Our Top 10 Cole Porter Songs List presents the best Cole Porter Songs like ” Night and Day,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and many more. Born on June 9, 1891, in Peru, Indiana, Cole Porter seemed to already be destined for a music career, despite his grandfather’s wishes. Porter’s mother began Porter’s musical training when he was just a small child. At six years old, he learned the violin. It was then the piano by eight years old. When he was ten years old, he wrote his first operetta.
Despite the musical training and support from his mother, Porter was sent to Worcester Academy in Massachusetts by his grandfather in 1905. It was J.O. Cole’s wish to see his grandson become a lawyer, not a career musician. J.O. Cole, at the time, was the wealthiest man in Indiana, building a business empire he hoped his grandson would represent as a member of its legal team.
Music, Not Law
However, while at the academy, Porter brought a piano with him and discovered music was his true love, not law school. Through his ability to entertain, he had no difficulty making friends. Still, he maintained his studies in school and became class valedictorian. His grandfather rewarded him by having him tour Europe. In 1909, Cole Porter attended Yale University, majoring in English and minoring in music. While there, he also studied French. During his prolific run as a Yale student, he wrote three hundred songs for the school. This included notable football-related tunes, “Bulldog,” and “Bingo Eli Yale.” These are still played at Yale.
Before graduating from Yale College, he wrote five notable musicals for the Yale Dramatic Association that would pave the way to a career on Broadway and in Hollywood. Cora, And the Villain Still Pursued Her, The Pot of Gold, The Kaleidoscope, and Paranoia were all musicals that served as the first batch of a long list of successful stage performances coming from Cole Porter’s repertoire. While in college, Porter became heavily involved with the New York City nightlife. After graduating from Yale, he enrolled in Harvard Law School in 1913. His roommate was Dean Acheson, the same man who’d later become Secretary of State for President Harry Truman from 1949 until 1953.
While at Harvard, Porter took the suggestion of a dean to switch his pursuit of a law career in favor of music. It was clear at that point Cole Porter was destined to become a musician, not a lawyer. This switch was a decision his mother approved but was kept secret from his grandfather. Now majoring in Harvard’s music department under the guidance of Pietro Yon, Porter studied harmony and counterpoint. This experience led him to his first song, “Esmerelda,” featured on Broadway in 1915. In 1916, Porter’s first Broadway production, See America First, didn’t share the same success story and was considered a flop after closing two weeks after its Broadway premiere.
Making Moves and Music
After the failure of Porter’s first Broadway musical, he spent time in New York City before moving to Paris in 1917. While there, he worked with the Duryea Relief organization. While there, he also served in the French Foreign Legion. At one point, he served in North Africa and was transferred to Fontainebleau’s French Officers School. While there, he taught gunnery to the American soldiers that were stationed there. While there, he also entertained the troops with a portable piano that was made for him that he’d carry on his back between performances.
While in Paris, Porter lived a rather lavish and scandalous lifestyle where he held outlandish parties. In 1918, Linda Lee Thomas would become the woman in Porter’s life, despite the mutual knowledge of his homosexuality. Thomas, a divorcee from an abusive first marriage, was eight years older than Porter and served as a wife that helped him appear as if he were heterosexual in the eyes of the public. From the day they married on December 19, 1919, until her death in 1954, the couple were strongly devoted to each other.
While together, Thomas was able to maintain her social elite status, using her influence to try and steer Porter’s musical career down a direction she felt would have been more prestigious than Broadway. However, once it was realized Broadway was the only way for Porter, she supported him as he enrolled at the Schola Cantorum in Paris. His first big hit song was “Old-Fashioned Garden,” which came from the revue, Hitchy-Koo of 1919. This was followed by the 1920’s musical, A Night Out, in which it was Porter’s music was featured in several of its songs.
It would be in the 1920s that Porter began to achieve the notable success that would lead him to become one of the top songwriters on Broadway during the 1930s. While composing music for Broadway, he also wrote out the music and lyrics for his songs. His success level, combined with the inheritance he received from his grandfather in 1923, enabled the man to live a lifestyle of extravagance as he continued to make his musical contribution to Broadway.
