Most of the great songwriters either wrote music or lyrics, specializing in one of those two areas. Cole Porter (1891-1964) was, like Irving Berlin, one of the few songwriters who was brilliant at both. Porter wrote some of the sexiest lyrics ever penned, hinting at all types of ideas while being charming and almost seeming innocent. At the same time, as a composer, his songs were full of surprises. Rather than always being 32 bars as with most standard songs of the time, his pieces often had extensions and unexpected twists and turns that were ultimately logical. One of his songs, “Begin The Beguine”, was so long at 108 bars that it was joked that he should write a reprise called “End The Beguine.”
Among his hits were 1932’s “Night And Day,” 1934’s “I Get A Kick Out Of You”, and “Begin The Beguine” (written in 1934 and a major hit record for Artie Shaw in 1938). Due to Porter’s charm, his witty lyrics, and the way he could say so much without actually saying what he was hinting at, Porter was able to write lyrics that, if they had been less subtle, would never have been accepted in the 1930s and 40s. For example, many listeners at the time probably did not realize that “Love For Sale” is about a prostitute advertising herself, that ”I Get A Kick Out Of You” is about
being passionately addicted to someone, and that “You Do Something To Me” is not as innocent as it seems. Other Cole Porter hits of his prime years included ‘You’re The Top”, “My Heart Belongs To Daddy”, “Anything Goes”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “In The Still Of The Night” and “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”. “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” is a touching ballad from the World War II. years that is still performed often these days. Completely out of character for Porter was his 1944 composition “Don¹t Fence Me In”. Cole Porter alternated between writing for Broadway shows and movies throughout his life, finding it fairly easy to write for both. He suffered a major setback in 1937 when a riding accident in which a horse crushed his legs and made it impossible for him to walk again, but he refused to retire and did his best to overcome his handicap. Porter continued to humorously tackle topics in his lyrics that few others of the era would touch. His songs for the 1948 production of Kiss Me Kate included “Too Darn Hot” (leading one to ask “Too darn hot for what?”) and “Always True To You In My Fashion”, a breezy and philosophical look at adultery. In the 1950s Porter wrote for the shows Can Can (including “I Love Paris”) and Silk Stockings. His last major success was his score for the Bing Crosby movie High Society which included “True Love” and “I Love You Samantha”. Due to his bad health, Cole Porter retired in 1958, passing away six years later at the age of 73. He would be quite happy to know that his sophisticated songs are still being constantly played today by performers ranging from jazz musicians and rock stars to cabaret and Broadway singers.
Night And Day
You Do Something To Me
Just One Of Those Things
Begin The Beguine
What Is This Thing Called Love?
Let's Do It
Love For Sale
I Get A Kick Out Of You