Monday, November 29, 2010

A Weekly Dose of Darin - Mack the Knife

“I’ve heard a few people say I’m premature about going for adult audiences, but I have to be the one to decide that.”

When I first started posting about Bobby Darin, my intent was to stay away from obvious song selections and attempt to find things that might not be known to everyone. As I said then -
“… the hope is to go beyond, “Beyond the Sea,” and “Mack the Knife,” so that those unfamiliar with the Darin canon and history will be exposed to his impressive and varied body of work while, at the same time, his more knowledgeable and loyal followers will still find something to pique their interest.”
So, consequently “Dose of Darin” has shared “Things,” Distractions,” and “Simple Song of Freedom” among other choices that the casual fan may be unaware of. But, sometimes, one has to acknowledge greatness, and history, and perhaps veer slightly off-course from initial intentions when specific situations require it. On this date, November 29th, 51 years ago, Bobby Darin was honored with two Grammy Awards - Best New Artist and Record of the Year for “Mack the Knife.” While well-deserved, the interesting thing about being crowned Best New Artist of 1959 is the fact that Darin had already charted the previous year with “Splish Splash” and ‘”Queen of the Hop,” had been appearing on television since 1956, and had been releasing recordings since ’57. But why quibble, historically the Grammy-folk have always been a little slow on the uptake (word has it that Adam Ant is a current contender) it was a triumphant year for Bobby and one that saw his career move in a dramatically new direction.

As reflected in the opening quote, Bobby Darin desired to expand his repertoire beyond the pop/rock songs that he was recording and felt, although still a very young man, that he was ready to make his move into more sophisticated and adult material. He had already been performing “Mack the Knife” in his live act, so this was not unfamiliar musical territory for him.

“This is not really what I’m about. I want to record an album of standards.”

When Darin approached Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records with this radical new idea, his reaction was negative but not unexpected, “What are you talking about? You’ll ruin your career!” So, undeterred and using personal funds to pay for the recording session, Darin began work on the album, “That’s All.” Ertegun eventually came around and the result changed Darin’s career, popular music history and the karaoke industry worldwide.

The following day, November 30, 1959, became a celebrated one in Bobby Darin lore as well. This was the day of the famous, and infamous, UPI story quoting Bobby as saying, “I hope to surpass Sinatra in everything he’s done.” As innocent and unimportant as that statement appears, it caused a seismic stir in the music industry and in the public’s perception of Darin. Even today, there is still much controversy surrounding the legitimacy of that citation. “Dose of Darin” did cover and comment on this event in an earlier blog, posted on Sunday, October 23, entitled “Two of a Kind” - http://nycityman.blogspot.com/2010/10/sunday-dose-of-darin-two-of-kind.html
(So, I’ve already quoted myself and am now referencing a previous post. I sincerely hope that when I’ve completed composing this I’ll be able to fit my considerably increasing cranium through the bedroom doorway.)

Darin on your Dial -
Check your local PBS stations, for they’ve just begun running a pledge week special, “John Sebastian Presents: Folk Rewind,” that features a clip of Bobby Darin, that master of musical multiplicity, performing his original composition, “Simple Song of Freedom.” If you find that you’re not in the mood for two hours of sometimes, saccharinely-sincere and overly-earnest folk group vocalizing very likely to convince you that you’ve stumbled upon the film, “A Mighty Wind,” Bobby Darin’s clip comes in at about the forty minute mark of the program.

And now a song, arrangement and recording that needs no introduction - except, I guess, that this entire post has been an introduction - it’s iconic, timeless and simply one of the greatest records since “Edison recorded sound.” From the 1959 album, “That’s All,” from the Brecht/Weill work, “Threepenny Opera,” with an exceptional and almost startling orchestration by Richard Wess - Bobby Darin performing his signature song, “Mack the Knife.”


  1. Thank you. We (his legion of fans and I) look forward to this blog. Keep them coming!


  2. Thanks yet again, oh great nycityman. This is a particularly wonderful column in light of last week's release of the brand new vinyl "That's All". I've read wonderful things about it, but am pitifully turntable-less. Thanks too for the PBS 40 minute tip .... it doesn't play here until Wed. night. Gotta love DVR.

  3. Thank you, very much. I probably say it often, but it's sincere, I'm always grateful for those of you who take the time to read the blog, and I especially appreciate it when comments are left as well.
    As soon as I saw the PBS special I wanted to get something posted right away so I could alert people to it.
    And as I still have a turntable, I guess I'll need to be getting "That's All."
    Thanks again,