Dave Lagadi Music
In January 1942, he tested the waters for a solo career by recording a four-song session arranged and conducted by Axel Stordahl that included Cole Porter's "Night and Day," which became his first chart entry under his own name in March 1942. Soon after, he gave Dorsey notice. Sinatra left the Dorsey band in September 1942. The recording ban called by the American Federation of Musicians, which had begun the previous month, initially prevented him from making records, but he appeared on a 15-minute radio series, Songs By Sinatra, from October through the end of the year and also did a few live dates. His big breakthrough came due to his engagement as a support act to Benny Goodman at the Paramount Theatre in New York, which began on New Year's Eve. It made him a popular phenomenon, the first real teen idol, with school girls swooning in the aisles. RCA Victor, which had been doling out stockpiled Dorsey recordings during the strike, scored with "There Are Such Things," which had a Sinatra vocal; it hit number one in January 1943, as did "In the Blue of the Evening," another Dorsey record featuring Sinatra, in August, while a third Dorsey/Sinatra release, "It's Always You," hit the Top Five later in the year, and a fourth, "I'll Be Seeing You," reached the Top Ten in 1944. Columbia, which controlled the Harry James recordings, reissued the four-year-old "All or Nothing at All," re-billed as being by Frank Sinatra with Harry James & His Orchestra, and it hit number one in September. Meanwhile, the label had signed Sinatra as a solo artist, and in a temporary loophole to the recording ban, put him in the studio to record a cappella, backed only by a vocal chorus. This resulted in four Top Ten hits in 1943, among them "People Will Say We're in Love" from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's musical Oklahoma!, and a fifth in early 1944 ("I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night") before protests from the musicians union ended a cappella recording.
In February 1943, Sinatra was hired by the popular radio series Your Hit Parade, on which he performed through the end of 1944. Adding to his radio duties, he appeared from June through October on Broadway Bandbox and in the fall again took up the Songs by Sinatra show, which ran through December. In January, it was expanded to a half-hour as The Frank Sinatra Show, which ran for a year and a half. In April 1943, he made his first credited appearance in a motion picture, singing "Night and Day" in Reveille With Beverly. This was followed by Higher and Higher, released in December, in which he had a small acting role, playing himself, and by Step Lively, released in July 1944, which gave him a larger part. MGM was sufficiently impressed by these performances to put him under contract. The recording ban was lifted in November 1944, and Sinatra returned to making records, beginning with a cover of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" that was in the Top Ten before the end of the year. Among his eight recordings to peak in the Top Ten in 1945 were Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn's "Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)," Johnny Mercer's "Dream," Styne and Cahn's "I Should Care," and "If I Loved You" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel. Sinatra insisted that Styne and Cahn be hired to write the songs for his first MGM musical, Anchors Aweigh, and over the course of his career, the singer recorded more songs by Cahn (a lyricist who worked with several composers) than by any other songwriter. Anchors Aweigh, in which Sinatra was paired with Gene Kelly, was released in July 1945 and went on to become the most successful film of the year.
Sinatra returned to radio in September with a new show bearing an old name, Songs by Sinatra. It ran weekly for the next two seasons, concluding in June 1947. Among his eight Top Ten hits in 1946 were two that hit number one ("Oh! What It Seemed to Be" and Styne and Cahn's "Five Minutes More"), as well as "They Say It's Wonderful" and "The Girl That I Marry" from Irving Berlin's musical Annie Get Your Gun, Jerome Kern's "All Through the Day," and Kurt Weill's "September Song." He also topped the album charts with the collection The Voice of Frank Sinatra. His only film appearance for the year came in Till the Clouds Roll By, a biography of the recently deceased Kern, in which he sang "Ol' Man River."
By 1947, Sinatra's early success had crested, though he continued to work steadily in several media. On radio, he returned to the cast of Your Hit Parade in September 1947, appearing on the series for the next two seasons, then had his own 15-minute show, Light-Up Time, during 1949-1950. On film, he appeared in five more movies through the end of the decade, including both big-budget MGM musicals like On the Town and minor efforts such as The Kissing Bandit. He scored eight Top Ten hits in 1947-1949, including "Mam'selle," which hit number one in May 1947, and "Some Enchanted Evening," from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific. He also hit the Top Ten of the album charts with 1947's Songs by Sinatra and 1948's Christmas Songs by Sinatra. Sinatra's career was in decline by the start of the '50s, but he was far from inactive. He entered the fall of 1950 with both a new radio show and his first venture into television. On radio, there was Meet Frank Sinatra, which found the singer acting as a disc jockey; it ran through the end of the season. On TV, there was The Frank Sinatra Show, a musical-variety series; it lasted until April 1952. His film work had nearly subsided, though in March 1952 came the drama Meet Danny Wilson, which tested his acting abilities and gave him the opportunity to sing such songs as Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's "That Old Black Magic," "I've Got a Crush on You" by George and Ira Gershwin, and "How Deep Is the Ocean?" by Irving Berlin.
