Friday, July 30, 2010

"American Songwriter, Cole Porter" from Voice of America

This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the life and music of American songwriter Cole Porter.

(MUSIC: "Begin the Beguine")

That was "Begin the Beguine" played by Artie Shaw's orchestra in nineteen thirty-eight.

It is one of almost one thousand songs Cole Porter wrote. In his seventy-three years, more than five hundred of those songs were published. Porter wrote most of his songs in the nineteen twenties, thirties and forties. Yet they remain as fresh as when he wrote them.

Cole Porter’s songs are still being sung and played today. They are performed at musical theaters, jazz clubs, even rock-and-roll concerts. A movie about his life, called “De-Lovely,” was released in two thousand four. Kevin Kline stars in the movie as Cole Porter. Ashley Judd plays his wife, Linda Porter. Popular young performers of today sing his songs in the movie. We will play some songs from that movie later in this program.

Cole Porter was born June ninth, eighteen ninety-one, in the middle western state of Indiana. His family was wealthy and educated. His mother, Kate, guided him to music at an early age. He wrote his first song at the age of ten.

As a young man, he was sent east to study at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. In his extra time, he continued to write songs. Two were for the university: the "Yale Bulldog" song and "Bingo Eli Yale." They are still sung there today.

After finishing his studies at Yale, Cole Porter went to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts to study law. That plan lasted only a year. At a party one night, he played some of his songs for the students and professors. The head of the law school spoke to him. "Why are you studying law?” he asked. "You are no good at it. Why don't you go to Harvard's Music School and then write for the musical theater?" Later, Porter said: "That idea had never entered my head before. "

At the time, musical theater was extremely popular in America. This is because there were few music records. And radio programs were still being developed. So, songwriters had to work in the musical theater to be successful. Cole Porter wrote his first musical show in nineteen sixteen. He was still a student at Harvard. The show was called "See America First." It was produced in the Broadway theater area of New York City.

The show was a complete failure. Porter wanted to leave town until people forgot it. So, he went to Europe. He stayed there for most of the next thirteen years.

During this time, Cole Porter became famous for his parties. His guests were wealthy, pleasure-loving people from all over Europe. They liked him because he was smart and funny and knew how to enjoy life. And they loved his songs, which he played at his parties. Here Cole Porter sings his song, “You’re the Top.”


You're the top!
You're the Coliseum.
You're the top!
You're the Louver Museum.
You're a melody from a symphony by Strauss
You're a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare's sonnet,
You're Mickey Mouse.
You're the Nile,
You're the Tower of Pisa,
You're the smile on the Mona Lisa
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if, baby, I'm the bottom you're the top!

Linda and Cole
In France, Cole Porter met the woman who became his wife. She was a beautiful and rich American named Linda Lee Thomas. They were married in nineteen nineteen. The Porters gave parties that lasted for days. They had so much money they could do anything they wanted. And they did. Their life together was a search for excitement, adventure and pleasure.

Still, Cole Porter remained a serious, hard-working songwriter. He wrote both the words and the music for his songs. The words and music always fit together perfectly. His songs were funny, sexy and intelligent. They were playful -- full of little jokes and hidden meanings.

One of his earliest big hits is called "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)." It was written in nineteen twenty-eight for a show called "Paris.” Alanis Morrissette sings the song in the movie about Cole Porter called “De-Lovely.”

(MUSIC: "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)")

birds do it, bees do it
even educated fleas do it
let's do it, let's fall in love
in spain, the best upper sets do it
lithuanians and letts do it
let's do it, let's fall in love

the dutch in old amsterdam do it
not to mention the finns
folks in siam do it
think of siamese twins

some argentines, without means, do it
people say, in boston, even beans do it
let's do it, let's fall in love

Some of Porter's friends thought he might not be a success. One friend, Elsa Maxwell, told him: "You are too good. The humor and poetry of your words are far beyond the people. One day, however," she added, "you will bring the public up to your own level. Then the world will be yours."

Most of Cole Porter's songs are about love and desire. When they were written, they stretched the limits of what was socially acceptable. The words were often unexpected, sometimes even shocking. They spoke both directly and indirectly about sex, about drug use. Some songs he sang only for his friends.

Critics consider "Love for Sale" to be one of Porter's finest songs. He wrote it in nineteen thirty for a Broadway musical called "The New Yorkers." For years, the song was banned on American radio. Here is a new version by Vivian Green.

