Discussing Cole Porter's work and the book "Cole" and interviewing its author Robert Kimball
BROADCAST: 1970 | DURATION: 00:29:46
Cole Porter biographer Robert Kimball talks with Studs about his book "Cole" and his subject's life and work as they listen to classic performances of some of his most beloved songs. They marvel at how Porter perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the times in his lyrics, his lyrical influences, his unique method of outside-in composing lyrics and music simultaneously, Bobby Short's masterful interpretations, controversies over some of his works, and how well his material holds up. The original broadcast includes performances of Cole Porter's own rendition of "You're the Top" from "Anything Goes." Ethel Merman's version follows along with her recording of "I Get a Kick out of You." Bobby Short interprets "Rap, Tap on Wood" and "Let's Fly Away" followed by Ella Fitzgerald’s recordings of "Love For Sale" and "Miss Otis Regrets." Billie Holiday sings an early version of "Let's Do It" followed by Will Holt performing "I Love Paris." The program concludes with a rare private recording of Cole Porter demoing two songs for the musical "Jubilee"--"A Picture of Me Without You" and "The Kling-Kling Bird on the Divi-Divi Tree."
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Studs Terkel Just a few verses [music playing] of a a classic, a show tune classic and yet an American classic too because America and musical comedies are one. Cole Porter singing his own work and his book, a book about him a very beautiful one, Cole by my guest Robert Kimball with a preface by Brendan Gill. I'm thinking, Bob Kimball as we hear Cole Porter singing the recognition of him as perhaps if ever there were definitive writer of the American scene would be this guy wouldn't it?
Robert Kimball Well his range was so wide he he as we heard in this song he could encompass the most, the most sublime and also the most up to date of fads of the day as well the timeless things, the purple light, the summer night in Spain and then he could talk about Pepcid and Mickey Mouse so
Studs Terkel So he could bring in all the illusions of the moment and yet it could apply now was, he would capture a certain moment it would seem in American life.
Robert Kimball Since 1934 it's it's crystallized in a beautiful way and yet there's something very timeless about the way he's done it.
Studs Terkel Well your book is about, has the lyrics of almost all of his songs, the musicals and photographs of him and writings. But more than that it's a picture of a certain society a certain time we think of 34. This is "Anything Goes."
Studs Terkel Ethel Merman and Victor Moore.
Robert Kimball Yes
Studs Terkel Yeah Anyth- 34. Now we think of the Depression. First of all Porter himself, he's associated often in in real life, his physical life with with the quote unquote "creme de la creme of society."
Robert Kimball Very rich man he was born wealthy, he lived this expatriate sort of highfalutin existence throughout his life he never knew what it was to struggle financially. Yet he had a constant struggle to make it. Creatively he was very late in arriving in his chosen profession. He was almost 40 years old before he established himself. And then of course he had the terrible pain of that accident and 35 operations. So he had his own private hell to bear.
Studs Terkel Yeah. He was living with physical pain.
Robert Kimball Constant.
Studs Terkel He had the air of outward grace.
Robert Kimball He never lost that.
Studs Terkel He was well off, very well off living in all the fancy places in Europe. Now at the same time this is 1934. Of all the song writers and here here's a case of both the so- music writer, composer, and the lyricist both.
Robert Kimball He
Studs Terkel It's his name most associated with The Thirties, the time of the Depression.
Robert Kimball Why do you think that's true?
Studs Terkel It's a good one isn't it?
Robert Kimball Well?
Studs Terkel It's an interesting one there.
Robert Kimball There are a lot of things I coul- we could speculate on. One certainly this song was a song that that gave people a lot of hope when they were feeling really low. They could hear this song and they could say you know for, you know, for the top you know it it was buoyant it was cheerful it was optimistic.
Robert Kimball You know, there are many that, go ahead.
Robert Kimball And then I think too one of the things he didn't suffer from many many of his songwriting contemporaries had this beautiful faith in the American dream the material prosperity the the sort of almost utopian belief that money was going to buy happiness. And most of the songwriters of the twenties expressed this faith. But Cole never believed that he knew that it didn't. He knew that there was pain and agony with money. And so in the thirties when people realized that that the dream was was was had turned into a kind of a nightmare for so many Americans in a way he was never caught up in the dream to begin with.
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Robert Kimball And so his voice was a was a voice of saying well you know I was saying this all along that yo- whether or not you have money you've got problems in life.
Studs Terkel It's funny how this comes out in the lyrics too is it but let's just say he had a gentle cynical quality a sort of skepticism cynicism was there but with gentleness.
Robert Kimball Its irony. Never never bitter bitterness he was never he never really let go to a total despair. And there's always this fusion and blending of opposites he would suggest one thing and then he would suggest something very different.
