They had to invent a term to accommodate Porter’s contributions to the popular music canon: The Great American Songbook. Of course, there are other composers and songwriters represented, but when you look at all the great songs Porter penned, his impact on our shared culture is staggering.
“Night and Day”…”Anything Goes”…”I Get a Kick out of You”…”You’re the Top”…”Don’t Fence Me In”…”Begin the Beguine”…”It’s De-Lovely”…”I’ve Got You Under My Skin”…”In the Still of the Night”…”You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”…”From This Moment On”…”You’d Be So Easy to Love”…and dozens and dozens more.
Many of Porter’s hits were written for his Broadway productions. Among the shows he provided music for are The Gay Divorce (Fred Astaire’s last stage show, made as The Gay Divorcee on film), Anything Goes (which might be subtitled “Porter’s Greatest Hits”), and Kiss Me Kate.
While Porter loved the wild Hollywood life of the 30s, he had a riding accident in 1937 that crushed his legs and eventually led to both being amputated. He had more than 30 surgeries on his legs, and endured constant pain the rest of his life. He experienced chronic depression, and his work suffered.
Even so, who in American music has ever written a lyric that matches this:
You’re the top! You’re the Coliseum / You’re the top! You’re the Louvre Museum /
You’re a melody from a symphony by Strauss / You’re a Bendel bonnet, A Shakespeare sonnet,
You’re Mickey Mouse.
You’re the Nile / You’re the Tower of Pisa / You’re the smile on the Mona Lisa
I’m a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop / But if, baby, I’m the bottom you’re the top!