(MUSIC: "Love for Sale")

Love for sale,
Appetising young love for sale.
Love that's fresh and still unspoiled,
Love that's only slightly soiled,
Love for sale.

Who will buy?
Who would like to sample my supply?
Who's prepared to pay the price,
For a trip to paradise?
Love for sale

Many of Porter's songs were written in a minor musical key. This gives them a feeling of sadness and longing. Yet they also can have a feeling of great excitement. American songwriter Alan J. Lerner said only Cole Porter could really "write" passion. One example is "Night and Day." It is considered perhaps the finest song Cole Porter ever wrote. It is about the kind of romantic love that is almost a form of insanity.

Porter got the idea for the song while traveling in Morocco. He heard drums and a man singing a prayer. The song has a sound that beats endlessly, over and over. It is like a lover who thinks of nothing but his love, over and over, night and day.

The song "Night and Day" was introduced in a nineteen thirty-two Broadway musical comedy called "The Gay Divorcee." The great dancer and singer Fred Astaire played the leading male character and sang the song.

"Night and Day" became famous around the world. And Cole Porter was becoming one of the greatest songwriters America had ever produced. Today there are many recordings of the song by different singers and musicians. Here is “Night and Day” from the movie about Cole Porter called “De-Lovely.” John Barrowman and Kevin Kline sing it.

(MUSIC: “Night and Day”)

On our program next week, we will tell more about Cole Porter’s life, and bring you more of his music.

(MUSIC: "Begin the Beguine")

This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.


1. Cole Porter was born in 1891 in
a: Paris 
b: Indiana
c: Iowa
d: Illinois

2. Porter attended two Ivy League universities,
a: Dartmouth and Princeton
b: Columbia and Cornell
c: Yale and Harvard
d: Brown and Penn

3. After he wrote his first Broadway musical, Cole Porter moved to and lived for many years in
a: Europe
b: Argentina
c: Canada
d: Antarctica

4. According to the story, Cole Porter
a: never drank 
b: was a quiet, lonely man
c: threw wild parties
d: ate regularly at the Olive Garden

5. Most of Cole Porter’s songs are
a: solemn and religious
b: clever and sexy
c: written for little babies
d: heavy metal

6. In 1919, Porter
a: formed his first band, “Cole Porter and the Stouthearts” 
b: was kicked out of Harvard
c: married an American woman in Paris
d: was born

7. The song, “Love for Sale,” is about
a: a prostitute 
b: an online dating service
c: Valentine’s Day
d: 25 minutes long

8. “Night and Day” was first sung in the movies by
a: Brad Pitt 
b: Vicente Fernandez
c: Elvis Presley
d: Fred Astaire

9. The idea for the song, “Night and Day” came to Porter in
a: Africa
b: America
c: Alabama
d: Alaska

10.Another possible title of this story could be
a: “From Farmboy to Fanatic”
b: “Poor Young Man Makes Good in Europe”
c: “Cole Porter, a Sophisticated Talent”
d: “His Real Name Was Fred Astaire”

Like the beat, beat, beat of the tom tom
when the jungle shadows fall
like the tick,tick, tock of the stately clock
as it stands against the wall
like the drip, drip drip of the rain drops
when the summer showers through
a voice within me keeps repeating
you, you, you

Night and day you are the one
only you beneath the moon or under the sun
whether near to me or far it's no matter darling
where you are
I think of you
night and day, day and night
why is it so that this longing for you
follows where ever I go
in the roaring traffic's boom, in the silence of my lonely room
I think of you
night and day, night and day
under the hide of me , there's an oh such a hungry yearning burning
inside of me
and this torment won't be through
'till you let me spend my life making love to you
day and night, night and day.

Cole Porter, Part Two


  1. Given that Ginger Rogers was quite a pistol herself in movies, she looks pretty sedate to Fred's entreaty. But is always great to see them dance, and a Cole Porter tune is a sure-fire success everytime. A real piece of Americana.

    1. The lyrics are amazing and timeless. Loved everything about the Porter songs. He was so blessed with "how to say and sing", in spite of his challenging personal life.

  2. This time, we got the following crossword puzzle clue : Dance in a Cole Porter song that also known as Dance in a Cole Porter song 7 letters . First, we gonna look for more hints to the Dance in a Cole Porter song crossword puzzle . Then we will collect all the require information and for solving Dance in a Cole Porter song crossword . In the final, we get all the possible answers for the this crossword puzzle definition.

    Here are other similar crossword definitions:
    Ballroom dance,
    Dance of French West Indian origin ,