Friday, April 3, 2009

Muddy Waters and Kurt Weill

You know you may have lived a good life when there is room for Muddy Waters (born 4/4/1913) and Kurt Weill (died 4/3/1950). I have been very fortunate, indeed.

Muddy, born McKinley Morganfield, has been a part of my musical experience for over 40 years, discovered in high school, along with Willie Dixon, while studying the record sleeves of, among others, the Rolling Stones. Muddy was the key that opened the door; with Muddy came Willie, and James Cotton, Buddy Guy, Otis Spann, Jimmie Rogers, Pinetop Perkins, Lafayette Leake, Little Walter and back, back to Lightnin' Hopkins and Robert Johnson, and Son House.

It's safe to say that the world would have been a bleaker, more hostile place for me, without these amazing musicians who could touch the soul with a single, aching, sustained note.

Kurt Weill came later, though Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife" had captured the popular imagination early on. I'm sure that I was really first captivated with his music via Judy Collins' recording of "Pirate Jenny" on her seminal In My Life album. His collaborations with Bertolt Brecht are the stuff of legend and certainly what catapulted him into the public eye. The music, however, sustains those lyrics and has been hugely influential, even with someone as seemingly removed as the composer Tom Waits. There have been anthologies of popular interpretations of Weill's music over the years, which can give someone without a classical background an easy way in (it did me). I highly recommend both collections.

So, on this musical Friday, first here's Muddy, with "Crawlin' King Snake" followed by audio of the classic "Got My Mojo Workin':"

Here are three songs by Weill/Brecht sung by Lotte Lenya from a 1962 (or 1958 - I found conflicting dates) episode of the television series "Monitor" filmed by Ken Russell, followed by the scathing contemporary interpretation of "What Keeps Man Alive" by Tom Waits:

making a duet
with my flute...
cry of a deer
translated by David Lanoue



Ed Baker said...

Lotte Lenya!

thanks for this clip...I got tears in my eyes, top of my head chill-tingle and
short-shallow breathing...

most sundays when my parents closed the grocery store we would go to see a film and the stage show at The Capitom Theater.. sometime in the 50's maybe 1957 or so..

I remember a special show my grandmother insisted we go hear Lotte Lenya she sang Mack the Knife ...

Her Nibbs Georgia Gibbs was also on same bill..

as for Tom Waits (he yet alive?) he in 70's used to "gig" frequently at The Bohemian Caverns here in D.C. he did some Hoagy Carmichael "thing" through the booze he was drinking..

some terrific grouping today..

you just might "muddy the waters" today

John Grochalski said...

thanks for the Muddy. I came to the blues fellas through Lead Belly, whom I came to via Nirvana's MTV Unplugged when they did a pretty aces cover of Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

Charles Gramlich said...

Very nice!

Jim H. said...

Man, I gotta git home to play these videos tonite. Mr. Don has struck a chord with these clips. The immortal Son House and Muddy

A co-worker came back to work yesterday from a long hospitalization and I played Mack the Knife for him because he's kind of like Macheath -- sharp and indestructible. Then Don puts the Kurt Weill stuff on here and it's like some kinda cosmic timing thing.


Jim H. said...

In college way back in the 70s we did three Brecht works in repertory -- Mother Courage, the Elephant Calf, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Pretty fun and powerful stuff for kids barely out of high school.

Damn, Don, you went and found me some deep and pleasant memories. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Latte Lenya was at one time married to Kurt Weill..

Mack the Knife....Latte Lenya's rendering of... well, groove on the film...the voice...the wail ... it's
not a revisionist piece...

Ed Baker said...

well it just "clicked"

Brecht. Weill. Lenya.

Mack the Knife...

Kurt Weill worked with Bert Brecht on musical The Three Penny Opera!
the stor was taken from something years earlier

took a drama course with THE Morris Freedman at U of Md in 1965...

(find his books...)

boy, did we "do" some plays! some of Brecht's but I forget which ones..
some-kind-uh-experience there in Europe/Russia/Germany/Greece/etc

say 1844-1945

lucky many books and people survived.

Imagine what was lost... It boggles the mind.

"and the beat goes onnnn...."

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ed, happy this hit home -

Jay, Leadbelly via Nirvana, living the dream, pass it on ...

Thanks, Charles

Big Jim, thanks for the kind words - Laurie keeps telling me that that cosmic thing spooks her out, happens all the time round about here ... hope you liked the vids ...

Ed, Morris Friedman, now that's dusting off the memories ... here's to what and who didn't survive ... as well as all who did.