Archived Story

More to keep you humming

Published 5:25pm Thursday, May 10, 2012

George Gershwin and Harold Arlen were both born in New York — Gershwin in New York City and Arlen in Buffalo.
But the third composer to be featured by the Florida Orchestra was Cole Porter, who was born in Peru, Ind. Born in 1891 to wealthy parents, he defied his grandfather’s wishes and became a professional musician.
His grandfather, James Omar Cole, was considered the “richest man in Indiana” at the time and he sent Cole at age 14 to Worcester Academy in Massachusetts.
When he was the valedictorian of his class, his grandfather rewarded him with a tour of France, Switzerland and Germany.
Upon the wishes of his grandfather, he went on to Yale, and while there, he wrote more than 300 songs. He moved on to the Harvard Law School and later to Harvard’s School of Music.
When Porter was a child, his mother started his musical training at an early age. At 6, he learned the violin and at 8, the piano. In 1917, he moved to Paris.
In 1918, he met and married a rich divorcee, Linda Lee Thomas, who provided him status and income for his artistic endeavors.
He began writing scores for Paris and Broadway shows.
In 1934, his first major American hit musical, “Anything Goes,” featured Ethel Merman and for that show he wrote the title song as well as “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” “All Through the Night,” “You’re the Top” and “Blow, Gabriel Blow.”
After that show came five more for which he wrote, “Begin the Beguine” and “Just One of Those Things.”
He also began writing for movies around this time, and in 1936 wrote “You’d Be So Easy to Love,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and in the “Still of the Night.”
Then in 1937, tragedy struck Porter in New York. While horseback riding, his horse rolled on him and crushed his legs. He was in constant pain from that time on.
Songwriting kept his mind from his pain, but his songs were not as successful.
His songs were made famous by the singers who used his materials and helped to make them hits. Bing Crosby, Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Danny Kaye, June Havoc, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly and Ella Fitzgerald made his songs famous.
His last major and successful work was “Kiss Me Kate,” adapted from Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” in 1948.
Featured songs were “So In Love” and “Too Darn Hot.” But his last major movie was “High Society.”
In 1964, he died of kidney failure at age 73 and he is buried in Peru, Ind., next to his wife.
If you go down U.S. 31 on your way to Indianapolis you will pass by Peru and there is nothing to denote that Cole Porter was one of its famous residents.
But Peru is not the only Indiana home of a famous songwriter. Bloomington, Ind., was the hometown of Hoagy Carmichael, who wrote four popular songs: “Stardust,” “Georgia On My Mind,” “The Nearness Of You” and “Heart and Soul.”
Now if by this time you are not humming a song, you didn’t grow up in the ‘40s or the ‘50s. Go back through this list and I’m sure you know the tune or words to one of these songs or you will remember dancing at the prom to “Stardust.”

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