Best know for his work as an American composer and songwriter, pianist Cole Porter led a life filled with both scandal and luxury amidst his successful career as a musician.

Born into a wealthy family on June 9, 1891, Cole was doted on by his mother. He began the violin at 6 and the piano at 8, and even wrote his first operetta at the age of 10. He attended Yale University in 1909 where he majored in English, minored in music and studied French.

While a student at Yale, Porter wrote over 300 songs and joined the Glee club as well as several other music clubs. He also composed the music for several comedy skits put on by his fraternity brothers, preparing him for his future career in Broadway.

Upon graduating from Yale, Cole Porter enrolled at Harvard Law School in 1913 but it was not long before he switched to the music program under the suggestion of the dean.

His first Broadway tune appeared in the revue “Hands Up” in 1915. It was quickly followed by his first Broadway production which was a failure compared to the success of his debut, closing after only 15 shows. It was the first of many failures for Cole Porter.

In 1917, after a move to Paris and his marriage in 1923, Porter finally ended his streak of failed works with the success of “(Let’s Do It) Let’s Fall in Love”. His next work, Fifty Million Frenchmen (1929) was also a success and established Porter as a talented lyricist and musician.

The 1930s saw the addition of many more successful titles to Cole’s repertoire including “Night and Day,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” and more. In 1937, he was involved in a riding accident and lost one of his legs. He would live in constant pain for the rest of his life. Although this led to Porter withdrawing from his previously extravagant social life, it did not hinder his success as a composer.

After the passing of his wife in 1954, Porter suffered the loss of his other leg. In 1958 he stopped composing entirely and withdrew into seclusion for the remainder of his life. He passed away due to kidney failure on October 15, 1964 at the age of 73.

Throughout his career, Porter wrote more than 800 songs. His production “Kiss Me Kate” was the first to win a Tony Award for the category of “best musical”.

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Published by Shannon Kennedy

Shannon Kennedy is a vocalist and saxophonist living in Southern California. She is author of "The Album Checklist" and the founder of Teen Jazz. She has been contributing articles to music magaizines and websites since 2004.