There was a time, notably in 1925, a frustrated Cole Porter considered giving up songwriting as a career. It was during a timeline when Broadway deleted all of his musical numbers and the public wasn’t exactly responding favorably to his work at one point. But, in 1928, this changed when he produced his first Broadway musical hit, Paris. The songs of that show were “Let’s Misbehave” and “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love.”
Cole Porter’s success on Broadway earned him the attention of Hollywood. His final production on Broadway in the 1920s was 1929’s Fifty Million Frenchmen, which he wrote twenty-eight songs for, including “You Do Something to Me.” At first, it received mixed reviews until paid advertisements applauding the show turned it into one of the most successful Broadway runs at the time.
In 1930, Porter was commissioned to write the musical show, The New Yorkers. The Broadway production gained instant notoriety with “Love for Sale,” a song that revolved around the tale of a streetwalking prostitute. At the time, the song was deemed too explicit to play on the radio. In its place was an instrumental version that quickly became a musical standard. Another hit from the popular musical was “I Happen to Like New York.”
In 1932, The Gay Divorce was a popular musical that featured Cole Porter’s best-known hit song, “Night and Day.” The success of this allowed Cole Porter to continue a prolific and successful career as a creator of musical genius that played an instrumental role in a surge of stars that would grace the big screen, the small screen, and the stage. He was also criticized for his grand entrances upon the opening nights of his musicals while he was at the peak of his career. This also applied to his appearances in Hollywood with the musicals he wrote throughout the 1930s.
He and his wife moved to Hollywood near the end of 1935 but it was not an environment Linda Lee Thomas cared for. Up until this point, Cole Porter’s outlandish lifestyle choices started to gain public attention. Disgusted, Thomas moved back to Paris without him. After Porter finished his musical work for the 1937 movie, Rosalie, he rushed to Paris to make peace with his wife. Although the marriage didn’t end, Porter moved back to New York City in October 1937 alone.
Accidents and Reunions
It wouldn’t be until after his horseriding accident on October 24 that same year would she left Paris to remain at his side. When the medical team insisted Cole Porter’s damaged right leg needed to be amputated, she sided with Porter to refuse the procedure. He’d rather live with the crippled condition and pain for the rest of his life, pouring his focus on musical productions as his preferred choice of therapy. His first show since the accident, You Never Know, was not successful. However, 1938’s Leave it to Me! brought forth “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” performed by Mary Martin. This put Porter back on top as a musical genius who still knew how to keep an audience entertained.
In 1939, DuBarry Was a Lady was his final show of the 1930s that met with censorship issues due to the risque content. It was still popular enough with its 408 performances that started at the 46th Street Theatre. This was the musical that produced the highly popular hits, “Do I Love You?” and “Well, Did You Evah!.”
While Porter’s musical career was experiencing highs in 1939, the tensions among European nations resulted in the closing of their house in Paris. The next year, they bought a country home near Williamstown, Massachusetts that would house everything that used to be in their Paris home. Throughout the 1940s, Porter continued to write musicals for Broadway and Hollywood. In 1946, Night and Day was a Hollywood release that depicted a fictional biography of Cole Porter. Despite the criticism, the film was a huge success due to the fact the music was vintage Porter hits.
The biggest success in Cole Porter’s musical career would have to be 1948’s Kiss Me, Kate. This was his big comeback after a prolific, yet relatively lackluster run in the 1940s. It ran 1,077 performances in New York and 400 in London. It won a Tony Award for Best Musical and it earned Porter a win for best composer and lyricist. The musical score included a series of hits, including “Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” “So In Love,” “Tom, Dick or Harry,” “Too Darn Hot,” and “Always True to You (in My Fashion).”
Going into the 1950s, Cole Porter continued to produce musical numbers. However, 1950’s Out of This World was considered too vulgar and campy so it was not successful. 1952’s Can-Can featured a pair of hits that put him back on top. “C’est Magnifique” and “It’s All Right with Me” have both become fan favorites in the music industry. 1955’s Silk Stockings featured “All of You” and were also a success. In 1956, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Grace Kelly starred in High Society. It featured Cole Porter’s final major hit song, “True Love.” The final musical score Cole Porter wrote in his musical career was for the CBS television special, Aladdin. That was aired in 1958.
