Friday, September 16, 2011

Music from "Anything Goes"

Genre: Broadway & Vocalists
Artist:Cole Porter
Cole Porter (1891-1964) wrote both music and lyrics to some of the most popular tunes of mid-century America and whose musicals, such as "Anything Goes", are still being revived on "Broadway" long after most others have bit the dust. It would be impossible to do one blog or a series them on all the great songs he created at the piano in a professional career that spanned 40 years. So I'm just going to take some hits from this one show.
Here are a few of the other songs he did: "Begin the Beguine", "Night and Day", "I've Got You Under My Skin", "Love for Sale", "True Love", "Let's Misbehave", "In the Still of the Night", "At Long Last Love", "I Get A Kick Out of You", "Don't Fence Me In", et al.

Porter here does the title tune from his 1934 hit Broadway show:

Some Wikipedia Biography: "Cole Albert Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964) was an American composer and songwriter. Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, he defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn towards musical theatre. After a slow start, he began to achieve success in the 1920s, and by the 1930s he was one of the major songwriters for the Broadway musical stage. Unlike most successful Broadway composers, Porter wrote both the lyrics and the music for his songs.

After a serious horseback riding accident in 1937, Porter was left disabled and in constant pain, but he continued to work. His shows of the early 1940s did not contain the lasting hits of his best work of the 1920s and 30s, but in 1947 he made a triumphant comeback with his most successful musical, Kiss Me, Kate."

Porter's life did not make for honest easy story-telling in 1945, when Cary Grant and Alexis Smith stared in the first bio film "Night and Day". For one thing Porter much preferred the intimate company of men to that of women. Most people who knew something of Porter's private life considered the film a bit of a farce in part from that omission. He did marry a Kentucky heiress named Linda Lee Thomas around 1920 and they stayed married until her death in 1954. It is generally considered that this was a marriage more of conviviality than conjugal however and Porter continued seeing men, especially in his days in Hollywood working on films starring the likes of Fred Astaire and Judy Garland.

Then there also was the question of if, as he said in some interviews, he was a member of the French Foreign Legion in 1917. (Porter's first Broadway musical, "See America First", had also debut that year.) Biographers dispute what exactly he did in France , although it is safe to say he likely joined an American-organized relief unit delivering supplies to Allied soldiers and may well have entertained troops on a portable piano at hospitals or near the front. The 1945 film errs on the side of Porter as a solider. A more recent film "De-Lovely", with Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd, fore-goes the early life of Porter and picks up where he is pianist among Paris expatriate swells in the Twenties.

Porter's music, culled in places like Paris, Venice, London, combined Old World class with New world energy, as one critic noted. There is a sense that a form of popular songwriting is reaching its apex with so many of his works. He became a byword for sophistication in a medium--the Broadway Musical---that sorely needed some Continental polish and some American Middle-West vigor.

Here's the man himself, singing his most famous tune, "You're the Top" from the 1934 show, "Anything Goes". According to Bob Toomey on You Tube, "Porter composed it during a cruise on Germany's Rhine River. He asked his fellow passengers to tell him what they considered important in their lives, or important in general, and Porter worked them into the lyric."

Porter names 37 different people and places in this one, all quite deftly mixing up the pop zeitgeist.

The finale of "Anything Goes" is Blow, Gabriel, Blow". Here it is sung by Sutton Foster and the cast of the 2010 Broadway Musical revival. Ms. Sutton won a Tony for her performance as Reno Sweeney.


  1. Sinatra and Bennette thrived on his songs Doug. There was Porter and Gus Kahn from that era that did so many songs which we still hear within remakes to this very day.

  2. Yes, Jack, Sinatra's apex was arguably "I've Got You Under My Skin", "Night and Day" and in movies the duet "Did You Evah?" with Bing Crosby. Kahn and a few others were in Porter's league.

  3. I don't wish to interject too much but Porter and Kahn literally influence more musicians from that era....Sinatra thrived on his music.

  4. I loved his music so much!!! You're The Tops was always one of my favorites... Thanks, Doug, for this!!

  5. Great stuff.

    A week ago I went to see the revival of R&H's South Pacific at the Barbican in London. I came away humming "Some enchanted Evening"

  6. You're welcome Christy. And good to see you back on Multiply!

  7. As would I!

    Another great musical score, Jeff. Glads to see it was revived.

    Needless to say, bringing back songs and shows like Porter and Rogers and Hammerstein composed and created is a boon to modern times.

  8. That's cool. Sounds like they saved the place just in time!