Profile of a Composer: Cole Porter

Anyone that is a fan of Frank Sinatra or the music of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s will recognize songs by the talented composer and songwriter Cole Porter.

Cole Porter

His songs include I’ve Got You Under My Skin, I Get a Kick Out of You, You’re the Top, Night and Day, Begin the Beguine, Anything Goes, Let’s Do It, Blow Gabriel Blow and In the Still of the Night.

Cole Albert Porter was born on June 9, 1891 in Peru, Indiana to Samuel and Kate Porter.  His grandfather was “the richest man in Indiana”.

Kate Porter began her son’s musical career at an early age and by the age of ten he could play the violin, piano and had written his first operetta.

In 1909, Cole Porter entered Yale University and wrote 300 songs while he was a student there.  Upon graduating from Yale, he enrolled in Harvard Law School in 1913.  It didn’t take long to realize this wasn’t for him and he defied his grandfather to pursue his career in music.

In 1915, he wrote his first song Esmeralda for Broadway.   He would have both ups and downs throughout the coming years.

While living in 1918 Paris, he met a Kentucky born divorcee, Linda Lee Thomas.  Although she was eight years his senior and Porter enjoyed relationships with men, the couple married on December 19, 1919.

Cole Porter

In 1928, he returned to Broadway with the musical Paris, which became his first hit.  By the following year offers began to pour in from Hollywood.  He wrote Night and Day for Fred Astaire’s last stage show, Gay Divorce, which would become the film The Gay Divorcee.

His two best known shows are Anything Goes and Kiss Me, Kate.   Anything Goes was the first of five shows to feature Ethel Merman.

On October 24, 1937, Porter was out for a horseback ride when his horse rolled on him and crushed his legs.  He was left crippled and in constant pain for the remainder of his life. He would have 34 operations over the coming years to deal with his injuries. He found that work helped him to deal with the pain.

In 1939, the Porter’s closed their Paris home and settled in Massachusetts.  Cole Porter also spent a good bit of time in both Hollywood and New York.

He went on to work on shows such as DuBarry was a Lady, Broadway Melody of 1940, Panama Hattie, Night and Day, and The Pirate.

Cole Porter

His 1948 show Kiss Me, Kate won a Tony Award for best musical.  He followed this up with Can-Can, his last original Broadway production, Silk Stockings in 1955 and the film High Society, with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly.

Kate Porter, his mother, died in 1952.  Linda Porter, his wife, died in 1954.

By 1958, he had to have his leg amputated from his injuries.  He never wrote another song after his surgery and became a relative recluse for the remainder of his life.

On October 15, 1964 he died in Santa Monica, California.  He is buried between his wife and father in Mount Hope Cemetery in Peru, Indiana.

Cole Porter’s songs have been recorded by numerous artists over the years including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Ethel Merman, Judy Garland and many others.

Cole Porter

In May 2007, a star was dedicated on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to him.

The movie De-Lovely is a biopic of his life and features many of his songs.

Each year his home town of Peru, Indiana holds The Cole Porter Festival every June.