1928, at the urging of Richard Rodgers and,
especially, Irving Berlin, Porter committed
himself to being a full-time Broadway
composer/lyricist, hitting it big the first
time out with the show “Paris.”
Cut from that show is a song that became a
hit nonetheless - “Let’s
Misbehave” -- performed here by
Christopher Walken in the movie “Pennies
“The New Yorkers” was a 1930 show that would
have run longer if not for the immediate
impact of the stock market crash.
It had one hit song that was labeled by many
as vulgar, since it is sung by a lady of the
evening -- “Love
A classic rendition is Ella Fitzgerald’s:
Porter's most famous song, “Night
and Day,” was written for Fred
Astaire (and his somewhat limited 1-1/2
octave range) in “The Gay Divorce.”
Porter's usual way of songwriting was to
come up with a beat and the lyric, and then
write the melody.
But for "Night
and Day," he did the reverse -- he
wrote the music first, and then the lyrics.
In the movie -- renamed “The Gay Divorcee”
(apparently divorcees could be gay, but not
divorces) -- Fred & Ginger have their
very first cinematic seduction dance:
Porter was the undisputed master of the
“list” song - where the lyrics literally
consist of a list of things, refrain after
His very best list song is “You’re
The Top,” performed by Cary Grant
and Ginny Simms in 1946 in the first of two
bio-pics about Porter -- this one the
almost-totally-fictionalized "Night and
Porter loved to write risque lyrics, which
sometimes so bordered on dirty that the
songs had to be rewritten before they could
get airplay on the radio.
For decades, four lines of an incredibly
inappropriate parody of “You’re
the Top” circulated.
It was only recently that a music historian
discovered that the parody lyrics had been
written not by Porter, but by Irving Berlin
of all people!
They’re too dirty to print here, but if you
need to know, email me and I’ll reply with
the lyric in question.
Cole Porter’s biggest hit in the 1930s was
1934’s “Anything Goes,” which has had a
number of first-class revivals in the last
In a score with many standards, including “You’re
The Top," one of the best-known is
“I Get a
Kick Out of You,” sung here by the
incomparable duo of Lady Gaga and Tony
1935 brought tons of new Porter
compositions, including two very different
kinds of songs.
the Beguine,” was very sexy and
talks of a dance that is the equivalent of
It didn’t catch on until a few years later
when bandleader/clarinetist Artie Shaw had a
gigantic hit with an instrumental version of
Joe’s sibling, Patricia, had a nun, Sister
Thomas Aquinas, as her homeroom teacher in
8th grade. “Begin
the Beguine” was Sister Thomas'
favorite song. Every day in homeroom,
she would play a different version of it on
the record player. Artie Shaw’s was
Sister Thomas' fave rendition.
The other song we're highlighting from 1935
was for a musical revue in London entitled
“Hi Diddle Diddle.”
From it came a droll song about a society
dame who shoots her cheating boyfriend, as
sung by her butler.
Bette Midler (with the staggering Harlettes)
has fun with “Miss
And here, apparently with Porter's blessing,
Shell oil has fun with it in an ad from the
In 1937, Cole Porter had a horseback riding
accident that crushed both of his legs and
led to 34 or 35 different operations over
the next 20 years and near-constant
His doctor suggested work might be the best
The 1938 show, “Leave It To Me,”
introduced the world to Mary Martin and her
legendary striptease to “My
Heart Belongs to Daddy”:
Also from the 1930’s is Porter’s “I’ve
Got You Under My Skin.”
In the mid-50’s, arranger Nelson Riddle was
paid a few hundred dollars to do an
arrangement of the song for Frank Sinatra to
sing on the album “Songs For Swingin’
The result is a miraculous marriage of
arrangement and singer.
Many Sinatra aficionados consider this
Sinatra’s finest 4 minutes:
In the late 40’s/early 50’s, a song Cole
Porter had written (and really liked) -- “From
This Moment On” -- kept getting cut
from shows for which he’d written the
When MGM bought the movie rights to “Kiss Me
Kate” (his longest running hit - over 1000
performances), included in the contract was
a clause that mandated MGM include “From
This Moment On” in the movie.
Wouldn’t you know it? It turned out to
be the highlight of a very good movie.
And became one of the biggest hits of
Back in the early 1920’s, while still
struggling as a songwriter, Porter had a
conversation with Richard Rodgers in which
he opined on how he was going to turn the
public’s lackluster response to his music
into one of enthusiastic acceptance.
He said: "I'm going to start writing
What he meant was that he was going to start
writing songs in a minor key -- which makes
music more heartfelt, more emotional.
Minor key is the key in which songs are
traditionally written in the Mediterranean
and Mideastern regions of the world.
As soon as Porter started writing what he
called “Jewish Music,” that’s when he
started writing popular hit songs.
Musically, the following song from 1953’s
“Can Can” is as “Jewish Music” as you can
Say hello to “I
Love Paris,” performed by Tatiana
Eva-Marie & The Avalon Jazz Band:
There are so many Cole Porter standards that
we would be here typing out “and then he
wrote….and then he wrote....” for another 40
or 50 standards.
But with the showbiz admonition of knowing
when to get off stage AND to "always leave
them laughing," here’s a clip from the other
biopic about Cole Porter, 2004’s “It’s
This is “Be
A Clown,” with Kevin Kline as
Porter in a fantasy sequence with him
A Clown” to Louis B. Mayer on the
backlot of MGM: