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Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife

DigiTrad:
WIFE OF A SOLDIER


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Joe Offer 14 May 97 - 02:49 AM
Joe Offer 14 May 97 - 03:38 AM
Peter Timmerman 14 May 97 - 10:39 AM
Joe Offer 14 May 97 - 12:58 PM
Peter Timmerman 14 May 97 - 01:17 PM
Joe Offer 14 May 97 - 01:33 PM
Peter Timmerman 14 May 97 - 02:16 PM
LaMarca 14 May 97 - 02:50 PM
LaMarca 14 May 97 - 03:02 PM
Joe Offer 14 May 97 - 03:55 PM
Joe Offer 14 May 97 - 03:58 PM
Petra (pacosgrove@fortlewis.edu) 14 May 97 - 07:03 PM
Peter Timmerman 15 May 97 - 10:23 AM
Barry Finn 15 May 97 - 11:39 AM
Peter Timmerman 15 May 97 - 11:44 AM
Peter Timmerman 16 May 97 - 12:09 PM
Kitdiva@AOL.com 26 May 97 - 08:31 PM
rechal@earthlink.net 08 Jun 97 - 02:36 PM
Phillip 19 Jan 03 - 06:59 AM
Charley Noble 19 Aug 08 - 02:14 PM
PoppaGator 19 Aug 08 - 03:28 PM
Arkie 19 Aug 08 - 06:46 PM
Gulliver 19 Aug 08 - 07:35 PM
Charley Noble 19 Aug 08 - 08:03 PM
Rowan 19 Aug 08 - 08:12 PM
Joe_F 19 Aug 08 - 09:12 PM
Joe Offer 19 Aug 08 - 09:25 PM
Rowan 19 Aug 08 - 09:27 PM
Arkie 19 Aug 08 - 09:44 PM
MAG 20 Aug 08 - 10:55 AM
PoppaGator 20 Aug 08 - 12:26 PM
M.Ted 20 Aug 08 - 01:51 PM
Rowan 20 Aug 08 - 06:48 PM
MAG 20 Aug 08 - 06:57 PM
Charley Noble 20 Aug 08 - 10:16 PM
M.Ted 21 Aug 08 - 12:04 AM
Charley Noble 21 Aug 08 - 09:20 AM
GUEST,Rosalie 21 Aug 08 - 10:27 AM
MAG 21 Aug 08 - 11:07 AM
PoppaGator 21 Aug 08 - 12:01 PM
M.Ted 21 Aug 08 - 12:33 PM
M.Ted 21 Aug 08 - 01:23 PM
Charley Noble 21 Aug 08 - 01:25 PM
M.Ted 21 Aug 08 - 01:35 PM
M.Ted 21 Aug 08 - 01:52 PM
PoppaGator 21 Aug 08 - 04:51 PM
Charley Noble 21 Aug 08 - 05:08 PM
Charley Noble 21 Aug 08 - 05:11 PM
Rowan 21 Aug 08 - 07:00 PM
Rowan 21 Aug 08 - 07:19 PM
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Subject: ADD :Pirate Jenny (Brecht, Blitzstein, Weil)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 May 97 - 02:49 AM

^^Pirate Jenny
From THE THREEPENNY OPERA
Music by KURT WEILL
Lyrics by BERTOLT BRECHT and MARC BLITZSTEIN

You gentlemen can watch while I'm scrubbin' the floors,
and I'm scrubbin' the floors while you're gawkin'.
And maybe once you tip me if it makes you feel swell,
on a ratty waterfront, in a ratty old hotel,
and you'd never guess to who you're talkin'
you'd never guess to who you're talkin'.

Suddenly one night, there's a scream in the night,
and you cry, "What the hell could that have been?"
and you see me kinda grinnin' while I'm scrubbin'
And you say, "What the hell she got to grin?"
And a ship, a black freighter,
With a skull on its masthead, will be coming in.

You gentlemen can say, "Hey girl! Finish the floors!
Get upstairs! Make the beds, earn your keep here!"
You toss me your tips, and look out at the ships,
but I'm countin' your heads while I make up the beds,
'cuz there's nobody gonna sleep here.
Tonight, none of you will sleep here.

Then that night, there's a bang in the night,
and you yell, "who's that kicking up a row?"
and you see me kinda starin' at the window,
and you say, "what she got to stare at now?"
And the ship, the black freighter,
Turns around in the harbor, shootin' guns from the bow.

Then you gentlemen can wipe off the laugh from your face,
every building in town is a flat one.
Your whole stinkin' place will be down to the ground,
only this cheap hotel standin' up, safe and sound,
and you yell, "why the hell spare that one?"
and you yell, "why the hell spare that one?"

All the night through, with the noise and to-do,
you wonder who's the person lives up there?
Then you see me steppin' out into the morning,
Lookin' nice with a ribbon in my hair.
And the ship, the black freighter,
runs a flag up its masthead, and a cheer rings the air.

