Pirate Jenny

OK gang, it’s time for some Halloween fun: which of these five fabulous divas makes the best Pirate Jenny?

1. Lotte Lenya

2. Nina Simone

3. Marianne Faithfull

4. Bea Arthur

5. Hildegard Knef

Before you cast you’re vote, I would just ask that you not to be swayed by the fact that three of these ladies have videos, one is singing in German, and one is singing an alternate (and far superior) translation of the text.

Only an evil genius would pit these ladies against one another.  Happy Halloween.

In other news, I’m I’m busily assembling a new recording of a new piece I recently composed. It’s a cantata, a setting of the 46th Psalm using the rare and beguiling Young’s Literal Translation.

Making a recording takes a lot of money, so I’ve started a Kickstarter campaign to try and raise some funds.  Perhaps some of my readers would consider kicking in.  I’d certainly be grateful, and at the very least, you’d get your own mp3 copy of the piece!

Here’s the link: Recording of Psalm 46, a new cantata



Will, you know I can’t resist your polls and I crave your acceptance of my answer: Marianne Faithfull.


1) Better heard and not seen. The video hurts her chances and makes me think Pirate Jenny was on the H.M.S. AARP.

2) If Pam Grier lipped-synced this while karate chopping’ honkies, Richard Roundtree stared at her through a whiskey glass while wearing a tight brown letter coat, and Gordon Parks Jr. (yes, Jr.) was behind the camera, then, yes, she would be my Pirate Jenny.

4) Bea sounds like she is phoning it in and waiting for her paycheck to be rubber stamped on the back by her assistant. Her subtext has a sort of “Landsbury-gets-Sweenie-Tood-and-I-have-to-sing-this?” sort of feel (NOTE: I’m not knocking the song, just climbing into her head.)

5) If Nelson Riddle was kidnapped by Nazis, and shouted at through loudspeakers like Noriega in a sanctuary church, this is what that would sound like.

Marianne’s frumpy failure of a Greta Garbo tuxedo and British teeth just seem to strike the right balance for Pirate Jenny. And as you know, I like my pirate women like my scotch: balanced.



I think this analysis is dead on. The only point of disagreement is Lotte Lenya: I don’t think her presentation is as geriatric as all that. However, Marianne Faithfull is my personal fave, and she is my favorite Weill singer in general (her recording of “The Seven Deadly Sins” is one of my desert island discs.)

Major props for your analysis of the Hildegard Knef performance. Indeed, that is EXACTLY what it sounds like. I may have to have you on this site for a guest post with razor sharp analytical skillz like that!

I sort of like it though. In fact, I really do like all of these performances, and I almost feel bad pitting them against one another. But that’s how I roll.


What a fun post! I had a really hard time deciding between Nina Simone and Hildegard Knef. In the end though, I prefer Knef’s performance because of the “in your face” attitude she emits. I know “Pirate Jenny” is about Jenny day-dreaming of a more aggressive role she could take in life instead of being a maid, so I understand the other interpretations taking on a dreamier, more relaxed attitude, but I prefer the intensity of Knef’s interpretation, because it seems that her Jenny is getting really, really into her dream world and letting that become her reality. I would want to escape like that if I had to clean up after people all day. And as you know, I like my pirate women like my tequila: yelling at me.

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