At Columbia Records, Sinatra came into increasing conflict with musical director Mitch Miller, who was finding success for his singers by using novelty material and gimmicky arrangements. Sinatra resisted this approach, and though he managed to score four more Top Ten hits during 1950-1951 -- among them an unlikely reading of the folk standard "Goodnight Irene" -- he and Columbia parted ways. Thus, ten years after launching his solo career, he ended 1952 without a record, film, radio, or television contract. Then he turned it all around. The first step was recording. Sinatra agreed to a long-term, boilerplate contract with Capitol Records, which had been co-founded by Johnny Mercer a decade earlier and had a roster full of faded '40s performers. In June 1953, he scored his first Top Ten hit in a year and a half with "I'm Walking Behind You." Then in August, he returned to film, playing a non-singing, featured role in the World War II drama From Here to Eternity, a performance that earned respect for his acting abilities, to the extent that he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the part on March 25, 1954. In the fall of 1953, Sinatra began two new radio series: Rocky Fortune, a drama on which he played a detective, ran from October to March 1954; and The Frank Sinatra Show was a 15-minute, twice-a-week music series that ran for two seasons, concluding in July 1955. Meanwhile, Sinatra had begun working with arranger/conductor Nelson Riddle, a pairing that produced notable chart entries in February 1954 on both the singles and albums charts. "Young-at-Heart," which just missed hitting number one, was the singer's biggest single since 1947, and the song went on to become a standard. (The title was used for a 1955 movie in which Sinatra starred.) Then there was the 10" LP Songs for Young Lovers, the first of Sinatra's "concept" albums, on which he and Riddle revisited classic songs by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, and Rodgers and Hart in contemporary arrangements with vocal interpretations that conveyed the wit and grace of the lyrics. The album lodged in the Top Five. In July, Sinatra had another Top Ten single with Styne and Cahn's "Three Coins in the Fountain," and in September Swing Easy! matched the success of its predecessor on the LP chart. By the middle of the '50s, Sinatra had reclaimed his place as a star singer and actor; in fact, he had taken a more prominent place than he had had in the heady days of the mid-'40s. In 1955, he hit number one with the single "Learnin' the Blues" and the 12" LP In the Wee Small Hours, a ballad collection later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
On September 15, 1955, he appeared in a television production of Our Town and sang "Love and Marriage" (specially written by Sammy Cahn and his new partner James Van Heusen), which became a Top Five hit. Early in 1956, he was back in the Top Ten with Cahn and Van Heusen's "(Love Is) The Tender Trap," the theme song from his new film, The Tender Trap. As part of his thematic concepts for his albums of the '50s, Sinatra alternated between records devoted to slow arrangements (In the Wee Small Hours) and those given over to dance charts (Swing Easy). By the late winter of 1956, the schedule called for another dance album, and Songs for Swingin' Lovers!, released in March, filled the bill, stopping just short of number one and going gold. The rise of rock & roll and Elvis Presley began to make the singles charts the almost-exclusive province of teen idols, but Sinatra's "Hey! Jealous Lover" (by Sammy Cahn, Kay Twomey, and Bee Walker), released in October, gave him another Top Five hit in 1957. Meanwhile, he ruled the LP charts. The Capitol singles compilation This Is Sinatra!, released in November, hit the Top Ten and went gold. Sinatra began 1957 by releasing Close to You, a ballad album with accompaniment by a string quartet, in February. It hit the Top Five, followed in May by A Swingin' Affair!, which went to number one, and another ballad album, Where Are You?, a Top Five hit after release in September. He was also represented in the LP charts in November by the soundtrack to his film Pal Joey (based on a Rodgers & Hart musical), which hit the Top Five, and by the seasonal collection A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra, which eventually was certified platinum. The Joker Is Wild, another of his 1957 films, featured the Cahn-Van Heusen song "All the Way," which became a Top Five single. In October, he returned to prime time television with another series called The Frank Sinatra Show, but it lasted only one season, and subsequently he restricted his TV appearances largely to specials (of which he made many).