By noontime the dock is all swarmin' with men,
comin' off of that ghostly freighter.
They're movin' in the shadows where no one can see,
and they're chainin' up people and bringin' them to me,
askin' ME, "Kill them now or later?"
askin' me, "kill them now or later?"

Moon by the clock, and so still on the dock
you can hear a foghorn miles away.
In that quiet of death, I'll say,
"Right now."
And they pile up the bodies, and I'll say,
"That'll learn ya!"
Then a ship, the black freighter,
Disappears out to sea, and on it is me.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 May 97 - 03:38 AM

Here are the original lyrics, from a Lotte Lenya CD:

Die Seeraeuber Jenny, oder Traeume Eines Kuechenmaedchens
(words: Bertolt Brecht, music: Kurt Weill)

Meine Herren, heute sehen Sie mich Glaeser abwaschen
Und ich mache das Bett fuer jeden
Und sie geben einen Penny, und ich bedanke mich schnell
Und Sie sehen meine Lumpen und dies lumpige Hotel
Und Sie wissen nicht, mit wem Sie reden.
Aber eines Tags wird ein Geschrei sein am Hafen
Und man fragt: Was ist das fuer ein Geschrei?
Und man wird mich laecheln sehn bei meinen Glaesern
Und man fragt: Was laechelt die dabei?

Und ein Schiff mit acht Segeln
Und mit fuenfzig Kanonen
Wird liegen am Kai

Man sagt: Geh, wisch deine Glaeser, mein Kind,
Und man reicht mir den Penny hin.
Und der Penny wird genommen
Und das Bett wird gemacht.
Es wird keiner mehr drin schlafen in dieser Nacht.
Und die wissen immer noch nicht, wer ich bin.
Und in dieser Nacht wird ein Getoes sein am Hafen
Und man fragt: Was ist das fuer ein Getoes?
Und man wird mich stehen sehen hinterm Fenster
Und man fragt: Was laechelt sie so boes?

Und ein Schiff mit acht Segeln
Und mit fuenfzig Kanonen
Wird beschiessen die Stadt.

And a ship with eight sails
And fifty cannons
Will blow the town to pieces.

This woman has an attitude.

Other classics on the CD are Lenya's recordings of Kurt Weill's "September Song," "Speak Low," "Mack the Knife," and "Alabama Song" (recorded by the Doors).


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Peter Timmerman
Date: 14 May 97 - 10:39 AM

I don't mean to carp after the ton of work you did, but isn't there another verse in German, as long as it is going into the DT? The only part I ever remember of the German version is the moment when Lotte Lenya sings "Hoppla!" for (I guess) "right now!" I forgot that "lumpige" becomes "ratty". Both great. I wonder who Blitzstein wrote the translation for? -- the standard earlier version I have, from the Bentley translation (I think) is not nearly as good or singeable. I wonder if someone sang this version before Judy Collins. Yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 May 97 - 12:58 PM

Uh, oh....you're going to make me work, eh? The CD booklet just has the two verses and the chorus. I'll listen to the CD and transcribe what's left, if there is anything.

The Blitzstein translation is very good, although it misses some of the masterful style of Brecht's lyrics. The meaning is just slightly different - in the German version, Jenny is washing glasses instead of scrubbing floors; and the chorus with the mention of 8 sails and 50 cannons is quite different.

It's hard to capture the full meaning of "Und ein Schiff....wird beschiessen die Stadt." Her pirates are going to blow that city to hell.

Great song, isn't it? I think Judy Collins did it justice, but those who understand German should hear Lotte Lenya's version. It really is powerful.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Peter Timmerman
Date: 14 May 97 - 01:17 PM

Dear Joe, yes, she is the best, and you are right about the German -- though I always liked "the ship, the black freighter". It kind of swims into view on those open vowels. But why would the CD have only two verses -- what kind of CD stupidity is that! I thought the only advantage of CD over vinyl was the excuse to add a zillion extras to the package. Crazy. Yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 May 97 - 01:33 PM

Well, if I had turned the page....the CD booklet is very generous, indeed - it has all the lyrics in English, German, and French. It's called "Kurt Weill: Berlin and American Theater Songs," Sony Classical SK 42658, and it is the best collection of Kurt Weill songs I've ever seen. So, here are the complete German lyrics, with additions and a couple of corrections:

^^Die Seeräuber Jenny, oder Träume Eines Küchenmädchens
(words: Bertolt Brecht, music: Kurt Weill), 1928, from "Die Dreigroschenoper"


Meine Herren, heute sehen Sie mich Gläser abwaschen
Und ich mache das Bett für jeden
Und sie geben einen Penny, und ich bedanke mich schnell
Und Sie sehen meine Lumpen und dies lumpige Hotel
Und Sie wissen nicht, mit wem Sie reden.
Aber eines Tags wird ein Geschrei sein am Hafen
Und man fragt: Was ist das für ein Geschrei?
Und man wird mich lächeln sehn bei meinen Gläsern
Und man fragt: Was lächelt die dabei?

