Mack to the Future

Back when people used to read my blog, I could put up a short post of, say two sentences, pose a question, and get 28 comments.

I’m not complaining or anything about my status as Completely Anonymous Blogger. I think I’m probably in pretty good company, so I don’t need your damned sympathy. But because my blog emails me whenever someone does leave a comment, I am occasionally haunted by something I wrote in the past.

Today, for example, I received Comment #28 on a post I wrote in January of 2007. First, here’s the post, in its entirety:

Has any singer, anytime, anywhere, ever owned a song the way Bobby Darin still owns “Mack the Knife”? I mean, sure, other singers can sing it, but it takes a lot of damned Bobbynerve, and it is always compared to his version.

It led to a good discussion of music, something I always enjoy, and over the years it has kept bringing in the comments, presumably from fans who Google *Scarlet Billows” or “Bobby Darin” and land on that post. A lot of folks had a lot of ideas about songs that may or may not be “owned” by one singer or another, and the most recent comment (by Lil Doozcoop) nails it perfectly, as did many of the earlier ones:

This is 2 years late but, Patsy Cline owns Crazy (written by Willie Nelson) and Peggy Lee owns Fever.

I have to admit, it’s hard to think of either of those two songs without hearing Patsy or Peggy, once you’ve heard those versions.

If you’re desperate for something to do, check out the original post. While you’re there you’ll be able to listen to Bobby Darin’s definitive recording of “Mack the Knife.” Do you agree or disagree with me or the commenters? Do you know of another song that has become the complete “property” of one performer?

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PS: Here’s my version of the song, posted because I have a lot of damned nerve. If you have already complimented me on my singing, don’t feel you must do so again. Please step back and let someone else have a chance.

14 Replies to “Mack to the Future”

  1. Larry, fun post.
    You’re right about Darrin owning Mack the Knife. It was and is a catchy tune, a Vegas kind of song.

    The thing is, the song makes little sense and perhaps that’s part of reason few singers have attempted to take it on and do it differently. I think nonsense songs and verse tend to stick in certain rhythms – just as jump rope ditties seem to sound the same no matter who’s doing them.

    And, yes I know, the song is based upon The Threepenny Opera.

  2. Bill – Not for a moment did I doubt that you knew the origin of the song. And you may be right about why others haven’t attempted it, but I like to think it’s because most of them have the good sense not to touch it unless they have something new to bring to it. Which, let’s face it, how could they? You will note that even I, the great Larry Jones, stole his entire arrangement and copped his vocal style.

    Also, for a real education on Bobby and that song and other songs, try following some of the links in the comments on the original post. Some of the commenters (Lil Doozcoop is one) are members of the Bobby Darin fan club or various Bobby Darin online groups, and it’s amazing how much they know about their subject, and how interested (and interesting) they are are regarding the minutest info about him, his milieu and his music.

  3. 28 comments? You rock. I came close to that once, when I posted a photo of luggage in the middle of the neighbor’s driveway. It’s interesting what people respond to…and what they don’t. Hm!

  4. Free association: Once I was talking to a hippie carpenter, who told me his favorite musician was Bob Dylan. I hadn’t yet heard Dylan, and so my response was, “I LOVE Mack the Knife!” Then I realized he was not talking about Bobby Darrin at all.

    In the years since, I’ve heard Dylan, and he’s not my cup of tea. I’ll take Darrin any day.

  5. kStyle – That must have caused the hippie a spell of cognitive dissonance. You are forgiven because of your tender age, but really, Dylan is not an artist that we “like” or “dislike.” His songs literally changed popular music at a time when popular music was beginning to change the world. He’d be the first face on the Mount Rushmore of modern pop. Weirdly, despite what I just wrote, I wasn’t that into Dylan, until I saw him in a documentary last year in which he said (paraphrasing) “I don’t know how I wrote those songs or where they came from, and I don’t think I could do it again.”

    Of course, I’m a Bobby Darin fan, too.

  6. kStyle – Movies, I think. Not the popular movies of the day, because they are mostly Hollywood lame, but documentaries made in our current era about that era, by thoughtful filmmakers who can put some context on it.

    There may be books — I haven’t looked because hey! I was there! — but movies might be able to put you in the scene, sort of. That said, I’m not entirely sure I understand myself.

  7. For me (and I was aware in real time of Bobby D) he was Old Generation… his songs were of the old school and his clothes, yikes. And none of my friends took his music seriously either.

    I was surf music then SF psychedelic and the blues. Darren wasn’t even a consideration. Dylan was Everything!

  8. Etta James’ “At Last’
    Sinatra’s “All the Way”
    Elvis’ “Love Me” & “Are You Lonesome Tonight”
    Dinah Washington’s “What a Difference a Day Makes”
    Ray Charles’ “You Don’t Know Me”

    And the reason your blog has less traffic now is that you harangue people who express political beliefs different than yours.

  9. Smokin’ T – You’re in the groove! These are all classics in their way, and in every case (except possibly “All the Way”) it’s hard to think of a different singer.

    Re: your other point, you’re not being fair in saying that I harangue people who disagree with me. Here was your first comment on this blog, from January of last year:

    Well, that takes my breath away. I don’t believe the Dems have the White House sewn up in ’08 by any means. All it will take is one domestic terrorist to remind everyone that those 3,000 souls burned to death in New York were denied their civil rights, health care, freedom, right to choose, privacy and voting rights FOREVER.

    You sure bought the Edwards sales pitch lock, stock and barrel. He’s a class-action ambulance chaser with a sizable investment in hedge funds. It’s parasitic trial lawyers like him who have run up the cost of health care in America, not the pharmaceutical companies, big business or corporate robber barons.

    Freedom and capitalism have done more to raise the American middle class than any force in history. By harnessing personal incentive we have a country where even the poorest people live fat, own toasters and color TVs and air conditioners. The big lie of Edwards’ class warfare is that there is no perpetual underclass in America. That’s a constantly shifting pool of people, many of them in entry-level jobs or between jobs. Those who apply themselves move out of it, and those who make poor personal choices (like single motherhood and drug abuse) fall into it. Politicians won’t ever have much effect on the lives and futures of either of those groups.

    I guess I’m going to have to come back in here from time to time and help you get your mind straight.

    You dismissed John Edwards, my choice for President, and demeaned my intelligence, saying I “bought” his “sales pitch.” You called him an ambulance chaser, and “parasitic,” and a liar. And you ended by suggesting that you’d have to periodically “set my mind straight.” Edwards has deeply disappointed me since then, but his positions at the time still seem valid to me.

    Anyway, your comment got my back up, but I thought my response was reasonable, and not personal. Go back and read it if you want (link above). I can’t speak for the other commenters who didn’t like your position, so don’t blame me for what they wrote. You were and are free to defend your beliefs here as much as you want.

  10. John – I know what you mean. I’m looking for a suit made out of that stuff. Then I’ll have to be brave enough to wear it…

    Chick – I am not familiar with The Pogues’ music, or Damien Dempsey’s, so not competent to say whether he owns that song. But my mother was Irish, so maybe that’s why something in that video resonates in my heart. Thanks for bringing it to me!

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