Cover Song Of The Month: Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Buffett Do Mack The Knife

Oh the shark bites...

Mack The Knife is a well-known tune from a play called Three Penny Opera, or in its native German, Die Driegroschenoper.  The Three Penny Opera was written by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht.

I am telling you that off the top of my head, from my own personal knowledge of German plays from the 1920’s. I have a special affinity for German plays of the 1920’s featuring the work of Weill and Brecht. So there should be no doubt in your mind as we discuss the background of this song, or of 1920’s German musical theater in general, that everything I say is my own opinion based on extensive personal knowledge.

Ho! Ho!

Ho! Ho!, not Ho Hos

In the discussions I had with Weill and Brecht prior to their passing, I asked them about the various versions of their song. They were never sure whose recording was the original. One time, Frank Sinatra happened by and opined that the version recorded by Bobby Darin was the standard against which others should be measured. Kurt and Bertolt agreed.

After we settled that issue, Frank and I went out on the town while Kurt and Bertolt caught up on some sleep…but that is another story.

Because of those talks, we’re going to use Darin’s version of the song as our “original”.

Try not to be creeped out by the fact that if you watched the entire video you got the feeling Bobby Darin was staring at you the whole time. This version of the song just feels very 50’s Vegas lounge-ish to me. I think that is pretty cool. I love the big horn section and that some one yells out Ho! Ho! in the middle of the song. I don’t know why I like the Ho! Ho!, I just do.

Dat Bum’s In Town

Now the Sinatra/Buffett version. My dad has always liked Sinatra. He grew up in the same town and knew Sinatra’s father. I am a big Buffett fan. I doubt they were actually in the same building to put this song together, but I like it a lot. So let’s have a listen at Frank and Jimmy’s version of Mack The Knife.

Hmmm…Vegas lounge-ish feel, big horns. I like them trading lines back and forth. They throw in their individual regional pronunciations (Jimmy with the southern pronunciation of cement “cee-ment”; Frank declaring “dat bum’s in town”) which is nice.

I officially declare myself a fan of both versions, so I open it up to you for the final verdict on the superior version. The poll and the comments are now open for all you swingin’ cats and kittens to weigh in.

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15 Comments on “Cover Song Of The Month: Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Buffett Do Mack The Knife”

  1. pattypunker says:

    ho ho is definitely the hook.

    • omawarisan says:

      There is something about the Ho Ho, isn’t there? It is one of those inexplicable things, like the Hooo! in Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.

      Ho! Ho!



  2. I can’t decide! I have a lot of loyalty to Ho Ho because it’s the first one I heard so it’s the standard. Maybe Frank says it best when he says Ol’ Blue Eyes can’t add anything new. So I give Ho Ho the nod. Thanks, this was fun.

    BTW, Whiskey Bar, on the Doors first album was a Weill Brecht song too!

    • omawarisan says:

      Ho Ho, seems the way people are going.

      You know, Bertolt mentioned that when Frank and I were on the way out the door. I thought of staying to talk about it, but the limo was running and Sinatra was giving me grief about not wearing a tie. I was all flustered.

      Frank ended up getting all the girls. I still don’t know if it was because I was 16 at the time or I wasn’t wearing a tie. But I probably would have been better off staying home and talking about The Doors.

  3. jammer5 says:

    My dad, when the Darwin version came out, ask me to copy down the words while he and mom were out to dinner. When he got back, he took one look, said the words were wrong, tore it up and tossed it on the ground. I’ve hated the song even since.

  4. spencercourt says:

    I voted for Bobby Darin because…hey, he’s Bobby Darin. Plus, those two other guys’ version is to “modern.”

    • omawarisan says:

      That seems to be the trend! Right now the voting is going strongly against the newer version.

      With 19 precincts reporting, Darin is winning by a landslide unheard of in the history of cover song of the month – he has all 19 of the votes cast to this point.

  5. billy mack says:

    What??!! Are you kidding? How can you compare these 2 versions. Darin’s swung so far out, no one could ever capture it.
    Bobby’s version will always supercede anyone else, no matter what or who.
    There ya go! Oh, by the way, I was Bobby’s bass player. Maybe I don’t get to vote.

    • omawarisan says:

      …or maybe you get two votes. Welcome!

      A little after midnight on the 10th, apparently the majority still agrees, the votes are 22-0 in favor of the Darin version.

  6. queensgirl says:

    My grandfather was also from Hoboken! But I still have to go with the Bobby Darin version.

    • omawarisan says:

      Ho! Ho! Buffett and Sinatra are being beaten with unprecedented savagery.

      Ok, an admission here. I’m from Hoboken, sorta. I have friends who don’t believe it, but it is on my birth certificate. I was out of there by second grade.

  7. billy mack says:

    Doesn’t need my second vote. BTW, I watched Buffett’s show from Alabama last night. Glad they reran it as I missed the one on the 11th. (playing a gig) I love Jimmy Buffett’s whole persona and his music. What a fun gig that would be to play with him. I’m available. Another fact to add to all this clamor is that the Bobby Darin archivist, Jimmy Scalia, is the biggest Buffett fan I know. A stone Parrott Head.
    Regardless, we both concur on the Darin version as winner and still champion.

  8. Pie says:

    I like Sinatra, really I do, but come on now. It’s gots to be Darin. Sometimes, Las Vegas lounge swing isn’t enough.

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