In 1954, Porter became a widow after his wife died of emphysema 1954. His mother died two years prior to this. In 1958, Porter’s injuries caused a series of ulcers, affecting his right leg. It wound up replaced with an artificial limb after thirty-four operations. 1958 was the final year he wrote music as he spent the six final years of his life in relative seclusion between his Waldorf Tower apartment in New York, his estate in Berkshire, and in California. On October 15, 1964, at seventy-three years old, he passed away due to kidney failure while he was in Santa Monica, California.
Cole Porter Legacy
There has been a flurry of recording artists that have performed Cole Porter’s songs throughout the years. Even today, some of the best musical talent in the industry continue to be inspired by Porter’s music as they cover versions of his biggest hits themselves. In 2007, a Hollywood Walk of Fame star was dedicated to Cole Porter. A portrait of Cole Porter has been hanging in the Hoosier Heritage Gallery in the office of the Governor of Indiana since 2010. There have been several orchestras that have paid tribute to Porter since his death. His legacy also graces the American Theater Hall of Fame and the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame.
Top 10 Cole Porter Songs
#10 – Bull-Dog
“Bull-Dog” was one of three hundred songs Cole Porter wrote while attending Yale College as a student. It remains a football fight song favorite for the school that’s still played to this day. This song earns its place among Cole Porter’s songs because it was written by a man who was still carving a career path for himself as a musician, despite the fact he was originally goaded to study law. “Bull-Dog” was used as more than just a fight song in Yale football. It became the big Yale Fight Song that remains a school favorite and is highly protected by the students and faculty who love it so much. “Bul-Dog” was also featured in Night and Day, the fictional biography of Cole Porter’s life story.
#9 – True Love
“True Love” was a popular song Cole Porter wrote in 1956 that was performed by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly in the Hollywood musical, High Society. It earned an Academy Award win for Best Original Song and remains one of Porter’s highest favored songs from his roster of compositions. The version performed by Crosby and Kelly was accompanied by the MGM Studio Orchestra, headed by Johnny Green.
As a romantic arrangement, it became a hit single that peaked as high as number four in the UK and at number three in Australia, and on the US Billboard Hot 100. In the Netherlands, “True Love” became a number one hit. This song has been covered many times since, including Elton John’s 1993 global hit version. He, along with Kiki Dee, performed this number as a duet that was a top forty hit among a multitude of nations, including a number twenty-one spot on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart.
# 8 – Don’t Fence Me In
In 1934, Cole Porter composed a cowboy song, “Don’t Fence Me In,” which remained somewhat obscure until Roy Rogers sang it in 1944’s Hollywood Canteen. Since then, it was also covered by a number of artists that turned this song into a fan favorite hit. The content behind the song was based on what was written by poet, Robert Fletcher. He was also an engineer with the Department of Highways in Helena, Montana. Porter was asked to write a country song for the musical, Adios, Argentina.
He reworked Fletcher’s poem after 20th Century Fox purchased it for $250.00 USD in response. When the song was finished, Porter wanted to list Fletcher as co-author but the publishers wouldn’t allow it. After the song became popular, thanks to Roy Rogers, in 1944, Fletcher and his attorneys turned the matter into a legal case. Although Porter himself wasn’t overly fond of the composition, it still remained a solid favorite after Roy Rogers sang it in his 1944 Hollywood movie. Whether in original form or as altered versions, “Don’t Fence Me In” became a fan favorite that has been recorded by a long list of musical artists.
#7 – Love for Sale
For the Broadway musical, The New Yorkers, “Love for Sale” was first performed by Kathryn Crawford before it was reassigned to Elisabeth Welch. At the time, the radio stations refused to play it due to the explicit content. Instead, an instrumental version was played. Its success became a musical standard that’s still favored by musicians today. Deliberately sung as an advertisement, “Love for Sale” was considered too inappropriate to play on radio stations before Cotton Club’s Elisabeth Welch turned it into a crowd-pleasing favorite with her performance.
In 1931, Linda Holman turned it into a popular number with her performance, as did Kitty Kallen and the Jack Teagarden Orchestra in 1940. There have been so many versions of “Love for Sale,” including a disco-style performance recorded by Boney M in 1977. They also happened to name their album, Love for Sale as well. One of the most notable versions would be the collaborative performance of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga when they covered the song in 2014. Gaga assumed the role of the streetwalker as she and Bennett performed this classic as if they were transported back in time when it made its 1930 premiere.