Und ein Schiff mit acht Segeln
Und mit fünfzig Kanonen
Wird liegen am Kai

Man sagt: Geh, wisch deine Gläser, mein Kind,
Und man reicht mir den Penny hin.
Und der Penny wird genommen
Und das Bett wird gemacht.
Es wird keiner mehr drin schlafen in dieser Nacht.
Und die wissen immer noch nicht, wer ich bin.
Und in dieser Nacht wird ein Getös sein am Hafen
Und man fragt: Was ist das für ein Getös?
Und man wird mich stehen sehen hinterm Fenster
Und man fragt: Was lächelt sie so bös?

Und ein Schiff mit acht Segeln
Und mit fünfzig Kanonen
Wird beschiessen die Stadt.

Meine Herren, da wird wohl Ihr Lachen aufhören
Denn die Maürn werden fallen hin
Und am dritten Tage ist die Stadt dem Erdboden gleich
Nur ein lumpiges Hotel wird verschont von jedem Streich
Und man fragt: Wer wohnt Besonderer darin?
Und in dieser Nacht wird ein Geschrei um das Hotel sein
Und man fragt: Warum wird das Hotel verschont?
Und man sieht mich treten aus der Tür gegen Morgen
Und man sagt: Die hat darin gewohnt.

Und das Schiff mit acht Segeln
Und mit fünfzig Kanonen
Wird beflaggen den Mast

Und es werden kommen hundert gegen Mittag an Land
Und werden in den Schatten treten
Und fangen einen jeglichen aus jeglicher Tür
Und legen ihn in Ketten und bringen ihn mir
Und mich fragen: Welchen sollen wir töten?
Und an diesem Mittag wird es still sein am Hafen
Wenn man fragt, wer wohl sterben muss.
And da werden Sie mich sagen hören: Alle!
Und wenn dann der Kopf fällt, sage ich: Hoppla!

Und das Schiff mit acht Segeln
Und mit fünfzig Kanonen
Wird entschwinden mit mir.

....there are interesting little touches of Berliner dialect in the lyrics, particularly the use of the definite article ("der, die, das") instead of the pronoun ("er, sie, es"). If you can get used to using that and the word "doch" a lot, you can talk just like a Berliner.

This was fun.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Peter Timmerman
Date: 14 May 97 - 02:16 PM

Himmel!


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: LaMarca
Date: 14 May 97 - 02:50 PM

A few years ago Dave Van Ronk and Frankie Armstrong put out a CD "Let No-one Deceive You" of Brecht songs in English. I know both their voices are acquired tastes, but I think they each capture some of the raw cynicism of the songs that get lost when a smoother singer like Judy Collins does them. I particularly like Van Ronk's version of "We All Make the Bed That We Lie In", and their duet Tango Ballad from Threepenney. I'll go look up the label and number of the disc when I get home. Can either of you fellow Brecht/Weill fans tell me if Ute Lemperer's recordings are good?


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: LaMarca
Date: 14 May 97 - 03:02 PM

For them what's interested, I found the CD listed in the Weill homepage discography:

Armstrong, Frankie. Let No One Deceive You: Songs of Bertolt Brecht. With Dave Van Ronk, with Leon Rosselson, guitar and piano, and others. Flying Fish Records FF 70557.

The Kurt Weill web site, which Joe steered me to awhile back, is:

http://www.kwf.org/kw/Welcome.html


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 May 97 - 03:55 PM

Kurt Weill certainly teamed with some remarkable lyricists. He is best-known for his collaborations with Bertolt Brecht, who was just about the only writer East Germany could point to with pride.

There were others, though: Maxwell Anderson (September Song), Ira Gershwin (Saga of Jenny), Ogden Nash (Speak Low), and also Langston Hughes and Alan Jay Lerner.

Somehow, I can't picture Ogden Nash ("A Peculiar Bird Is the Pelican") as the man who penned the haunting lyrics of "Speak Low."

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: ADD: Mack the Knife
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 May 97 - 03:58 PM

While we're on the subject, here's another Weill-Brecht classic:

^^ Mack the Knife
English by Marc Blitzstein
Original German by Bertolt Brecht
Music by Kurt Weill
from The Threepenny Opera" (1955)

Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear
And he shows them pearly white.
Just a jack knife has Macheath, dear
And he keeps it out of sight.

When the shark bites with his teeth, dear
Scarlet billows start to spread.
fancy gloves, though, wears Macheath, dear
So there's not a trace of red.

On the side-walk Sunday morning
Lies a body oozing life;
Someone's sneaking 'round the corner.
Is the someone Mack the Knife?

From a tugboat by the river
A cement bag's dropping down;
The cement's just for the weight, dear.
Bet you Mackie's back in town.

Louie Miller disappeared, dear
After drawing out his cash;
And Macheath spends like a sailor.
Did our boy do something rash?