In February 1958, Sinatra reached the Top Ten with "Witchcraft," his last single to perform that well for the next eight years. That month, Capitol released Come Fly with Me, a travel-themed rhythm album, which hit number one. The year's ballad album, Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, released in September, also topped the charts, and it went gold. In between, Capitol released the compilation This Is Sinatra, Vol. 2, which hit the Top Ten. 1959 followed a similar pattern. Come Dance With Me! appeared in January and became a gold-selling Top Ten hit. It also won Sinatra Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and for vocal performance. Look to Your Heart, a compilation, was released in the spring and reached the Top Ten. And No One Cares, the year's ballad collection, appeared in the summer and just missed topping the charts. Sinatra gradually did less singing in his movies of the '50s, which is why they are given less attention here. But in March 1960, he appeared in a movie version of Cole Porter's musical Can-Can, and the resulting soundtrack album hit the Top Ten. Meanwhile, Sinatra was beginning to think about the approaching end of his Capitol Records contract and to enter the studio less frequently for the company. His next regular album was a year in coming, and when it did, Nice 'n' Easy was a mid-tempo collection, breaking his pattern of alternating fast and slow albums. The wait may have caused pent-up demand; the album spent many weeks at number one and went gold. Although Sinatra had not yet completed his recording commitment to Capitol, he began in December 1960 to make recordings for his own label, which he called Reprise Records. As a result, record stores were deluged with five new Sinatra albums in 1961: in January, Capitol had Sinatra's Swingin' Session!!!; in April, Reprise was launched with the release of Ring-a-Ding Ding!; in July, Reprise followed with Sinatra Swings the same week that Capitol released Come Swing with Me!; and in October, Reprise had I Remember Tommy..., an album of songs Sinatra had sung with the Tommy Dorsey band. There was also the March compilation All the Way on Capitol, making for six releases in one year. Remarkably, they all reached the Top Ten. Meanwhile, Reprise's first single, "The Second Time Around," a song written by Cahn and Van Heusen for Bing Crosby, won Sinatra the Grammy for Record of the Year. By 1962, the market was glutted. Capitol released its last new Sinatra album, Point of No Return, as well as a compilation, and Reprise put out three new LPs, but only Reprise's Sinatra & Strings reached the Top Ten. In 1963, however, all three Reprise releases, Sinatra-Basie, The Concert Sinatra, and the gold-selling Sinatra's Sinatra, made the Top Ten. The onset of the Beatles in 1964 began to do to the LP charts what Elvis Presley had done to the singles charts in 1956, but Sinatra continued to reach the Top Ten with his albums of the mid-'60s, albeit not as consistently. Days of Wine and Roses, Moon River, and Other Academy Award Winners hit that ranking in May 1964, as did Sinatra '65 in August 1965. That same month, Sinatra mounted a commercial comeback by emphasizing his own advancing age. Nearing 50, he released September of My Years, a ballad collection keyed to the passage of time. After "It Was a Very Good Year" was drawn from the album as a single and rose into the Top 40, the LP took off for the Top Five and went gold. It was named 1965 Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards, and Sinatra also picked up a trophy for best vocal performance for "It Was a Very Good Year."
