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Friday, June 09, 2017

Poetry Friday--Cole Porter

Songwriter, Cole Porter, was born on this day in 1891 (he died in 1964). I may be a bit hesitant about calling him a poet, but he certainly was a fine lyricist. His lyrics suit his music to a T. It's a treat to hear him have fun with words, like when he rhymes the smoked haddock from Scotland called finnan haddie, with daddy, in "My Heart Belongs to Daddy"!

Here's part of "You're the Top," which was featured in the Broadway musical, Anything Goes. It shows how Porter didn't back away from poking fun at himself.

At words poetic, I'm so pathetic
That I always have found it best,
Instead of getting 'em off my chest,
To let 'em rest unexpressed,
I hate parading my serenading
As I'll probably miss a bar,
But if this ditty is not so pretty
At least it'll tell you
How great you are.

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!

(Read the rest here.)

You'll find various interpretations of "You're the Top" on many CDs in our collections including Cole After Midnight by the Marcus Roberts Trio [CD JAZZ MAR] and Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book [CD JAZZ FIT].

Cary Grant, who plays Cole Porter in the 1946 film, Night and Day, sings "You're the Top" in this clip.

You'll find the Poetry Friday Round-Up for this week at A Year of Reading.


  1. That's an incredible list poem if I ever read one, lyrics or not!

  2. Now I'm not sure if I want to get up and dance or to write my own list poem describing who's "the top"! I think lyrics definitely fall into poetry of some sort.

    1. I guess it's poetry that's given a musical boost.

  3. I like how playful this is. I've always thought the best lyrics are poetry.

  4. Wordplay wherever it lives is poetry, I say. But it's so clear from the way you recorded the lyrics in writing and how differently they are rhythmed in the performed version that they're in two separate categories--like poems as distinguished from novels-in-verse? Very fun post, Diane--you're the top!

  5. I've always liked that song, so I can't read the poem with out the melody rolling into place. Lovely
    take with Carry Grant and Ginny Simms, thanks!