Sunday, April 27, 2014

What Keeps Mankind Alive?

What Keeps Mankind Alive?

The text - Ralph Manheim and John Willett's translation, from Bertolt Brecht's original German, of the second finale of Brecht-Weill's classic "Threepenny Opera" (Die Dreigroschenoper) (1928):

A rare photograph of Brecht and Weill together
[Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) & Kurt Weill (1900-1950)]

"You gentlemen who think you have a mission/To purge us of the seven deadly sins/Should first sort out the basic food position/Then start your preaching, that's where it begins/ You lot, who preach restraint and watch your waist as well/Should learn, for once, the way the world is run/However much you twist, or whatever lies that you tell/Food is the first thing, morals follow on/  So first make sure that those who are now starving/get proper helpings, when we all start carving/What keeps mankind alive?/ What keeps mankind alive? The fact that millions are daily tortured, stifled, punished, silenced and oppressed/Mankind can keep alive thanks to its brilliance/in keeping its humanity repressed/And for once you must try not to shirk the facts/Mankind is kept alive/by bestial acts!"

[Ihr Herrn, die ihr uns lehrt, wie man brav leben/Und Sünd und Missetat vermeiden kann
Zuerst müßt ihr uns was zu fressen geben/Dann könnt ihr reden: damit fängt es an./ 
Ihr, die ihr euren Wanst und unsre Bravheit liebt/Das eine wisset ein für allemal:/Wie ihr es immer dreht und wie ihr's immer schiebt/Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral./Erst muß es möglich sein auch armen Leuten/Vom großen Brotlaib sich ihr Teil zu schneiden./ Denn wovon lebt der Mensch?/ Denn wovon lebt der Mensch? Indem er stündlich/Den Menschen peinigt, auszieht, anfällt, abwürgt und frißt./Nur dadurch lebt der Mensch, daß er so gründlich/Vergessen kann, daß er ein Mensch doch ist./Ihr Herren, bildet euch nur da nichts ein:/Der Mensch lebt nur von Missetat allein!]

The memorable William Burroughs version first appears in 1994 in Larry Weinstein and David Mortin's "September Songs - The Music of Kurt Weill" video 
(a Hal Willner-produced audio version, a soundtrack of the film, appeared some three years later).  

Here's the, perhaps, more familiar Tom Waits version (from the album Orphans, Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards (2006)) 

and here's the soundtrack (auf Deutsch) (and another translation)  from the 1931 film made by G(eorg) W(ilhelm) Pabst.

Here's Lotte Lenya singing (not "What Keeps Mankind Alive", but several other songs from a (recorded December 193o) original cast recording.

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