In November 1965, Sinatra starred in a retrospective TV special, A Man and His Music, and released a corresponding double-LP, which reached the Top Ten and went gold. It won the 1966 Grammy for Album of the Year. Sinatra returned to number one on the singles charts for the first time in 11 years with the million-selling "Strangers in the Night" in July 1966; the song won him Grammys for Record of the Year and best vocal performance. A follow-up album named after the single topped the LP charts and went platinum. Before the end of the year, Sinatra had released two more Top Ten, gold-selling albums, Sinatra at the Sands and That's Life, the latter anchored by the title song, a Top Five single. In April 1967, Sinatra was back at number one on the singles charts with the million-selling "Somethin' Stupid," a duet with his daughter Nancy. By the late '60s, even Sinatra had trouble resisting the succeeding waves of youth-oriented rock music that topped the charts. But Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits!, a compilation of his '60s singles successes released in August 1968, was a million-seller, and Cycles, an album of songs by contemporary writers like Joni Mitchell and Jimmy Webb, released that fall, went gold. In March 1969, Sinatra released "My Way," with a lyric specially crafted for him by Paul Anka. It quickly became a signature song for him. The single reached the Top 40, and an album of the same name hit the Top Ten and went gold. In the spring of 1971, at the age of 55, Sinatra announced his retirement. But he remained retired only until the fall of 1973, when he returned to action with a new gold-selling album and a TV special both called Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back. In this late phase of his career, Sinatra cut back on records, movies, and television in favor of live performing, particularly in Las Vegas, but also in concert halls, arenas, and stadiums around the world. He refrained from making any new studio albums for six years, then returned in March 1980 with a three-LP set, Trilogy: Past, Present, Future. The most memorable track from the gold-selling set turned out to be "Theme From New York, New York," the title song from the 1977 movie, which Sinatra's recording belatedly turned into a standard. By the early '90s, the CD era had inaugurated a wave of box set reissues, and the 1990 Christmas season found Capitol and Reprise marking Sinatra's 75th birthday by competing with the three-disc The Capitol Years and the four-disc The Reprise Collection. Both went gold, as did Reprise's one-disc highlights version, Sinatra Reprise -- The Very Good Years. Sinatra himself, meanwhile, while continuing to tour, had not made a new recording since his 1984 LP L.A. Is My Lady. In 1993, he re-signed to Capitol Records and recorded Duets, on which he re-recorded his old favorites, joined by other popular singers ranging from Tony Bennett to Bono of U2 (none of whom actually performed in the studio with him). It became his biggest-selling album, with sales over 3,000,000 copies, and was followed in 1994 by Duets II, which won the 1995 Grammy Award for Traditional Pop Performance.
Sinatra finally retired from performing in his 80th year in 1995. He later died of a heart attack at 82. Anyone will be astonished at the sheer extent of Sinatra's success as a recording artist over 50 years, due to the changes in popular taste during that period. His popularity as a singer and his productivity has resulted in an overwhelming discography. Its major portions break down into the Columbia years (1943-1952), the Capitol years (1953-1962), and the Reprise years (1960-1981), but airchecks, film and television soundtracks, and other miscellaneous recordings swell it massively. As a movie star and as a celebrity of mixed reputation, Sinatra is so much of a 20th century icon that it is easy to overlook his real musical talents, which are the actual source of his renown. As an artist, he worked to interpret America's greatest songs and to preserve them for later generations. On his recordings, his success is apparent. ~ William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide
Bennett grew up in the Astoria section of the borough of Queens in New York City under the name Anthony Dominick Benedetto. His father, a grocer, died when he was about ten after a lingering illness that had forced his mother to become a seamstress to support the family of five. in Greenwich Village and put him into his stage show, also suggesting a name change to Tony Bennett. In 1950, Columbia Records A&R director Mitch Miller heard his demonstration recording of "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and signed him to the label.
Bennett's first hit, "Because of You," topped the charts in September 1951, succeeded at number one by his cover of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart." Following another five chart entries over the next two years, he returned to number one in November 1953 with "Rags to Riches." Its follow-up, "Stranger in Paradise" from the Broadway musical Kismet, was another chart-topper, and in 1954 Bennett also reached the Top Ten with Williams' "There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight" and "Cinnamon Sinner." The rise of rock & roll in the mid-'50s made it more difficult for Bennett to score big hits, but he continued to place singles in the charts regularly through 1960, and even returned to the Top Ten with "In the Middle of an Island" in 1957. Meanwhile, he was developing a nightclub act that leaned more heavily on standards and was exploring album projects that allowed him to indulge his interest in jazz -- notably 1957's The Beat of My Heart, on which he was accompanied mainly by jazz percussionists, and 1959's In Person! With Count Basie and His Orchestra. By the early '60s, although he had faded as a singles artist, he had built a successful career making personal appearances and recording albums of well-known songs in the manner of Frank Sinatra.
