"Oh, show us the way, to the next whiskey-bar. Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why." And so opens the Alabama Song
(Google books preview) by Bertholt Brecht and Brecht's close collaborator, Elisabeth Hauptmann
(Gbp), first published in 1927. Brecht set it to music and performed it on stages all over Berlin, but the better known version was scored by classical composer Kurt Weill, who was impressed with Brecht’s poetry and wanted to break away from the constraints of his previous work
. It was this version, first performed by Lotte Lenya
, that was made famous by The Doors
and their use of a Marxophone
For contrast, here's the song performed
as part of Mahagonny Songspeil
by the Carnegie Mellon University senior class of 2012, sung by women in search of "the next pretty boy." And here is Marianne Faithfull live
, singing those same lyrics.
David Bowie, a fan of Brecht
, performed the song in 1978
, and in years following, including in 2002, when he introduced the song by saying "And when I was living in my apartment in Berlin, I would sing this at breakfast every morning.
" Bowie opted to go with the same language used by The Doors in the 1960s, as featured in their self-titled debut album
(full album on Vimeo).
There a number of other covers of this song, including Marilyn Manson
(live) and The Bobs
(studio recording). And we'll wrap up with The Doors live, with Love Me Two Times
, featuring an organ instead of the Marxophone. If you want more Marxophone, here's The Doors - Alabama Song (Niconé edit)
(YT; alt link: Soundcloud
stream and download link). You can find more covers listed on Wikipedia
and the Covers Project
Songs of Alabama
, previously, and Mack the Knife
, a previous post on Brecht cover song mania.