Friday, September 19, 2008

The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs (#3)

In 1928, the music drama DIE DREIGROSCHENOPER written by Bertolt Brecht with music by Kurt Weill premiered in Berlin, and from it emerged a song that would become a popular standard: DIE MORITAT VON MACKIE MESSER. 

The play was eventually translated into English and was called, THE THREE PENNY OPERA.  And like its original, its main character was the deadly MACKIE MESSER, a persona based on the dashing but cruel and sinister highwayman MACHEATH in John Gay's THE BEGGAR OPERA.  In the English version, MACKIE was aptly nicknamed, MACK THE KNIFE--which also became the title of the play's most memorable song.

In 1956, MACK THE KNIFE was introduced to the U.S. through a recording by Louis Armstrong. But it was the 1959 version of a young 22 year-old that hit America by storm. The singer was  Robert "Bobby" Cassotto, an Italian-American big band performer who changed his stage name after seeing a malfunctioning electrical sign in a Chinese restaurant that read, DARIN DUCK instead of MANDARIN DUCK.

Despite Dick Clark's precaution to Bobby Darin that a song from an opera would not click with a rock and roll audience, the singer's track hit #1 on Billboard's Hot 100, and #6 on the Black Singles chart, and won for Darin a Grammy Award for Record of the Year as well as a nod for Best New Artist.

Many in music history have recorded the tune--Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Robbie Williams, Sting, Lyle Lovett, Michael Buble, and Westlife, are just some.  But it was Frank Sinatra, after having recorded MACK THE KNIFE with Jimmy Buffet, who declared Darin's rendition to be the most definitive of all.

Here's a 1959 video of Darin with the song that made him a huge star, MACK THE KNIFE:

We're revealing soon Billboard's most successful tune of all time.  But before that, the #2 spot belongs to a guitarist whose biggest hit came 30 years after he debuted on the Billboard charts.  The songwriter was hoping to get George Michael to sing the material, but he eventually sang it himself....

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