Posted by Richard Rawlinson
I know, I know, 120 years is not a significant anniversary like a centenary, but can we spare a thought for Cole Porter, born in 1891? Two of the great American composer’s many classics, I’ve Got You Under My Skin and Just One Of Those Things, are popular secular choices at funerals. His own funeral instructions are quite interesting too.
The son of wealthy Indiana parents, he learned to ride on the family ranch at the age of six, a leisure pursuit that was to be his ultimate undoing. Attending prestigious educational establishments including the Harvard School of Music, his talent was clear early on.
After serving in the First World War, he stayed in Paris with his new wife, Linda, where they enjoyed lavish parties. Returning to the US, he fell from his horse, smashing his legs and making him wheelchair bound for five years, and enduring many operations during the next two decades.
Then his wife died and his right leg was eventually amputated, after which he wrote no more as his health declined, and he fell into deep depression. He became a reclusive drunk in his apartment in the Waldorf Astoria in New York, refusing to attend a ‘Salute to Cole Porter’ night at the Metropolitan Opera House.
He died in 1964, and instructed for no funeral or memorial. He has a simple gravestone at home in Indiana where he’s buried next to his wife and father. His legacy lives on. He composed over 1,000 songs, and his hit musicals include High Society and Kiss Me Kate. He’s playing on my iTunes as I write.