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My Top Eight Favorite Versions of Mack the Knife

Bobby Darin


The Story Behind Mack the Knife

"Mack the Knife" was composed by Kurt Weill and the lyrics were written by Bertolt Brecht. The original lyrics were written in German for a music drama called Die Dreifroschenoper or, in English, The Threepenny Opera.

It’s a song about a murderer who charms and steals from his victims before killing them. It’s amazing that such a dark song has an upbeat catchy tune. Mack the Knife has been sung by many artists and many of them put their own little spin on it their make it their own. A personal signature if you will.

Below are my top ten picks for "Mack the Knife" in no particular order. Be sure to pay close attention to all of the lyrics by the individual performers and see if you can spot the lyrics they added or changed to make it their own.

Bobby Darin

I do believe Bobby Darin was the first artiest to perform this song in English. He decided to perform this song after he saw a performance of The Threepenny Opera. He put his own spin on it and sang it in his nightclub acts. He also added the line "Five will get you Ten". The song was well received and later on he recorded it and it was included on his album entitled That's All.

Bobby Darin

Louis Armstrong

Louie Armstrong performed this in 1959 in Stuttgart Germany. He was an amazing trumpet player and with his deep scratchy voice performed Mack the Knife.

Louis Armstrong

Ella Fitzgerald

This is Ella's version of Mack the Knife where she performed it live in Berlin. Halfway through the song she forgets the lyrics and improvises. She even imitates Louie Armstrong's voice. This is definitely her best version of Mack the Knife.

Ella Fitzgerald

Michael Buble'

Michael Buble' is an Italian/Canadian singer who was born in 1975. He's won three Grammy Awards and multiple Juno Awards. You can read more about Michael here.

Michael Buble's version is very interesting. He put's his own spin on it by imitating Ella Fitzgerald imitating Louie Armstrong.

Michael Buble'

Dean Martin

Dean Martin's version is almost exactly the same as Bobby Darin's. The only twist I was able to spot on this one was that he changed "Lucy Brown" to "Charlie Brown". Still one of my favorite versions.

Dean Martin

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Ian Reentrant

Ian Reentrant is a guy I stumbled upon on You Tube. He sings this song while playing the ukulele. He's not famous yet but made my top Ten list. Take a listen.

Ian Reentrant

Robbie Williams

Robbie Williams is an English singer/Songwriter and performs this Live at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Pay close attention to his facial expressions.

Robbie Williams


Westlife is an "Irish Boy Band" who deserve recognition. They do a nice job on Mack the Knife.


Cast Your Vote


john farley on September 17, 2016:

Bing Crosby & The Bob Scobey's Frisco Jazz Band version from 1957?

TycoonSam (author) from Washington, MI on June 13, 2016:

Thank you Luis!

LUÍS CARLOS on April 30, 2016:

I am a big fan on this song, and i love this compilation great

TycoonSam (author) from Washington, MI on September 02, 2014:

OhMe, Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on September 01, 2014:

Love this song especially Dean Martin. Sure enjoyed this and didn't know the story of the song so thought it was very interesting.

D.Juris Stetser from South Dakota on December 19, 2013:

Really well researched, and entertaining ! Love learning about the darker aspects of the original 'Mack" Voted Awesome, Interesting Useful, and they should have a "Just Plain Wonderful' button. Thanks so much for sharing this !

TycoonSam (author) from Washington, MI on December 22, 2012:

Thanks Ralph! So that's where the line "Lotte Lenya and Lucy Brown comes in. Thank you so much for sharing.

TycoonSam (author) from Washington, MI on December 22, 2012:

Thank you Tammy! It's always a pleasure when you stop by.

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on December 16, 2012:

Great hub on a great song, but you missed the greatest performer Lotte Lenya who sings it in German. As I recall she was Kurt Weill's wife. Here's a link to Lotte singing Mack the Knife:

Wikibio--Lotte Lenya

Tammy from North Carolina on December 16, 2012:

I had to vote for the original. Very cool hub. This is a classic time from a classic bygone era. Very enjoyable.

TycoonSam (author) from Washington, MI on November 01, 2012:

Stessily, That's great about your father's music collection! I wish I was exposed to a wider variety of music at a younger age.

Thanks for the comments and compliments!

stessily on November 01, 2012:

TycoonSam, My father had an amazing musical collection, so I grew up on both "Mack the Knife" and "Threepenny Opera". "Mack" has been a persistent favorite for me throughout life; I fell in love with it at first hearing, sung by the late, great, unforgettable Bobby Darin. It's a song I feel completely comfortable singing a cappella and have done so in a canoe in the pristine Wisconsin northern wilderness, enchanting even my hard-core rock music devotee boyfriend.

Thank you for introducing Westlife's performance; I was unaware of it, and I love it!

I would also add that I think that Kevin Spacey gave a fantastic rendition of "Mack" in "Beyond the Sea". From my perspective, his performance in the movie honored Bobby's memory.

Your tribute to "Mack the Knife" is greatly, greatly appreciated. It is well done!

Appreciatively, Stessily

TycoonSam (author) from Washington, MI on October 25, 2012:

Thank you grillrepair. I will have to look up Pirate Jenny.

Pretty cool on making the recording too, I bet it was fun!

grillrepair from florida on October 25, 2012:

i did my thesis work on brecht in college and all the songs brecht and weil did were like this. Pirate Jenny is as good as Mack The Knife but they are all fun, catchy and dark as only a proud communist politically active artist living in east Berlin can be.

although i heard it closed i went to a "musical library" in sarasota, florida once that had anything, everything and procured a recording of the helene weigel original recording. a thrilll for me although i do not know the language.

TycoonSam (author) from Washington, MI on October 13, 2012:

Thank you darkprinceofjazz I will look that one up.

darkprinceofjazz on October 13, 2012:

I like Sonny Rollins' Instrumental from the 1956 album Saxophone Colossus, the track is renamed "Moritat" on the album.

TycoonSam (author) from Washington, MI on October 13, 2012:

Thank you Jools!

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on October 13, 2012:

Interesting hub. I had no idea that Mack the Knife had such a dark meaning and was amazed to find it was part of an opera first. Your choices are great. I think Darin's version is the best but I like all of those you chose; Michael Buble is amazing as is Ella and I really like Robbie William's version because he does 'swing' really well. Voted up and shared.

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