In 1962, Bennett introduced "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," a ballad written by two unknown songwriters, George Cory and Douglass Cross, who had pitched it to his pianist, Ralph Sharon. Released as a single, the song took time to catch on, and although it peaked only in the Top 20, it remained on one or the other of the national charts for almost nine months. It became Bennett's signature song and pushed his career to a higher level. The I Left My Heart in San Francisco album reached the Top Five and went gold, and the single won Bennett Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Solo Vocal Performance, Male. Bennett's next studio album, 1963's I Wanna Be Around..., also made the Top Five, and its title track was another Top 20 hit, as was his next single, "The Good Life," also featured on the album. For the next three years, his albums consistently placed in the Top 100, along with a series of charting singles that included the Top 40 hits "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)" (from the Broadway musical The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd) and "If I Ruled the World" (from the Broadway musical Pickwick).
By the late '60s, Bennett's record sales had cooled off as the major record labels turned their attention to the lucrative rock market. Just as Mitch Miller had encouraged Bennett to record novelty songs over his objections in the 1950s, Clive Davis, head of Columbia parent CBS Records, encouraged him to record contemporary pop/rock material. He acquiesced on albums such as Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today!, but his sales did not improve. In 1972, he left Columbia for the Verve division of MGM Records, but by the mid-'70s he was without a label affiliation, and he decided to found his own record company, Improv, to record the way he wanted to. He made several albums for Improv, including one with jazz pianist Bill Evans (following a disc they made for Fantasy Records), but the label eventually foundered. (Concord Records released the box set The Complete Improv Recordings in 2004.)
By the late '70s, however, Bennett did not need hit records to sustain his career, and he worked regularly in concert halls around the world. By the mid-'80s, there was a growing appreciation of traditional pop music, as performers such as Linda Ronstadt recorded albums of standards. In 1986, Bennett re-signed to Columbia and released The Art of Excellence, his first album to reach the pop charts in 14 years. Now managed by his son Danny, Bennett shrewdly found ways to attract the attention of the MTV generation without changing his basic style of singing songs from the Great American Songbook while wearing a tuxedo. By the early '90s, he was as popular as he had ever been. The albums Perfectly Frank (1992, a tribute to Frank Sinatra) and Steppin' Out (1993, a tribute to Fred Astaire) went gold and won Bennett back-to-back Grammys for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance. But his comeback was sealed by 1994's MTV Unplugged, featuring guest stars Elvis Costello and k.d. lang, which went platinum and won the Grammy for Album of the Year as well as another award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance.
Bennett became a Grammy perennial, also taking home Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance awards for Here's to the Ladies (1995) and On Holiday: A Tribute to Billie Holiday (1997). Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool (1999) was another Grammy winner in the retitled Best Traditional Pop Album category, as was Playin' with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues, an album of duets released in 2001. One year later, Bennett paired off with a single duet partner, recording A Wonderful World with k.d. lang. The Art of Romance followed in 2004. Both albums won the Best Traditional Pop Album Grammy for their respective years. In August 2006, Bennett reached his 80th birthday, and his record label marked the occasion with a series of reissues and compilations. The next month brought Duets: An American Classic, another collection of pairings with other singers on re-recordings of some of Bennett's best-known songs that reached number three in the Billboard chart, the highest placing for an album in Bennett's career. It also won him another Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Album. ~ William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide
When Darin had his first hits in the late '50s, he was a teen idol of sorts, albeit a teen idol with much more talent and mature command than the typical singer in that style. , though it would be an exaggeration to call Darin a blue-eyed soul man. In late 1959, he found a new direction when the swinging "Mack the Knife," a tune from Brecht-Weill's Threepenny Opera musical, made number one. The song came from an album of pop standards, heralding his move toward light big band jazz, which was consolidated by the Top Ten success of "Beyond the Sea" in 1960.
In the early '60s, Darin had mostly abandoned rock for the adult pop market, becoming a huge success on the Vegas-nightclub circuit, and moving into the all-around entertainer mode with starring roles in movies (including one as a non-singing jazz musician in John Cassavetes' Too Young Blues). He also continued to score regular hits with the likes of "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," "Things," and "Lazy River." To keep people guessing, there was also a hit cover of "What'd I Say" and some country tunes (one of which, "You're the Reason I'm Living," made it to number three on the pop charts). Around 1963, he put a folk section into his nightclub act that employed guitarist Roger McGuinn, then a couple of years away from fame as the leader of the Byrds.
Darin didn't make the expected retreat into Rat Pack land when his records stopped making the upper reaches of the charts in the mid-'60s. In 1965, there was a rather nice self-penned jangly folk-rocker, "When I Get Home," that become a British hit for the Searchers. Another 1965 flop, "We Didn't Ask to Be Brought Here," was an unexpected antiwar tune. When he made his return to the Top Ten in late 1966, it was with a cover of a gentle Tim Hardin folk-rock song, "If I Were a Carpenter." His final Top 40 hit the following year, "Lovin' You," opted for material by another major folk-rock composer, John Sebastian.
