The German Cabaret Legacy in American Popular Music

The stylistic remnants of cabaret music from Weimar-era Germany are all around us. During the 20th century, its most prominent American exponents were the Germans Marlene Dietrich and Lotte Lenya, whose careers extended through the 1970s. Because of them (and others), the words and music of such artists as Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, Friedrich Hollaender, and Marcellus Schiffer continue to be heard and exert widespread influence.

Major songwriters touched by cabaret include Lennon & McCartney, Bacharach & David, Kander & Ebb, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, and Patti Smith, among many others. African-American artists, beginning with Louis Armstrong, have been sympathetic interpreters of cabaret music. Modern-day Las Vegas appears to be the fulfillment of a prophecy made in the late 1920s by Weill & Brecht in their Mahagonny stage works. And today, the German Kabarett tradition remains strong with such stars as Ute Lemper and Max Raabe packing international venues.