Sukey Tawdry, Jenny Diver,
Polly Peachum, Lucy Brown
Oh, the line forms on the right, dear
Now that Mackie's back in town.


^^ Der Moritat von Mackie Messer
(lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, music by Kurt Weill)

Und der Haifisch, der hat Zähne
Und die trägt er im Gesicht
Und Macheath, der hat ein Messer
Doch das Messer sieht man nicht

Ach, es sind des Haifischs Flossen
Rot, wenn dieser Blut vergießt!
Mackie Messer trägt 'nen Handschuh
Darauf man keine Untat liest

An 'nem schönen blauen Sontag
Liegt ein toter Mann am Strand
Und ein Mensch geht um die Ecke
Den man Mackie Messer nennt

Und Schmul Meier bleibt verschwunden
Und so mancher reiche Mann
Und sein Geld hat Mackie Messer
Dem man nichts beweisen kann

Jenny Towler ward gefunden
mit 'nem Messer in der Brust
Und am Kai geht Mackie Messer
Der von allem nichts gewußt

Und das große Feuer in Soho
Sieben Kinder und ein Greis
In der Menge Mackie Messer,
Den Man nichts fragt und der nichts weiß

Und die minderjährige Witwe
Deren Namen jeder weiß
Wachte auf und war geschändet
Mackie, welches war dein Preis

Und die Fische, sie verschwinden
Doch zum Kummer des Gerichts
Man zitiert am End den Haifisch
Doch der Haifisch weiß von nichts

Und er kann sich nicht erinnern
Und man kann nicht an ihn ran
Denn ein Haifisch ist kein Haifisch
Wenn man nicht beweisen kann


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Petra (pacosgrove@fortlewis.edu)
Date: 14 May 97 - 07:03 PM

Joe- dont' know if you saw my post some notes down the list, but I had asked for that very song.. Thank you very much.. :) And though I don't speak german, I'm impressed that you've got both versions..

Thanks :)

Petra


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Peter Timmerman
Date: 15 May 97 - 10:23 AM

Dear La Marca, I haven't heard Lemper, though I asked a friend about her, who says he doesn't remember her doing Pirate Jenny on her new CD of Weill songs. Another friend says that Marianne Faithful does a good version of PJ on her 20th Century Blues album (I cannot vouch for my friends' tastes!) Yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Barry Finn
Date: 15 May 97 - 11:39 AM

Back in the early (I think) 70's I had a copy of Nina Simone doing Pirate Jenny, she was/is ? a great blues singer and did a great job on the song, the LP has dissapeared long ago, but I also remember her doing "Porgy & Bess" and "Mississippi God Damn" which is still unfogetable. Barr Finn


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Peter Timmerman
Date: 15 May 97 - 11:44 AM

Dear Barry, many, many thanks. I always loved Nina Simone and had no idea she had ever done that. The search is on! Yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Peter Timmerman
Date: 16 May 97 - 12:09 PM

Dear La Marca, It turns out that Ute Lemper is one of the soloists in a 1989 recording of ThreePenny Opera from London Records the RIAS Berlin Sinfonietta conducted by John Manceri. It seems that RIAS Berlin is doing all of Weill's work. A pal ferried it over to me last night -- I should say that I don't like her much, she is like a parody of a German singer -- huge consonants and over emphasis. I wonder if she is doing it deliberately (Brechtian alienation). Her Pirate Jenny is nothing on Lenya. But the band with her is hot! It is a great production. Yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: Kitdiva@AOL.com
Date: 26 May 97 - 08:31 PM

Just to let you folks know that another wonderful interpreter of Weill/Brecht is Teresa Stratas, the opera singer. She did a superb Jenny in The Rise and Fall of Mahagonny years ago at the Met (and again, I believe, in a recent revival). I'm not sure of her discography, but would suspect that there is at least one CD of her singing Weill.... Nice to know there are so many Jenny fans out there.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny
From: rechal@earthlink.net
Date: 08 Jun 97 - 02:36 PM

The Nina Simone version is available on her "Greatest Hits" CD (the cover is orange).


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Subject: Lyr Add: BLACK FREIGHTER / PIRATE JENNY (Brecht)
From: Phillip
Date: 19 Jan 03 - 06:59 AM

Here's the words of "The Black Freighter" more properly know as the pirate Jenny Song.

You lads see me wash the glasses, wipe the floors,
Make the beds, I'm the best of servants.
You can kindly throw me pennies and I'll thank you very much.
When you see me ragged and tattered in this dirty shit hotel,
You don't know in hell who's talking,
You still don't know in hell who's talking.
Yet one fine day there will be roars from the harbour
And you'll ask, ";What is all that screeching for ?";
And you'll see me smiling as I dunk the glasses
And you'll say, ";What's she got to smile at for ?";
And the ship, eight sails shining,
Fifty-five cannons wide, Sir,
Waits there at the quay.