Studs Terkel Coming back to The Thirties and why Porter. Oh, I know a friend of yours and someone I admire very much E.Y. Harper.
Studs Terkel Yip Harper's whose lyrics would be more socially significant to use an early thirties phrase you know at the same and he wa- he's marvelous
Robert Kimball He was a great writer.
Studs Terkel And the, I guess the buoyancy you talk about also that was FDR at the time.
Robert Kimball Well, they they knew that there was a party that FDR gave for his sons on New Year's Eve in late 34 right before January of 35. And the guests clamored for "You're the Top" and they, bands were supposed to play it again and again and again and again and it was the song of the hour. And at a time when when when FDR was exhorting America to you know to have faith in itself. It was a song that had incredible faith in humanity and in love.
Studs Terkel Yeah,
Robert Kimball I think it's, it's, it's a love song. When you think about it here's here's somebody saying something you know you're wonderful I love you behind all
Studs Terkel Yeah. But said a certain way perhaps you could talk about that after we here Ethel Merman sing it now now "You're the Top." Was it 1934?
Robert Kimball Well you know Ethel Merman was in the show the star of "Anything Goes" with Victor Moore and William Gaxton and and Cole Porter's I guess favorite show performer interpreter and she sang the song in the show.
Studs Terkel Is this as someone pointed out in the acclaim your book has received. Robert Kimball the book is Cole. You know every most rave reviews but one of the says, "How come? Have we progressed or not?" And that's subject to great deal of discussion but there were certain kinds of singers. Not that her voice her voice was not Claudia Muzio.
Robert Kimball Nooo.
Studs Terkel It was a harsh, but something about she could what, a lyric could come out so clearly is it.
Robert Kimball Oh, she, she was a marvelously, a marvelous diction and a superb phrasing. People think of her this great strong bellowing sound we hear her now when she recorded back in the thirties. There is a subtlety and wonderful nuance of to to her interpretations might be interesting.
Robert Kimball To hear, to hear
Studs Terkel And perhaps even after hearing her we think more of the lyrics themselves the nature of Porter's lyrics.
Robert Kimball Yeah.
Studs Terkel Thinking about his use of lyrics in the way you could take a certain phrase to and twist it around. He was many influence Ogden Nash I suppose he knew. Does Ogden Nash
Robert Kimball Yes and Gilbert.
Studs Terkel And Gilbert was role model but he studied seriously too.
Robert Kimball Yes he did. He not only had a thorough classical training in Greek and Latin. When he was growing up and he studied the romantic poets Browning and Tennyson but his musical training was was equally sophisticated. He studied in Paris with Vincent d'Indy in the Schola Cantorum. Darius Milhaud.
Studs Terkel And then he [think?] he was studying the the leader of Schubert and Schumann too.
Robert Kimball Yes. He was learned these the entire nineteenth century song repertoire he was familiar with.
Studs Terkel There was a ballet that he wrote too.
Robert Kimball Yes when things were very tough for him. People think he had it easy, that he's you know because of his wealth he went right out of Yale College right to success. He had a long long time of struggle and at one point he he decided to give up popular songwriting and to try serious music and he did a ballet in 1923, called Within the Quota, which is a sort of a parody on the American dream the American success story the immigrant comes over and is transformed into a cinema star.
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Robert Kimball And the music is poking fun at this. And Porter being the I think the only American theater composer to be part of the literary lost generation. He lived in Europe as an expatriate during the twenties. So he had a particular perspective on what was happening to America during the decade.
Studs Terkel Funny he could be described almost as a musical F. Scott Fitzgerald. Very
Robert Kimball Very similar very definitely.
Studs Terkel Although Fitzgerald was a social climber. Porter didn't have to do
Robert Kimball Philip Barry might be closer to him in kind of social comment that that that sort of a distance and perspective and and irony.
Studs Terkel Philip Barry would be even better yes that's something like Holiday say.
Studs Terkel Something like Holiday yeah.
Studs Terkel So we have, we have someone who didn't have any material need a need, nonetheless in his his a creative need to to fulfill it. But how coming back to his way with words. And since he was both.
Robert Kimball He did both in. Both.
Studs Terkel Both.
Robert Kimball The unique way of of doing both, he didn't write the music first or the lyrics first he wrote them together and he didn't start at the beginning and he worked from the beginning and the end of a song back toward the middle and toward, in both directions so he built a kind of an arch a beautiful structure.
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Robert Kimball And he would constantly think in terms of the lyrics and the music at the same time.
Studs Terkel One of the aspects of Porter that hits me in reading your book talking to Robert Kimball his book is Cole Holt Winston, