Cole Albert Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964) was an American composer and songwriter.
Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, he defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a profession.
Classically trained, he was drawn towards musical theatre.
After a slow start, he began to achieve success in the 1920s, and by the 1930s he was one of the major songwriters for the Broadway musical stage.
Porter was born in Peru, Indiana, the only child of a wealthy family.
His father, Samuel Fenwick Porter, was a druggist by trade.
His mother, Kate, was the indulged daughter of James Omar “J. O.” Cole, “the richest man in Indiana”, a coal and timber speculator who dominated the family. J. O. Cole built the couple a home on his Peru-area property, known as Westleigh Farms.
J. O. Cole wanted his grandson to become a lawyer, and with that career in mind, he sent him to Worcester Academy in Massachusetts in 1905.
Porter brought an upright piano with him to school and found that music, and his ability to entertain, made it easy for him to make friends.
Porter did well in school and rarely came home to visit.
He became class valedictorian and was rewarded by his grandfather with a tour of France, Switzerland and Germany.
Entering Yale University in 1909, Porter majored in English, minored in music, and also studied French.
He was a member of Scroll and Key, Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and contributed to campus humor magazine The Yale Record.
He was an early member of the Whiffenpoofs a capella singing group and participated in several other music clubs; in his senior year, he was elected president of the Yale Glee Club and was its principal soloist.
In 1918, he met Linda Lee Thomas, a rich, Louisville, Kentucky-born divorcée eight years his senior.
She was beautiful and well-connected socially; the couple shared mutual interests, including a love of travel, and she became Porter’s confidant and companion.
The couple married the following year.
She was in no doubt about Porter’s homosexuality, but it was mutually advantageous for them to marry.
For Linda it offered continued social status and a partner who was the antithesis of her abusive first husband.
For Porter, it brought a respectable heterosexual front in an era when homosexuality was not publicly acknowledged.
They were, moreover, genuinely devoted to each other and remained married from December 19, 1919, until her death in 1954.
Linda remained protective of her social position, and believing that classical music might be a more prestigious outlet than Broadway for her husband’s talents, she tried to use her connections to find him suitable teachers, including Igor Stravinsky, but was unsuccessful.
After a successful New York performance the following month, the Swedish Ballet company toured the work in the U.S., performing it 69 times.
A year later the company disbanded, and the score was lost until it was reconstructed from Porter’s and Koechlin’s manuscripts between 1966 and 1990, with help from Milhaud among others.
Porter had less success with his work on Greenwich Village Follies (1924).
He wrote most of the original score, but his songs were gradually dropped during the Broadway run, and by the time of the post-Broadway tour in 1925, all his numbers had been deleted.
He died on October 15, 1964.
In accordance with his wishes, official reports say that he was buried between his wife Linda and his father Sam Porter.
However, perhaps because of his father’s trivial role in Cole’s upbringing, other reports circled that he was actually buried between his mother Kate and his wife Linda.