You say, ";Work on, wipe the glasses, my girl.";
And just slip me a dirty six-pence.
And your pennies will be taken, and your beds will be made,
(But I doubt if forty winks will come anybody's way)
And you still don't know in hell who's talking,
You still don't know in hell who's talking.
Still one fine day there'll be a loud bang from the harbour,
And you'll ask, ";Jesus Christ, what was that bang ?";
And you'll see me standing right behind the window,
And you'll say, ";Why has she got the evil eye ?";
And the ship, eight sails shining,
Fifty-five cannons wide, Sir,
Will be aimed at this town.

So then lads, it's time for tears, no more laughs at the bar,
For the walls will be at your ankles.
And look out, lads, the town will be flat as the ground,
This dirty shit hotel will be spared wrack and ruin
And you'll say, ";Who is the fancy bitch lives there ?";
You'll say, ";Who is the fancy bitch lives there ?";
There'll be rows of people running round the hotel
And you'll ask, ";Why should they have spared this hovel ?";
And you'll see me in the morning leaving lightly
And you'll say, ";That one, her , she lived there ?";
The same ship, eight sails shining,
Fifty-five cannons wide, Sir,
Flies crossbones and skull.

In the midday sun a hundred men will step ashore
All tramping where shadows crawled.
They'll lay their hands on men, hiding shit-scared behind doors
Lead them in chains here before this silent woman,
And they'll say, ";Well, which ones shall we kill ?";
They'll say, ";Which ones shall we kill ?";
Come the dot of twelve, it will be still in the harbour,
When they ask me, ";Well, who is going to die ?";
And you'll hear me whispering, oh, so sweetly, ";All of them!";
And as the soft heads fall, I'll say, ";Hop-l¨¤!";
That same ship, eight sails shining,
Fifty-five cannons wide, Sir,
Disappears with me.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Charley Noble
Date: 19 Aug 08 - 02:14 PM

Hmmm, interesting translation. I wonder what the random letters in the 4th line from the bottom at the end of the sentence are supposed to mean:

"And as the soft heads fall, I'll say, "Hop-l¨¤!"

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: PoppaGator
Date: 19 Aug 08 - 03:28 PM

I much prefer the sound of...

"The ship, the black freighter"

to

"The ship, eight sails shining."

And I find it very curious that the first post which offers "THE BLACK FREIGHTER/PIRATE JENNY" as the title of this lyric omits that very phrase...


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Arkie
Date: 19 Aug 08 - 06:46 PM

Steeleye Span also recorded The Black Freighter. I think Maddy Prior was doing the lead.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Gulliver
Date: 19 Aug 08 - 07:35 PM

Hmmm, interesting translation. I wonder what the random letters in the 4th line from the bottom at the end of the sentence are supposed to mean:

"And as the soft heads fall, I'll say, "Hop-l¨¤!"


The German is Hoppla! which you say when something falls, or someone jumps, like English "whoops!" or "whoops-a-daisy!"

Don


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Charley Noble
Date: 19 Aug 08 - 08:03 PM

Don-

"Hoopla!"

I suspect you're right.

I too prefer the usual "Black Freighter" chorus phrasing but then I never knew what the German lyrics were and "The ship, eight sails shining" sounds more like a pirate ship.

Seems to me now, the initial translator should have come up with something better than "freighter." Of course, now, it's too late; it's in the BOOK.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Rowan
Date: 19 Aug 08 - 08:12 PM

Steeleye Span also recorded The Black Freighter.

There's probably a generation or two of pop-folkies who probably heard Maddy Prior singing it with Steeleye Span and who've never even heard of Kurt Weill or Bertolt Brecht, which might explain the mystery implied in PoppaGator's
And I find it very curious that the first post which offers "THE BLACK FREIGHTER/PIRATE JENNY" as the title of this lyric omits that very phrase...

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Joe_F
Date: 19 Aug 08 - 09:12 PM

The German says "ship with eight sails and fifty cannon" -- nothing fancy.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Aug 08 - 09:25 PM

I've always pictured eight masts, which would be pretty fancy, especially with fifty cannons. But if it's a square-rigger with eight sails, that isn't really much of a ship.
I'll keep imagining the eight masts.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Rowan
Date: 19 Aug 08 - 09:27 PM

I've just realised that readers of my post might (reasonably) infer that I've implied that Joe, Arkie, PoppaGator et al. are pop-folkies; nothing could be further from the truth, or my intention.

And, while I enjoyed Maddy Prior's rendition, I prefer Lotte Lenya's.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Arkie
Date: 19 Aug 08 - 09:44 PM

Actually Judy Collin's version of Pirate Jenny was the first time I had heard the song and I did wonder about the source. Sometime later I discovered that it was from the Three Penny Opera and can't say that I was all that surprised. I do like Judy's and Maddy's versions and had wondered why they used different titles. I hope to someday hear Lotte Lenya and the whole of the Three Penny Opera.

