Song: “Mack The Knife” by Bobby Darin
Reached #1: October 5, 1959 (his first, 9 weeks)
Bobby Darin’s life was defined, it seems, by the fact he knew it wasn’t going to be a long one. Darin suffered rheumatic fever as a child, which damaged his heart to the point that he had valve replacement surgery in 1971.
That would explain the fact that Darin tried to do as much as he could, as young as he could. Not only was he a singer, he acted, wrote music, ran a production company, got into politics, and hosted a variety show. If you don’t think that’s a lot, keep in mind that Darin only lived to age 37.
Oddly, he didn’t want to release his signature hit as a single at all. He was overruled, and the 9 weeks “Mack The Knife” spent at #1 were, at the time, the record for longevity at the top. At least he wasn’t wrong on his own – no less an expert than Dick Clark felt that a song from an opera would flop on the pop charts.
The song is a fairly accurate translation of “Die Moritat von Mackie Masser” (The Murder Ballad of Mack The Knife) from The Threepenny Opera (first performed in Germany in 1928). The opera came to the US in 1954, leading to a popular artist releasing the Murder Ballad as a single. That was Louie Armstrong (and his All-Stars), who did “A Theme From The Threepenny Opera (Mack The Knife)” in 1956. Darin’s slightly reworked version followed a couple of years later.
Darin left rock for folk in the mid-‘60s, before taking a long break after being in the room when Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. He had the heart surgery in 1971 (leading to another year-long break from music), before failure to take his medication led to the infection that killed him in 1973.
Tomorrow, a somewhat-autobiographical ‘70s #1.
Other songs that reached #1 on October 5:
1974 – “I Honestly Love You” by Olivia Newton-John (her first, 2 weeks)
1991 – “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark & the Fun Bunch feat. Loleatta Holloway (their first, 1 week)
2002 – “A Moment Like This” by Kelly Clarkson (her first, 2 weeks)