With a million neon rainbows burning below me,
And a million blazing taxis raising a roar,
Here I sit, above the town,
In my pet pailleted gown,
Down in the depths
On the ninetieth floor.
While the crowds in all the nightclubs punish the parquet,
And the bars are packed with couples calling for more,
I’m deserted and depressed
In my regal-eagle nest,
Down in the depths
On the ninetieth floor.
With acerbic wit, a superior intellect and a unique sense of humor, Cole Porter set Broadway and Hollywood alight. Only he could have written the words to the song above, Down In The Depths On The Ninetieth Floor.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, like George and Ira Gershwin and Irving Berlin who were immigrants trying to make it in America, Cole Porter was born a wealthy only child to a family in Indiana. He was classically trained in music, but Broadway was his destiny. As well as composing the music, he also wrote the lyrics to his songs. His Grandfather wanted him to become a lawyer and tried to program him into going into that direction, but Cole was lucky. His mother doted on him and encouraged his musical passion as a child.
He learned the violin at age six and the piano at age eight. As early as ten years old, he began writing music. It’s important to note that his dad was an amateur poet. Perhaps his influence played a part in Cole’s talent for writing lyrics.
In 1909, Cole entered Yale University. Immediately he was drawn to the humor magazine, The Yale Record, and he also joined a singing group. During his time at Yale, he composed 300 songs. He also began writing musical comedy scores.
Upon graduation from Yale, Cole entered Harvard Law School. He soon switched to Harvard’s music department at the suggestion of the Dean from the law school. His first song was heard on Broadway in 1915.
With the advent of WWI in 1917, many lives were torn asunder. Cole moved to Paris to help in a relief organization, but keep in mind that he maintained a luxury apartment in Paris and he entertained lavishly.
In 1919, he married the beautiful Linda Lee Thomas. She was a beautiful and popular divorced woman who was eight years his senior. Linda was aware that Cole was homosexual but she loved him and she felt that she would be safe after being in an abusive first marriage with someone else. For Linda, this marriage offered continued social status and for Cole it brought a respectable heterosexual front at a time when homosexuality was not publicly acknowledged. In truth, Linda and Cole loved each other and remained married from 1919 – 1954 when she passed away.
Cole’s first hit on Broadway was the show Paris in 1928. One of his best known songs, Let’s Do It comes from that show. Cole’s new found fame eventually brought him offers from Hollywood. In 1932, he composed and wrote music for The Gay Divorcee. This would later become a movie and one of his most popular songs, Night and Day, came from this show. He went on to write five shows featuring the popular Broadway star, Ethel Merman. One of these shows was Jubilee and the wonderful Begin the Beguine came from this show. In 1936 he wrote Red Hot and Blue and it was in that show that Down In The Depths On The Ninetieth Floor came into being.
In 1937, tragedy struck. Cole was in an accident when a horse trampled on his legs. The doctors wanted to amputate but Cole and Linda did not want to do this. For the rest of his life, he suffered from these injuries. Despite the pain, his talent kept him going and during this time he wrote the wonderful Kiss Me Kate, for which the show won the Tony Award for Best Musical and Cole won for Best Composer and Lyricist.
In 1952, he wrote the music for Can-Can. In 1956, he wrote the song, True Love, for the film High Society which starred Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly.
By 1958, Cole had to face the fact that his right leg had to be amputated. His friend, writer Noel Coward said that he was out of pain at last and he hoped that Cole would produce more work. This was not to be. Cole lost his mother and Linda in the early 50s, and towards the end of his life he lived quietly seeing friends and probably reminiscing about his extraordinary but challenging life. Cole passed away in 1964 at 73. He left a huge body of work, and to this day singers sing his songs all of the time. Singers like Rod Stewart, Carly Simon, Renee Olmstead still sing his music today. He is one in a million and he will never be forgotten.
I adore Cole Porter’s music and I can prove it to you. I have 32 versions of Begin the Beguine, and 30 versions of Night and Day. I have numerous versions of most of his other songs. When putting together this tribute, I listened to every single song. It is important to remember that Cole not only wrote wonderful lyrics, but his music was hauntingly beautiful. To prove this, and to honor his birthday this June 9th, I will play for you three different Cole Porter Shows which include many different singers and instrumental versions of his music.
On Thursday, June 9th Movies Broadway Singers and Beyond will showcase some of the most beautiful music by Cole Porter. I hope you love it as much as I do.
Show # 1: 11:00 am Eastern / 8:00 am Pacific
Show # 2: 1:00 pm Eastern / 10:00 am Pacific
Show # 3: 5:00 pm Eastern / 2pm Pacific
With a song in my heart,