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The wit and sophistication of Cole Porter, father of the jazz standard

Photo by Geert Pieters on Unsplash
Countless compositions by Cole Porter are still honored today as standards in the Great American Songbook

One of the great American songwriters of the last century, still gets plenty of exposure by some of todays’ great singers. Paige Hansen shines a light on Cole Porter.Such charm. Such sweetness.  Always elegant – the words and musicality of Cole Porter have captivated audiences since the early part of the last century.

And not only audiences. Those clever words. The way Porter used a twist of a phrase. Those sophisticated melodies have gained the admiration of songwriters and singers as well.  His compositions continue to be performed today with the latest example - the new release from Harry Connick Jr. called True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter.

Porter was born wealthy in a small town in Indiana but wanted nothing more than to write music that tickled and delighted and even better, slightly shocked.

He famously hated the sound of his own voice preferring to hear others sing.  Porter claimed Ethel Merman was his favorite singer. He loved her big, brassy voice.

Porter’s personal life was unconventional.  He was gay, extravagant, and a bit of a hedonist who took the phrase “anything goes” to new heights in-the-day.  Someone of Porter’s wealth and creativity had a bit more leeway with regard to expression a century ago – but the times still demanded discretion.  So, he ended up in a mutual - marriage of convenience and appearance to a wealthy, older, divorcee’. 

His taste for luxury was the stuff of gossip columns:  Richly attended parties in Paris with guests in crossdressing attire, an excessive party in Venice that included 50 gondoliers and a troupe of tightrope walkers.

Though Porter could be quite playful, he was a writer of mature love songs.  The type of sentiment that we all feel throughout our lives. Love. That thing we keep doing even though it’s hard.  Even though it can hurt.  And Porter seemed to truly be able to capture the aching heart and could melt you to the floor with longing – including a favorite - “Ev'ry time We Say Goodbye:”

So sweet – so sophisticated.  Cole Porter – clever composer – witty lyricist. There hasn’t been another quite like him….who could do that voodoo that you do so well.

Paige Hansen has been heard on radio station 88.5 KNKX-FM for over 20 years where she’s hosted news & jazz. You can currently hear her hosting jazz weekdays & Sundays. She is also an active musician, writer and singer.