Have been intrigued by this song since I first heard it and appreciate all the discussion.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: MAG
Date: 20 Aug 08 - 10:55 AM

We have Joe cCarthy to thank for Brecht ending up in East Germany; the story goes he walked out of his hearing with a ticket back to Europe in his pocket, and the only place that offered him work was East gErmany. He was originally, I think, Bavarian. German before the split, anyway.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: PoppaGator
Date: 20 Aug 08 - 12:26 PM

Rowan,

I don't mind being called a "pop-folkie," not at all. That's probably as accurate a description as any other pigeon-hole into which I might be put.

My tastes are pretty eclectic; while I have a special kind of interest in songs and genres that I would be able to perform on solo acoustic guitar and vocals-with-limitations, I enjoy listening to a much wider variety of music, mostly blues/jazz/R&B.

I really enjoy much of the popular music of my younger years, some of which I was too much of a folk-snob to admit liking at the time, including even some of the greatest of Motown and Stax/Volt AND the early "British Invasion." I didn't completely get over my case of folk/blues purism until Paul Butterfield proved to me that worthwhile music could be produced by electric guitars, bass and drums, and then Bob Dylan went onstage with Butterfield's band to bring a whole new dimension to rock n roll.

I'm not especially conversant with current-day pop music, because I'm fortunate enough to live in New Orleans, a community with its own incredibly vibrant musical culture, where brilliant young players are constantly creating new music with deep roots in a unique local tradition. I never listen to top-40 radio, hip-hop radio, "today's country" radio, or any of that crap, and hardly ever even overhear it. I don't watch "American Idol," and I don't even buy CDs. When I'm not watching TV or engaged in other non-musical activities, I listen to WWOZ FM 90.7 and, when play my guitar, I stick mostly to my frozen-in-time repertoire of blues, folk, acoustic psychedelia and Dylan, developed when I was a full-time busker from 1969 to 1972.

PS: I also first head this song on that Judy Collins album, but that doesn't mean I didn't know it was a Brecht-Weill composition ~ I read the liner notes! Plus which, I had enough general education and exposure to culture to have some idea of who they were, and that there was such a thing as "The Threepenny Opera" which also featured that Bobby Darin song, "Mack the Knife." (It wasn't until many years later that I learned about Louis Armstrong's earlier recording, which Darin and his arranger(s) essentially copied note-for-note.)


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: M.Ted
Date: 20 Aug 08 - 01:51 PM

MAG--Brecht testified before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1947. McCarthy was a Senator, and, in any event, McCarthy didn't begin his Anti-Communist activities til his famous speech in Wheeling,WVa in 1950.

As to the rest, Brecht went back to Europe after testifying, but, at least according to Eric Bentley(who worked with him from 1942 on), he had always intended to go back to Germany as soon as the war was over. The hearings probably influenced his timing, but the poor reaction of critics to his play "Gallileo", which featured Charles Laughton, also made a difference.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Rowan
Date: 20 Aug 08 - 06:48 PM

G'day PoppaGator,
Apart from the locations (Melbourne has always been musically different from New Orleans, for example) your self-description largely applies to me, too. My use of the term was largely derived from observations of the very 'inner-suburban' adolescents I coped with during the 70s and 80s; their resistance to anything that challenged their preconceptions was often rivalled only by the similar resistance (to the same challenges) offered by the very rural characters I've encountered in the 90s and 00s.

While my roots are Oz/Anglo/Celtic I have played gamelan and Balkan, and enjoyed almost every genre I've encountered. Oz Radio National does a weekly program "Into the music" which presents an eclectic palette that included (a while ago now) a program on Weill and Brecht, and another on the movers and shakers in the German cabaret scene of the 20s and 30s. Music to my ears.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: MAG
Date: 20 Aug 08 - 06:57 PM

M. Ted, the post-war anti-communist hysteria is generally considered the reason Brecht left this country, to which he fled from the nazis.

We do tend to conflate HUAC and McCarthy here; they were of a piece.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 Aug 08 - 10:16 PM

I was always intrigued with the music as well as the story. I find that somewhat surprising now because it is so much more complex than the folk music I was raised with, and I never stood a chance of being able to play it. It was so radically different, and yet so intriguing.

Maybe it's time to folk process the lyrics some more, so it's closer to the original literal translation but also more nautical.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 12:04 AM

MAG--Brecht had more than one reason to leave. It is an interesting and complex story. HUAC actually liked him--and commended his testimony. He had had extensive contact with Soviet intelligence while in the US, however, and his glib dismissals might not have been enough to ward off further scrutiny. Also, when Laughton realized that Brecht was being investigated, he quickly broke off all ties with him, which effectively destroyed "Gallileo"s prospects on Broadway. That was likely a harbinger of things to come.

He went to Switzerland first, where he was highly regarded, and soon was producing and directing his work in his native language.