Darin may indeed have been far hipper and more politically aware than the average nightclub act, covering tunes by Dylan and the Rolling Stones, participating in a 1965 civil rights march to Alabama, and penning some Dylan-influenced songs of his own in the late '60s. It doesn't seem accurate to say that this was the true Bobby Darin, shedding his show-biz skin for something that came to him more naturally; in 1967, the same year he covered Jagger-Richards' "Back Street Girl," he also recorded material for an album entitled Bobby Darin Sings Doctor Dolittle. By the early '70s he was working Vegas and similar joints again, exchanging his blue jeans for a tuxedo, and hosting a TV variety series. In a much odder turn of events, he was now recording for Motown, though these efforts met little success.
Afflicted with a rheumatic heart, Darin was always aware that his time might be limited, and he died near the end of 1973 during open-heart surgery. He left behind a considerable quantity (and diversity) of recorded work, and underwent a critical reevaluation of sorts, especially among rock critics, which might have aided his election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. A 1996 four-CD box set, divided into thematic discs, attempted to put his wide-ranging efforts into perspective. In 2004, actor Kevin Spacey starred as Bobby Darin in the feature film biography Beyond the Sea. Spacey also directed the film and sang Darin's songs for the film, which were released as the film's soundtrack. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide
Interesting Trivia about “Mack the Knife”
Your trivia for the day: the Lotte Lenya whose name appears late in the song is, in fact, a real person -- she was an Austrian-born singer and actress with a lucrative career in the years between the world wars, and on Broadway following WWII. Fans of Broadway productions probably already knew her quite well; but even if you're not a theater-goer, you've probably seen her, without know it -- she played bad-gal Rosa Kleb in the James Bond movie "From Russia With Love" who tries to kill 007 by kicking him with her shoe/knife. (She also played a masseuse in Burt Reynolds' film "Semi Tough.) I first heard it from Suzanne Wilemon, Director of Jazz Programming at KTCU in Texas, that Lenya had another sideline I'd never known about: she was also Mrs. Kurt Weill. In information gained since this "revelation" I have learned that she was widely-recognized as an interpreter of Weil's songs, and as late as 1975 was planning a premiere of Weil's previously-unperformed works; her ill-health prevented that performance. (And I'll bet you thought Lotte Lenya was just a name.)
Recent visitor Tom P. was able to explain the Lotte Lenya reference even more clearly:
"Lotte Lenya was appearing in the Blitzstein version of "Threepenny Opera" in New York in the 1950s when Louis Armstrong recorded "Mack the Knife". This was well before Bobby Darin's version and was also a hit, although not as big as Darin's Sinatra-style version. Lotte Lenya was in the studio for the Armstrong session and Satchmo gave her a shout out as he sang the song, "Look out for Miss Lotte Lenya". When Darin recorded the song, he kept the line in.
"All the other women's names, Suky Tawdry, Jenny Diver, Lucy Brown, etc., appear in the original German version. Since the 'Threepenny Opera' is set in London (based on the original British "Beggar's Opera" by John Gay), the names are all English."
My own limited research suggests he is correct on the English names. I'm told that "Suky Tawdry" is a generic name for a lady of the evening, and I've also heard that Jenny Diver is a term used for a washerwoman. Of more possible interest is the name Lucy Brown -- who, according to one source, was the only woman in the British Empire ever hanged for murder. Interesting, if true...but further input from other visitors, and research they pointed me to, indicates that it isn't. (Sigh.)
Another recent visitor, Marvin Miller, has a particular claim to the source of the bit of trivia he sent to me:
"I read the story on your site regarding the song Mack the Knife and some of the history. I wanted to provide you a little more to add to the story. My father, Louis, worked as a radio announcer at WLW radio in Cincinnati in the late 30's. He was also a pick up musician for many of the popular bands of the time when they were in the Cincinnati area. The Louis Miller in the song is my father. He knew Kurt Weill as part of his travels during that era. My father passed away in 1964, so some of the details are sketchy, but this is from what my mother remembers." (So, evidently he didn't "disappear after drawing out all his hard-earned cash!")
