Born to an affluent Philadelphia family, Marc Blitzstein was something of a child prodigy. He displayed a natural talent to for the piano, playing Mozart pieces at age 7. Later, he studied under Alexander Siloti (himself a student of Tchaikovsky and Liszt) and made his professional debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at 21.
Marc’s musical studies took him to Europe, where he became a student of Nadia Boulanger, the respected and influential teacher of some of the greatest composers of the 20th century, including Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, Burt Bacharach, Quincy Jones and many others. In addition to developing his talent and ability, Marc also developed a superiority complex, publicly belittling other composers. He often denigrated contemporaries like Kurt Weill, accusing them of compromising their musical integrity for the sake of making a buck.
Marc composed a number of piano pieces and eventually wrote and scored musical theater. His pro-union musical, The Cradle Will Rock, received widespread praise. However, it could have been the trigger for his later investigation by the House Un-American Committee in 1958. Marc was accused of being a Communist… an allegation that was, most likely, true.
Considering his negative feelings regarding Kurt Weill, Marc is best known for translating Weill’s Threepenny Opera into English for a 1954 revival. His words to songs like “Mack the Knife” are the ones that are so familiar today.
In 1964, on a vacation in Martinique, Marc met three sailors in a bar. After some brief conversation, he solicited the trio for sex. Marc was taken outside, where he was severely beaten and robbed by the three. He was found in an alley near the bar and taken to a local hospital, where he died from his injuries. He was 58.