One of the most sophisticated composers of American 20th-century popular song, Cole Porter was also a gifted lyricist whose texts are full of double entendres and clever witticisms, some of them proving too shocking for the theatre. His music includes some of the best-known songs in American popular culture such as 'Ev'ry Time we say Goodbye', 'I get a kick out of you', and 'Anything Goes'.
Porter was born in Indiana on 9 June 1891 and, in addition to learning violin and piano as a child, quickly discovered his gift for composing melodies. A period studying law at Yale was followed by a year studying harmony and counterpoint at Harvard (1915-16), by which time he had his first show, See America First, running on Broadway.
In 1917 Porter moved to Paris, married a socialite, and gave fashionable parties in Paris, Venice and on the Riviera, at which he would often perform his own songs. In 1919 he studied harmony with Vincent d' Indy and in 1923 wrote a jazz-influenced ballet, Within the Quota.
Porter achieved success in 1929 with the show Wake Up and Dream in London, followed by the song-and-dance musicals Gay Divorce for Fred Astaire in 1932 and Anything Goes (1934). Many of Porter's most famous songs date from these shows, which were later filmed. Porter also contributed songs for Hollywood films, including Born to Dance (1936) and Rosalie (1937).
Following a riding accident that crippled him, Porter suffered a period of decline in which he songs went out of fashion. In 1948, however, he wrote a masterpiece based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew called Kiss Me Kate that became extremely popular. He continued to provide songs for Hollywood films, including High Society (1956) and Night and Day (1946), but after the death of his wife in 1954, Porter withdrew from society. He died in Santa Monica, California on 15 October 1964.
Porter's achievements in the field of popular song are almost unrivalled. He possessed a rare gift for melody, and was also a keen experimenter with harmony and rhythm. His songs have an elegance and sophistication that reveal the depth and quality of his musical training, and have entered the cultural language of America.