Born on this day June 9, 1891, Cole Porter is a name that has stood the test of time as one of the greatest composers and songwriters of the 20th century. His music was a reflection of his wit, charm, and sophistication, and his unique style blended elements of jazz, classical music, and popular songs to create a sound that was truly his own. From timeless classics such as “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” to the playful “Anything Goes,” Porter’s music has captivated audiences for generations and continues to inspire new artists today. But what was it that made Cole Porter such a musical genius? In this article, we will take a closer look at the life of this brilliant composer and explore the influences and experiences that shaped his music. From his early years in Indiana to his rise to fame on Broadway and beyond, we will discover the many facets of Cole Porter’s life and legacy. Join us on a journey through the life and times of one of the greatest musical minds of all time.
Early life and musical beginnings
Cole Porter was born into a wealthy family, and his childhood was one of privilege and comfort. His mother was a musically trained, and his father was a pharmacist who had a great love of music. From an early age, Porter showed a talent for music and was encouraged to pursue his interests by his parents.
Porter began taking violin lessons at the age of six, the piano at eight, and by the time he was ten, he had composed his first operetta. He continued to study music throughout his childhood and teenage years, and his talent soon became clear to those around him. While attending Yale University, Porter became involved in the school’s music scene and began to compose songs for the Yale Glee Club and other musical groups. It was during this time that he began to develop his unique style, blending elements of jazz, classical music, and popular songs.
Despite his success at Yale, Porter’s father urged him to pursue a more practical career, and he enrolled at Harvard Law School after graduating from Yale. However, his heart was still in music, and he switched his studies to music. After Harvard, Porter moved to New York City to pursue a career in music.
The rise to fame
Porter’s early years in New York were difficult, and he struggled to find success as a composer. However, his persistence paid off, and he began to gain recognition for his work. In 1919, he had his first big hit with the song “Old-Fashioned Garden” from Hitchy-Koo of 1919, which was featured in the Broadway musical of the same name. This success led to more opportunities, and Porter soon became a sought-after composer on Broadway.
Over the next few years, Porter wrote several successful musicals, including Paris, The New Yorkers, and Gay Divorce. His music was praised for its wit, charm, and sophistication, and his unique style continued to captivate audiences. His songs were also popular outside of Broadway, and many of them became hits on the radio and in nightclubs.
The impact of Porter’s music on Broadway
Porter’s impact on Broadway was profound, and his music helped to define the sound of the era. His songs were characterized by their clever lyrics, sophisticated melodies, and unique instrumentation. He often used unusual chord progressions and complex harmonies, creating a sound that was both modern and timeless.
Porter’s music was also notable for its use of syncopation, a rhythmic technique that was popular in jazz music. This gave his songs a lively, upbeat feel that was perfect for the dance numbers that were a staple of Broadway musicals at the time.
Porter’s personal life and relationships
Despite his success as a composer, Porter’s personal life was often troubled. He was gay at a time when homosexuality was not widely accepted, and he struggled to maintain relationships with men in a society that was often hostile to his sexuality.
Porter was married to Linda Lee Thomas, a wealthy socialite, for 34 years, but their marriage was more of a business arrangement than a romantic one.
Porter’s legacy and lasting impact on music
Cole Porter’s music has had a lasting impact on popular culture, and his songs continue to be performed and recorded by artists of all genres. His unique style and sophisticated lyrics have influenced countless composers and songwriters, and his legacy as a musical genius is secure.
Notable songs and musicals by Cole Porter include “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Anything Goes,” “Night and Day,” “You’re the Top,” and “Kiss Me, Kate.” His music has been featured in countless films and television shows, and his songs have been covered by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong.
The enduring appeal of Porter’s music
Why does Cole Porter’s music continue to resonate with audiences today? Perhaps it is the timeless quality of his melodies, or the cleverness of his lyrics. Maybe it is the sense of sophistication and glamour that his music evokes. Whatever the reason, Porter’s music has a universal appeal that transcends time and place.
In a world that is constantly changing, Cole Porter’s music remains a constant. His songs are a reminder of a bygone era, but they also speak to universal themes of love, loss, and human experience. As long as people continue to appreciate great music, the legacy of Cole Porter will endure.
Here is “All Through The Night” from Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Song Book.
Curated by Jennifer