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Words and Music of Cole Porter


The great stars salute Cole Porter - his greatest numbers in superlative performances. Includes two tracks sung by the man himself.

Billie Holiday: Let's Do It << sound clip
Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters:
Don't Fence Me In << sound clip
Frances Day: It's De-Lovely
Al Bowlly: How Could We Be Wrong?
Gertrude Lawrence: Experiment
Sam Browne/Jay Wilbur: Miss Otis Regrets << sound clip
Marlene Dietrich: You Do Something To Me
Nat Gonella & His Georgians: Blow, Gabriel, Blow
Frances Langford: Easy To Love
Fred Astaire: I've Got You On My Mind
Cole Porter: Anything Goes
Billie Holiday: Night And Day
Artie Shaw & His Orchestra: What Is This Thing Called Love?
Billy Cotton & His Band: My Heart Belongs To Daddy
Noel Coward: You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
Frances Langford: Rap Tap On Wood
Chick Henderson/Joe Loss: Begin The Beguine
Gertrude Lawrence: The Physician
Irving Aaronson & His Commanders: Let's Misbehave
Virginia Bruce: I've Got You Under My Skin
Sam Browne/Ambrose: It Was Just One Of Those Things
Cole Porter: You're The Top

Not all successful popular composers begin by starving in a draughty upper room. Cole Porter was born into a rich family in Peru, Indiana on 9th June 1891, and had the benefit of a mother who appreciated him and nurtured his musical talents. His time at Yale gave him ample opportunity to contribute to the university glee club and other musical entertainments. But it was Broadway that attracted the youngster, and he was writing songs and shows >from his teen years onwards. He first started to attract real attention with his contributions to the revue 'See America First' in 1916. A spell in the army during the First World War increased his cosmopolitan tastes (he would always feel at home in Europe and held legendary parties in Venetian palaces during the 1930s).

The 1920s found the young composer establishing his name and reputation on Broadway with 'The Greenwich Village Follies of 1924'. In 1927 the 'Revue des Ambassadeurs' offered Irving Aaronson and his Commanders among its stars, who created Let's Misbehave - and it is their recording that is the earliest Porter hit we offer here. Irene Bordoni, the ravishing French diseuse, opened the same year in the show 'Paris' in which she introduced Let's Do It, Let's Fall In Love. Our version is by jazz's finest stylist, Billie Holiday. The lavish Charles B. Cochran London revue of 1929, 'Wake Up And Dream' starred Jessie Matthews, but it was Elsie Carlisle who introduced What Is This Thing Called Love? and Tilly Losch who danced to it. Here is the legendary version by swing clarinet supremo Artie Shaw. Germany's greatest international musical export, Marlene Dietrich breathed her inimitable way through a hit number from 'Fifty Million Frenchmen' - You Do Something To Me - and indeed she doesŽ For the 1930 show 'The New Yorkers' but subsequently eliminated from the score was the classic Just One Of Those Things, heard here in the definitive version by Sam Browne and the Ambrose Orchestra.

After his sister retired into marriage within the British aristocracy, singer, dancer, Fred Astaire forged a new and even greater career as a solo artiste. His first success came with the 'The Gay Divorce' in which he introduced the insouciant, carefree I've Got You On My Mind. Prudish censorship changed the title of the film based on the show to 'The Gay Divorcee'. Incidentally, not all of Porter's songs were written for shows. He wrote some ditties just to amuse his friends - and the heartlessly amusing Miss Otis Regrets, rendered here by Sam Browne, with the top British dance band of Jay Wilbur, is one of them. In 1933 Porter wrote a lavishly staged show for Gertrude Lawrence to perform in London. 'Nymph Errant' offered many gems, and took its star to many exotic locations, including a harem, before returning demurely to England exactly a year later than expected back from finishing school in Switzerland. The incomparable Gertie offers Experiment and The Physician from its iridescent score. Al Bowlly, doyen of dance band singers adds How Could We Be Wrong? for good measure. How indeedŽ

Back on Broadway, 1934 saw the arrival of 'Anything Goes'. This zesty shipboard romance of dance and song proved a world-wide hit. Our singer of the title song and of You're The Top may not have the greatest vocal equipment, but as the composer and lyricist, he should certainly know how to put the numbers across! Veteran British trumpeter, and Louis Armstong's greatest fan Nat Gonella is the ideal person to invite a little angelic help in Blow, Gabriel, Blow. Porter was really getting into his stride. 'Jubilee' (1935) featured a Princess Diana and some great songs - Joe Loss with Chick Henderson's classic vocal give a definitive invitation to Begin The Beguine. Chick, one of the most stylish and debonair of vocalists, lost his life on active service during the Second World War.

Hollywood really knew how to exploit Porter's tuneful talents. Round faced, captivating Frances Langford was one of the stars of 'Born To Dance'. Hear her now in its classic hit Easy To Love and Rap Tap On Wood, intoduced originally by Eleanor Powell, MGM's finest tap-dancer in the aptly named 'Born To Dance'. The same show found Virginia Bruce assuring a diffident James Stewart I've Got You Under My Skin. The equally charismatic Frances Day introduced in Britain a hit first heard on Broadway in the 1936 show 'Red Hot And Blue' - It's De-Lovely she carolled - and she wasn't wrong! 'Leave It To Me' is the 1938 show that made a star of the youthful Mary Martin and her hit My Heart Belongs To Daddy, here rendered in classic fashion by the fine band of Billy Cotton. Around this time Porter sustained a terrible riding accident that left him in constant pain for the rest of his life. Mistakenly, his wife and family decided against allowing amputation. As a result there followed a series of painful, and as it turned out unsuccessful operations on the Porter legs.

The early 1940s found Porter contributing songs to some less than distinguished shows. 'Something To Shout About' wasn't, but it did at least include the wonderful You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To. We've selected a version by the debonair Noel Coward.

One of the abortive projects that Porter was involved with had been a 1934 film musical called 'Adios Argentina'. One of the songs composed at the time surfaced ten years later in 1944 in the all-star extravaganza 'Hollywood Canteen' where it was introduced by cowboy star Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers with a reprise from The Andrews Sisters - who sing it for us here, with slight assistance from Bing Crosby. The Andrews Sisters, who really were actual sisters, enjoyed a long and distinguished singing career. Bing Crosby was the most popular screen and recording star of several decades, from the early 1930s, when he broke away from Paul Whiteman's singing group.

Cole Porter's most celebrated show of all still lies in the future, as we take our leave of this survey of his vintage song output. For 'Kiss Me Kate' was to bring the composer more recognition than any previous show with which he had been involved. The post-war years would also re-establish his great love of things European with shows set in Paris - 'Can Can' and 'Silk Stockings'. Also to his credit would be the classic film score for 'High Society' based on the pre-war light comedy 'The Philadelphia Story'. But that's another story - just one of those things.

Michael P Kennedy

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