The Communists, both Russian and German, did not like his work, and thought his composers, Weill and Eisler, were too modern and complex. Brecht said something to the effect that, "They want folk music!"


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 09:20 AM

Rowan et al-

Is there a short answer to the roots of "the German cabaret scene of the 20s and 30s"? Is it early jazz, Balkan based, or what? There doesn't seem to be anything equivalent in American popular music or Broadway show tunes during the late 1920's or early 1930's. What planet did Weill and Eisler come from?

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: GUEST,Rosalie
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 10:27 AM

This week WNYC is doing a series on "The Best of WNYC" that opened with the music of Weimar Germany and recordings from the original 3 Penny Opera. Look on WNYC.org.
    I'm pretty sure that the record I have has Lotte Lenya singing Pirate Jenny in English. It is the original cast album from the Broadway production and might be available on CD. I never saw the production, just got the album.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: MAG
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 11:07 AM

Again, the common wisdom is that Brecht conned HUAC by playing dumb furriner. As you noted Ted, the Black List was already in full riot gear.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: PoppaGator
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 12:01 PM

Y'all have really piqued my interest in that post-WWII political history involving Brecht. I thought there was something fishy about the first mention of Joe McCarthy, because ~ little as I know about this particular subplot ~ I do know that Joe didn't emerge as a powerful anti-Commie force until a few years into the 50s.

Brecht has to have been a true believer is Marxist-Leninism, since he chose to settle in the GDR despite ample opportunities to live out his days much more comfortably in Switzerland or in West Germany. (If it's true that he was born in Bavaria or any other area in the west, it's even more telling that he would have taken up residence over on the other side.)

I can well understand any impatience/aversion he would have felt in regard to the American anti-Communist hysteria of that era. having had the B'way production of his current show essentially blacklisted, but I wouldn't think he'd have had the same kind of problems in Switzerland, Munich, or anywhere in Western Europe.

*******************

It occurred to me earlier this morning, after this discussion had been going on for a few days, that it's interesting, if not remarkable, that interest in this very esoteric variety of "art-song" has not brought forth the slightest whimper from the folk-purist contingent. If there's anything one could validly classify/criticize as non-folk music, it would be this stuff that no one can figure out the chords to, no audience could be expected to sing along with, etc.

If not for Judy Collins and Dave Van Ronk, I seriously doubt that anyone would ever have had the slightest idea of classifying Brecht-Weill material within the folk-music sphere. Both of those artists have stated adamantly that they saw themselves as singers first, and only incidentally as singers whose repertoires included folk songs. (Well, Dave was every bit as much a guitar player as as singer, but he stated more than once that he considered himself a jazz artist whose special interest in traditional jazz, vintage ragtime, and blues allowed him to participate in the Folk Revival.)

Ot my mind, widely known-and-loved pieces such as "Louie Louie" and "Twist and Shout" are much closer to qualifying as contemporary real-world "folksongs" than are "Pirate Jenny" and "Alabama Song."


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 12:33 PM

The German Cabaret scene actually began at the turn of the 20th Century, and was meant to be a German version of French cabaret--it's intention was to be a light, popular entertainment, and included plays, political satires, clowns, and lots of music.

After the end of the Great War, "The Lost Generation" converged on Berlin, developing it's own intellectual counterculture that rooted itself in the cabarets that had been established by the previous generation.

Eisler was a classical student of Schonberg, Brecht was a poet/singer/songwriter who performed with the famous clown and mime, Karl Valentin, and Weill was a classically trained composer, as well.

Basically, the idea was to take the popular musical theatre and use it as a vehicle to express the disillusionment and anger that was everyone was experiencing.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 01:23 PM

Missed your post, PG-but here is as much as I have time for in reply--

Brecht wasn't actually all that welcome in Switzerland, and he moved to Austria, where he was granted citizenship, but there was a great backlash when it was discovered. When he went back to Berlin, he was basically back home, and it was a home that had been devasted by the thing that he had fought against up until he had been forced to leave.

To personalize it a bit, Berlin after the war probably seemed a lot like New Orleans after Katrina. As an artist, as an advocate of social justice, as a human being, he was compelled to accept whatever he found and to use it as a starting place.

He was a poet and a playwright--he used Marx as a way to look at the dynamic of society, and and the economic system that sustained it, but he was a social moralist, not a Communist--he wanted people to see the truth about the world that they lived in, and, by helping them to understand it, he hoped that they could unite and build a better world.

In that sense, ultimately, he had to be back in Berlin.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 01:25 PM

So Eisler and Weill were classically trained but used their training to create tunes which hardly appear classical to my ears. Did they have mentors or was the French Cabaret already exploring such tunes?

I'm familiar with British Music Hall tunes, and American minstrelsy, ragtime, blues, and early jazz, and nothing seems to correlate to what these Germans were composing. Intriguing!

