Cole Porter

On this date in 1891, Cole Albert Porter was born in Peru, Indiana, to Sam Porter and Kate Cole Porter. He began studying piano at age 6, wrote his first song at age 10 and was class valedictorian at Worcester Academy in 1905. He graduated from Yale, where he wrote many college productions and performed with the glee club. Although he was gay, Porter married the woman who became his lifelong best friend, Linda Thomas, in 1919, and they remained together until her death in 1954.

Porter’s sophisticated, romantic and witty songs include: “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Anything Goes,” “Night and Day,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “You Do Something to Me,” “In the Still of the Night,” “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” “All of You” and “Friendship.” His musicals included “Kiss Me Kate” and “Can-Can.” He wrote the music for such movies as “Silk Stockings” and “High Society” (starring Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby).

In 1937 he had a tragic horse riding accident, fracturing both legs, which left him with debilitating pain. One leg had to be amputated a year later. Friends, colleagues and biographers confirm that Porter was not religious. A woman who briefly dated him recalled him as “one of the most irreverent persons I’ve ever encountered, but so charming.” The several songs he composed referencing deities always referred to them pejoratively and as “the gods,” in plural. Musicals such as “Anything Goes” (“You’re a Nathan panning / You’re Bishop Manning / You’re broccoli”) raised the ire of religionists.

The tremendously successful tunesmith lived a lavish lifestyle and engaged in a lifelong battle with Puritanism and censorship. As is true for many musicians, “His art becomes almost a religion,” noted British poet Alfred Noyes. When Porter was admitted to the hospital for the final time, dangerously ill and miserable, friend Bobby Raisin overheard an encounter between him and the staff. When he was asked his religion, he replied, “Put down none.” The clerk asked, “Protestant?” Porter repeated, “Put down none.” (Quotes from Cole Porter by William McBrien, 1998) D. 1964.

Freedom From Religion Foundation