On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Bobby Darin – Mack the Knife (1959)
We’re continuing in the US for our penultimate song of the 1950s. This one has quite a back story beginning in 1920s Germany and written by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht for the musical, Die Dreigoschenoper also known as The Threepenny Opera. The song would undergo changes over time and became known in the US initially through Louis Armstrong before Bobby Darin started to sing it in clubs. Darin was told to release Mack the Knife as a single but he was reluctant, feeling it would not agree with his rock and roll audience but agreed. Instead, the song became a massive hit for the young singer.
Mack the Knife sounds like an upbeat number but it is anything but. Adapted from the original musical, Mack the Knife of the title is a criminal partial to robbery, rape and murder, so not a nice person. Delving into the lyrics, Darin tells us that Mack the Knife has a weapon comparable to shark’s teeth but he wears gloves so the blood isn’t on his hands. This guy is smart. We also learn of fears he is back in town, how people go missing, how fortunes are taken away and a long line of women are at the mercy of this dastardly criminal. Not a love song then!
Bobby Darin really throws himself into this and there’s not a trace of the doubt he had that this would be a popular number, he really gives us his all. The song would hit the top of the charts in the US and would bolster Darin’s growing hit list. In the 1960s he would take a turn in acting and support for politics. Sadly, Darin’s end would be a sad one. His health, always fragile from bouts of rheumatic fever in his childhood, would see him pass away in 1973 while trying to recover from a heart operation. He was just 37 years old.
Favourite songs so far:
Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel (1956)
Fats Domino – Blueberry Hill (1956)
Johnny Cash – I Walk the Line (1956)
The Louvin Brothers – The Knoxville Girl (1956)
Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)
Cliff Richard & The Drifters – Move It (1958)
Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)
Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)
Peggy Lee – Fever (1958)
The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)