Of course I have little familiarity with classical composers, and the radicals within.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 01:35 PM

Despite what you might think, Brecht, Weill and Eisler tried to create music that common people could listen to, enjoy, and sing. The language was street vernacular, not elevated poetry, the songs were singable, and, in fact, there was a cabaret in Berlin where only the songs of Threepenny Opera were played.

From the beginning, Brecht was the original "protest" singer--with his guitar, his leather jacket, and his angry poetry, and Weill consciously wrote in the manner of Donizetti, who used folk melodies as the basis for his opera.

Threepenny Opera was an opera so cheap, even a beggar could afford it, and it was based on John Gay's "Beggar's Opera" which was a repository for many of the folk melodies that we know today.

So it is folk.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 01:52 PM

Understand that many, even most of the German Cabaret songs sound like pop tunes of the time, with a German, rather than French flavor. Earlier tunes sound more like operettas, later ones, more like Jazz. Think "Lilli Marlene" and "Just a Gigalo"--

Weill's "cabaret orchestra" sound is classically composed music, using the idioms of the cabaret orchestra, but developed with the palate and imagination of a 20th Century composer. So it has the sound and feel of cabaret music,a but it goes in other directions.

A lot of contempory people try to do a take on "decadent" cabaret music--some try sound like animals who need to be put out of their misery, but that's not right--the music was supposed to be fun, with it's own kind of "three chords and the truth" underpinnings-


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: PoppaGator
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 04:51 PM

Ted, thanks for all that input. You obviously love this subject enough to have learned a whole lot about it.

And I do appreciate your comparison of postwar Berlin to post-Katrina New Orleans. But Brecht had a choice between West and East Berlin, did he not? Or perhaps, if early enough, among four zones of occupation, American, British, French, and Russian? Or was it really that necessary that he return not only to his home city, but to his original neighborhood?

I certainly know that one can be more-or-less "leftist" without embracing Stalinist-type authoritarianism. And, having been born in the USA in 1947, I have no idea how Europe in the late 40s would have "felt" to a grown-up artist like Brecht, but still... I can't help but have doubts about the judgement of anyone with his wealth of options to have freely chosen to settle in the East at that time.

Smacks of a romantic attachment to the theory of Marxism in the face of a much harsher reality, where the "dictatorship of the proletariat" had long since proven to be no better than any other form of dictatorship. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and anyone who has assumed the powers of a dictator has long ago ceased to be any kind of "regular guy" prole.


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 05:08 PM

I thought that part of the deal that persuaded Brecht to move to East Belin was the promise of a theatre and theatre company to produce his plays.

My Brecht biography is currently misplaced! Guess I'll have to Goggle for the answers.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 05:11 PM

Hmmmm:

"In 1948 Brecht settled in East Berlin, where he remained until his death. He and his wife, the actress Helene Weigel, founded the Berliner Ensemble in September 1949 with ample financial support from the state. This group became the most famous theater company in East Germany and the foremost interpreter of Brecht. He himself devoted much of his time to directing. He wrote no new plays except Die Tage der Commune (1949; The Days of the Commune) but adapted several--among them Molière's Don Juan and Shakespeare's Coriolanus. There is some evidence that he modified his austere conception of the function of drama and conceded the importance of the theater as a vehicle for entertainment."

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Rowan
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 07:00 PM

M.Ted has expressed my understanding of the German cabaret scene of the 20s and 30s probably better than I could have myself but I think I'd have also emphasised a willingness on the part of Eisler, Weill and Brecht to deal with the absurd and the surreal; juxtaposing these with classical training and elements of popular culture (some of which had elements of what we'd recognise as "folk") would have fitted into other aspects of the cultural context of Germany at that time.

It might be my own idiosyncracy but what I get from their productions seems very related to what I got from The Goons in the 50s and Monty Python in the 70s and I suspect that, if Leon Rosselson had been writing the music for these two latter events, the relationship might have been even stronger.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Pirate Jenny & Mack the Knife
From: Rowan
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 07:19 PM

I certainly know that one can be more-or-less "leftist" without embracing Stalinist-type authoritarianism. And, having been born in the USA in 1947, I have no idea how Europe in the late 40s would have "felt" to a grown-up artist like Brecht, but still... I can't help but have doubts about the judgement of anyone with his wealth of options to have freely chosen to settle in the East at that time.

PoppaGator, I suspect there's a couple of things going on in the background that influenced both Brecht's settlement in East Berlin and your perception of it. I may have misremembered this but what passes for my memory suggests that Helene Weigl had family there that required her (and thus her partner's) presence. I may be confusing this ("postwar") aspect with a "prewar" event but I don't have the details to hand. The influence of 'neighbourhood' (plus a theatre) may have outweighed gross state politics. Then there's the fact that you and I are both the products of well established democracies that have weathered most of the assaults launched against them, whereas Brecht's upbringing was in a slightly different context and probably influenced his ability to cope; how he constructed his ability to live in East Berlin is something I suspect neither you nor I could emulate.

Cheers, Rowan


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