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Who is Cole Porter?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
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  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2014
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Cole Porter is an American songwriter and composer from the first half of the 20th century. He is famous for his many hits, including "Night and Day," "Let's Do It," "You're the Top" and "Kiss Me, Kate." His lyrics are often said to be very sophisticated for their time and many of Porter's songs are still played and performed today.

Born 9 June, 1891 in Peru, Indiana, Cole Porter was named after his maternal grandfather, James Omar (J.O.) Cole. He started learning violin and piano at age six and began composing music at age ten with his mother's encouragement and support. His grandfather was a wealthy entrepreneur who wanted Cole to study law. Porter did study law at Harvard for a year, but music remained his greatest interest and talent.

Despite his attendance at Harvard, Porter is often remembered best for the time he spent at Yale University beginning in 1913. He was voted most entertaining thanks to the memorable fight songs he wrote, some of which are still used at Yale today. Cole participated in the glee club at Yale and went on to write for Broadway musicals.

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His first full score was for the 1916 musical See America First. The show closed after 15 nights, and Porter moved to Paris in 1917 to continue composing music. His first big hit was "Let's Do It" from the 1928 musical Paris. He wrote both the music and lyrics for all of his songs and his love of Paris was expressed in songs such as "I Love Paris" and "You Don't Know Paree."

Parties featuring cross-dressing and drugs as well as nobility and musicians alike are said to have been a big part of Cole Porter's life in Paris. Some say Porter was a homosexual while others claim he was bisexual. He married his friend, Linda Thomas, in 1919 but it was said to be a platonic marriage. Porter loved writing and composing music and two of his biggest hits came in the early 1930s. The 1932 musical, Gay Divorce, featured his hit "Night and Day" and his 1934 song, "Anything Goes" was a huge success.

Cole Porter broke both legs in a horse riding accident in 1937, and eventually, in 1958, one of his legs was amputated. He did keep writing music, such as Get Out of Town, From Now On and the very successful Kiss Me Kate. The amputation is said to have caused Cole much sadness, however, as well the loss of much of his creative drive. He died from kidney failure at the age of 73 in Santa Monica, California, on 15 October 1964.

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