Tune in weekday mornings to hear our favorite versions of “I Concentrate On You.” Rodney Franks presents Stories of Standards Monday through Friday at 7:50 and 8:50 am.

Stories of Standards is sponsored by ListenUp.

Cole Porter wrote “I Concentrate On You” in 1939 for the film “Broadway Melody of 1940”. Used as ballet music by Eleanor Powell, who is joined by Fred Astaire, the dancers are shown on a darkened stage, lit only by a spotlight, while a masked harlequin (Douglas MacPhail), sings. The song made the charts twice in 1940, once with Tommy Dorsey and once with Eddie Duchin. Featuring several levels of rhyme, including extensive internal rhymes, the song continues to be popular with musicians, while well over 300 recordings have been made.

Cole Porter (Jun 9, 1891 – Oct 15, 1964) was the only surviving child of Samuel Fenwick Porter and Kate Cole. He started riding horses when six years old and piano study when eight years old, then began composing when ten years old. Sent east to Worcester Academy, he graduated as valedictorian and later quoted instructor Dr. Abercrombie as saying “Words and music must be so inseparably wedded to each other that they are like one.” Porter wrote around 300 songs while an undergraduate at Yale, including “Yale Bulldog Song” and was voted “most entertaining member” of his graduating class of 1913. Despite his maternal grandfather’s ambitions for him, he dropped out of Harvard Law School to pursue music, went to Paris in 1917 and stayed through the ‘20s. He married fellow socialite Linda Thomas in 1919, an arrangement of mutual devotion which met both their needs until her death in 1954 and was undisturbed by his homosexuality.

Porter established his reputation with the musical “Paris” in 1928, for which he wrote “Let’s Misbehave”, replaced in the show with “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love”. He then wrote for films in Hollywood, and returned to New York in 1929 with “Fifty Million Frenchmen”, first of a string of hit Broadway musicals. His sophisticated and frequently risqué music and lyrics consistently won the devotion of both audiences and musicians. He was awarded the 1961 Grammy for Best Soundtrack (Can-Can, 1961), the 2009 Online Film & Television Association Hall of Fame and a star on the Walk of Fame (posthumously awarded May 21, 2007, at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard).

Porter’s long string of successes was interrupted by a 1937 fall while horseback riding which shattered both legs and left him with chronic pain for the rest of his life. He dealt with the pain by writing more compositions, and some of his best-loved music was written in the 1950s (“Kiss Me Kate” 1948, “Out of This World” 1950, “Can Can” 1953, “Silk Stockings” 1955, “High Society” 1956 and “Les Girls” 1957). Brilliant, witty, complex and original, Cole Porter remains one of the most honored composers of the twentieth century. He won three Grammys and six Tonys; a celebration of his life (The Cole Porter Festival) is held annually on the weekend closest to his birthday (June 9).

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