Cole Porter

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Cole Porter
BirthplacePeru, Indiana, U.S.

Porter, Cole,

1891–1964, American composer and lyricist, b. Peru, Ind., grad. Yale, 1913. Porter's witty, sophisticated lyrics and his affecting melodies place him high in the ranks of American composers of popular music. He was an elegant and debonair man, in spite of a riding accident (1937) that left him crippled. He studied music at Harvard and with D'Indy at the Schola Cantorum in Paris. After one early failure, most of his musicals were vastly successful. They include Greenwich Village Follies (1924); Gay Divorce (1932); Anything Goes (1934); Jubilee (1935); Red, Hot and Blue (1936); Du Barry Was a Lady (1939); Panama Hattie (1940); Something for the Boys (1943); Kiss Me, Kate (1948); Can-Can (1953); and Silk Stockings (1955). Among Porter's film scores are Born to Dance (1936) and High Society (1956). His most popular songs include "Night and Day," "Begin the Beguine," "Let's Do It," "Just One of Those Things," and "In the Still of the Night."


See The Cole Porter Song Book (1959) and R. Kimball, ed., The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter (1983) and Cole Porter: Selected Lyrics (2006); C. Eisen, ed., The Letters of Cole Porter (2019); biography by W. McBrien (1998); R. Kimball, ed., Cole (1971, repr. 2000).

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Porter, Cole (Albert)

(1891–1964) composer, lyricist; born in Peru, Ind. Born into a family of some wealth and social standing, he showed a talent for music early, publishing a song by age 11. He graduated from Yale (1913)—where he wrote the famous Yale fight song, "Bulldog, Bulldog"—and after briefly studying law at Harvard, shifted to music. He went off to Paris to continue his music studies (1920–21), and from then on tended to spend much of his time with the rich international set who moved between the U.S.A. and Europe. In 1937 he was left seriously injured by a riding accident but he continued to travel and to compose. Although his first forays into musicals in the early 1920s were box-office failures, several songs were made popular by well-known performers. He composed his first full score for Paris (1928), which included the risqué "Let's Do It," and for almost three decades he wrote a dazzling series of successful film scores and Broadway musicals. From the musical, Gay Divorce (1932), came the classic "Night and Day," which he said was inspired by Moroccan drums and an Islamic chant. The standard "I've Got You Under My Skin" was first heard in the film Born to Dance (1936). Adapted from Shakespeare, his most famous musical, Kiss Me, Kate (1948), enjoyed a long Broadway run and was made into a popular film. His last Broadway musicals, Can-Can (1953) and Silk Stockings (1955), also enjoyed successful runs. High Society (1956) was his most successful film musical. Although many of his works reflect the brittle sophistication of his social circle, no American composer ever quite topped the sheer artistry, elegance, and wit of his music and lyrics.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.