The job of singing is to stay open to the river of soul in all its manifestations, the dark and the light, without letting your ego get in the way. I never want to be bigger than the song. I just want you to receive it.
TOMORROW: My Book World | John Sedgwick's From the River to the Sea: The Untold Story of the Railroad War That Made the West
FRIDAY: My Book World | Jeanine Cummins's American Dirt
My Book World
Eisen, Cliff and The Letters of Cole Porter. New Haven: Yale, 2019.
If you are a fan of Cole Porter and his music, you will probably enjoy this collection of letters. Though some of them refer to his bisexuality, most of them pertain to his many professional and personal connections. Such communications illustrate many characteristics about Mr. Porter. One, he is a consummate professional, in spite of his propensity to play and play hard during vacations and between gigs on Broadway or Hollywood. He answers every bit of mail himself, except when he occasionally calls on his secretary to take care of something. He is a team player, important for anyone working in a collaborative arena like the theatre. Second, he is also fierce but polite about not doing anything musically that would (in his opinion) ruin a show. At the same time, when overpowered by those above him, he sometimes gives in, particularly, it seems, when the issue does not matter that much to him.
In a business that can be crass and cold at times, Porter is also very caring and thoughtful of everyone he comes in contact with. He sends thank you notes for the smallest favors, and, because he often runs short of money before he makes it big, he is generous with cash gifts and loans later in life. Third, his wit and sharp tongue are unmatched with regard to the social whirl of the 1930s through the 1950s. Though he wouldn’t dream of hurting anyone publicly, he does not mind getting off a zinger or two during a personal letter to a dear friend. Perhaps most interesting is how Porter shares some of his methods for songwriting:
In a related matter, of what compels him to accept a job or assignment, he says:
A friend who travels with Porter in 1955 relates this story: “We were not stopped very long at the border. On the Spanish side, one of the soldiers came out with Cole’s passport in his hand, looked in the car, and said, ‘Cole Porter . . . Begin the Beguine!’ and kissed his fingers to the air, and began to sing the song. Cole’s music is known everywhere we go—even in the remote spots” (507).
I think that just about says it all about Cole Porter, his music, and how many fans he still has in the world!
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Richard Jespers is a writer living in Lubbock, Texas, USA.
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