However, Weill and Brecht decided the song should not be sung by Macheath himself, opting instead to write the song for a street singer in keeping with the moritat tradition.
In the best known English translation, from the Marc Blitzstein 1954 version of The Threepenny Opera, which played Off-Broadway for over six years, Blitzstein's translation provides the basis for most of the popular versions we know today, including those by Louis Armstrong (1956) and Bobby Darin (1959; Darin's lyrics differ slightly), and most subsequent swing versions.
Weill's widow, Lotte Lenya, the star of both the original 1928 German production and the 1954 Blitzstein Broadway version, was present in the studio during Armstrong's recording.
Weill also intended the Moritat to be accompanied by a barrel organ, which was to be played by the singer.
That production, however, was not successful, closing after a run of only ten days.
The rarely heard final verse—not included in the original play, but added by Brecht for the 1931 movie—expresses the theme and compares the glittering world of the rich and powerful with the dark world of the poor: In 1976, a brand new interpretation of "Mack The Knife" by Ralph Manheim and John Willett opened on Broadway, later made into a movie version starring Raúl Juliá as "Mackie".