Cole Porter was born in Peru, Indiana on June 9, 1891. As a boy he took lessons in piano and violin, and began writing songs while in prep school. He attended Yale College (Class of 1913), where he composed fight songs that are still used today. After graduating, he went on to Harvard Law School, but he had little interest in law and soon began studying music instead. Porter would later complete his musical education at the Schola Cantorum in Paris.
Porter’s first Broadway show, See America First, was staged in 1916, and over the ensuing decade he wrote several more shows, but did not have his first big hit until 1929, with Fifty Million Frenchmen. From then on he was one of Broadway’s most popular composers; his subsequent credits included Gay Divorce, Anything Goes, Panama Hattie, and Kiss Me, Kate. He composed numerous songs that became standards, including “Let’s Do It,” “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” “Night and Day,” “Anything Goes,” “You’re the Top,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Just One of Those Things,” ” Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” In an era when most composers of popular songs worked with lyricists, Porter distinguished himself by writing his own verses, which were notable for their wit and sophistication.
Unlike contemporaries such as George Gershwin and Irving Berlin, who grew up in the poor immigrant neighborhoods of New York, Porter was born into a prosperous Midwestern family, and he married a wealthy divorcée, Linda Lee Thomas. Eventually he also earned a large income from his songs. Porter was thus able to live the life of high society, enjoying frequent trips to Europe and countless parties with celebrities and aristocrats. In 1937, however, Porter’s life took a tragic turn when both of his legs were crushed by a horse, leaving him unable to walk and in chronic pain. Cole Porter died in Santa Monica, California on October 15, 1964.