And, courtesy of visitor Phil LaRonge, here's even more about this song:
"The lyrics are, I believe, Marc Blitzstein's. They are a translation of the original lyrics by the great German dramatist Bertolt Brecht and are from Brecht and Weill's socially-significant theatre piece, "Die Dreigroschenoper," or "The Three-Penny Opera," as we know it. The play, which was basically a German adaptation of John Gay's "The Begger's Opera," was one of the factors that got the two collaborators run out of Berlin on the proverbial rail. Hitler was not pleased--so Brecht and Weill both fled the country and ended up in America, Weill in New York and Brecht in California (where he wrote a few unsuccessful screenplays.) Weill stayed in the U.S. and had a number of Broadway hits, most notably "Knickerbocker Holiday" (which includes the beautiful "September Song"). He died in NY sometime during the '60s, I think. (Note: Weill died suddenly in New York City in April 1950, having suffered a massive coronary; he died in Lenya's arms.) In 1951, Brecht, who was a Communist of sorts, ran afoul of the infamous House Un-American activities Committee. After a rather rough and rude questioning, he saw the handwriting on the wall and moved back to Germany, settling in East Berlin, where the great master of "epic theatre" died in 1956.
"The original song's lyric, translated literally from the German source, are even more dark and brooding than the version cited above:
Oh, how red the shark's fins are Whenever he sheds blood;
Mackie Messer wears a glove, So nobody will detect any misdeed.
Into the Thames' green waters People suddenly begin to fall;
It is neither the plague or cholera; But it's said Macheath is around. . . ."
Nat King Cole
(Born March 17, 1917, Montgomery, Alabama, U.S.—died February 15, 1965, Santa Monica, California) American musician hailed as one of the best and most influential pianists and small-group leaders of the swing era. Cole attained his greatest commercial success, however, as a vocalist specializing in warm ballads and light swing.
Cole grew up in Chicago where, by age 12, he sang and played organ in the church where his father was pastor. He formed his first jazz group, the Royal Dukes, five years later. In 1937, after touring with a black musical revue, he began playing in jazz clubs in Los Angeles. There he formed the King Cole Trio (originally King Cole and His Swingsters), with guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince (later replaced by Johnny Miller). The trio specialized in swing music with a delicate touch in that they did not employ a drummer; also unique were the voicings of piano and guitar, often juxtaposed to sound like a single instrument. An influence on jazz pianists such as Oscar Peterson, Cole was known for a compact, syncopated piano style with clean, spare, melodic phrases.
During the late 1930s and early '40s the trio made several instrumental recordings, as well as others that featured their harmonizing vocals. They found their greatest success, however, when Cole began doubling as a solo singer. Their first chart success, “Straighten Up and Fly Right” (1943), was followed by hits such as “Sweet Lorraine,” “It's Only a Paper Moon,” “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons,” and “Route 66.” Eventually, Cole's piano playing took a backseat to his singing career. Noted for his warm tone and flawless phrasing, Cole was regarded among the top male vocalists, although jazz critics tended to regret his near-abandonment of the piano. He first recorded with a full orchestra (the trio serving as rhythm section) in 1946 for “The Christmas Song,” a holiday standard and one of Cole's biggest-selling recordings. By the 1950s, he worked almost exclusively as a singer, with such notable arrangers as Nelson Riddle and Billy May providing lush orchestral accompaniment. “Nature Boy,” “Mona Lisa,” “Too Young,” “A Blossom Fell,” and “Unforgettable” were among his major hits of the period. He occasionally revisited his jazz roots, as on the outstanding album After Midnight (1956), which proved that Cole's piano skills had not diminished.
Cole's popularity allowed him to become the first African American to host a network variety program, The Nat King Cole Show, which debuted on NBC television in 1956. The show fell victim to the bigotry of the times, however, and was canceled after one season; few sponsors were willing to be associated with a black entertainer. Cole had greater success with concert performances during the late 1950s and early '60s and twice toured with his own vaudeville-style reviews, The Merry World of Nat King Cole (1961) and Sights and Sounds (1963). His hits of the early '60s—“Ramblin' Rose,” “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer,” and “L-O-V-E”—indicate that he was moving even farther away from his jazz roots and concentrating almost exclusively on mainstream pop. Adapting his style, however, was one factor that kept Cole popular up to his early death from lung cancer in 1965.