knife’ was made by Louis Armstrong in 1956, when his version with his All Stars band reached #20 on the Billboard Hot 100. 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 a 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.”

Gerald Price, “Mack the Knife” (1954)

Louis Armstrong, “Mack the Knife” (1956):

Bobby Darin, “Mack the Knife” (1958):

Bobby Darin, “Mack the Knife” TV performance (1959):

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