#6 – I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Written by Cole Porter in 1936, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” was a song first introduced that year in the Hollywood musical, Born to Dance. It was performed by Virginia Bruce. It earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Songs but lost to Swing Time‘s “The Way You Look Tonight.” Other popular recordings of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” include Al Bowlly as the vocalist behind Ray Noble and his Orchestra, as well as Skinnay Ennis as the vocalist for Hal Kemp and his Orchestra.
In 1946, it became Frank Sinatra’s signature song which also earned a silver certification by the British Phonographic Industry. In 1966, it became a number nine hit for the Four Seasons on the US Billboard Hot 100. Nena Cherry also covered “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” in 1990 and it became a top forty hit for her in the UK, across Europe, Australia, and in New Zealand.
#5 – My Heart Belongs to Daddy
In 1938, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” was a song for the hit musical, Leave It to Me!. Originally performed by Mary Martin, this song was about a protege of a rich newspaper publisher who pointed out he was her “sugar daddy” as she’s approached by other men. It was performed by Martin again for the 1940 movie, Love Thy Neighbor, but the lyrics were toned down in order to make it less suggestive.
The iconic Marilyn Monroe also performed a version of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” in her 1960 feature film, Let’s Make Love. There was also an Anna Nicole Smith version in 1997 as she mirrored Monroe’s performance. Several artists have been inspired enough to cover this song themselves, sometimes twisting it about accordingly to make it their own.
#4 – You’re the Top
“You’re the Top” became one of his best-known hits of all time as it featured the talent of Cole Porter’s rhyming ability. It was originally from the 1934 musical, Anything Goes. The best-selling version of this tune came from Paul Whiteman. The popularity of this song offered a glimpse into the highlights of the mid-1930s as a cheery, inspirational number.
So many references were made to people, businesses, and anything that was deemed popular during that era. Since then, so many cover versions have been performed by a long list of musical artists. There are also altered versions and commercial jingles that keep “Your the Top” on top as an all-time Cole Porter classic.
#3 – What Is This Thing Called Love?
Despite the 1929 Wall Street Stock Market crash that cut the run of the Broadway musical, Wake Up and Dream, short, “What Is This Thing Called Love?” became an immensely popular hit as a performance. It was first performed by Elsie Carlisle and has since become a popular jazz standard. However, it was Tilly Losch’s performance that won the most amount of critical favor, especially in New York. It remains one of Porter’s most often played compositions. Les Paul turned “What Is This Thing Called Love?” into a number eleven hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 with his 1948 recorded version.
#2 – Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love
For the 1928 Broadway musical, Paris, “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love” became one of Cole Porter’s best-known hits. The song was performed by Irene Bordoni, who was the star of the show when it was first released. The name-dropping of famous names and events served as part of the song’s appeal as it revolved around pop culture, loaded with comedic suggestions that made this an easy fan favorite. It became a pioneering pop song statement, illustrating sex is fun and shouldn’t be regarded with disdain.
To say “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love” was a liberating number is an understatement. Over the years, Porter’s original lyrics have been stripped down and altered by recording artists who created their own versions of this song. When the original was first released, there were racial references that sparked some controversy. Before the lyrics were altered over time, the Dorsey Brothers & their Orchestra featured a young vocalist name Bing Crosby who performed this song in its original format. In 1941, Peggy Lee with Benny Goodman’s orchestra recorded their own version that also used these lyrics.
#1 – Night and Day
“Night and Day” became Cole Porter’s best-known song. It came from the musical, Gay Divorce, which was produced in 1932. Despite the show’s mixed reviews, it was popular and profitable enough to run 248 performances. It was also retitled The Gay Divorcee and was sold to RKO Pictures. In the Great American Songbook, “Night and Day” remains as Porter’s most popular contribution. It has been recorded by dozens of musicians since Fred Astaire’s original stage performance.
His studio recording with the Leo Reisman orchestra was released on Victor Records on January 13, 1933. It became a number one hit on the music charts for ten weeks, as well as the top record for the year. As “Night and Day” became one of Cole Porter’s signature songs, this was also the case for Fred Astaire.
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