The British singles chart of September 26, 1959 may have shown local artists Craig Douglas and Cliff Richard holding down the top two spots, but North American stars were all over the Top 10. Jerry Keller, the Everly Brothers, Johnny Mathis, Connie Francis, and Canada’s Paul Anka were all riding high, and a New York vocal stylist who had just spent a month at No.1 was on his way there again. His name was Bobby Darin.
The singer, signed at the time to Atco in the U.S. and released in the U.K. by London American, had done even better across the Atlantic than in the States with his previous single “Dream Lover.” That rock’n’roll gem, which featured Neil Sedaka on piano, had reached No.2 in America, stopped from reaching the summit in June 1959 by Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans.” But it had gone all the way to No.1 in the U.K., spending four consecutive weeks there in July.
A transatlantic triumph
In September 1959, Darin debuted on the U.K. chart with the follow-up. This time, he would triumph in both countries, with a recording that would become another classic. When he recorded Kurt Weill’s “Mack The Knife,” this compelling tale of violence and intrigue was already 30 years old, first recorded by Weill’s wife Lotte Lenya, who was namechecked in Darin’s version.
Bobby’s brilliant interpretation, which also appeared on the That’s All EP, made its first appearance at No.24 in Britain. It climbed to No.5 and No.3, and then on October 17, hit the summit and spent two weeks there, to give him consecutive No.1s. Back home, it spent an extraordinary nine non-consecutive weeks as America’s favorite, and went on to win the Grammy for Record of the Year.
Buy or stream the live version of “Mack The Knife,” recorded at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas in 1963, on The Legendary Bobby Darin.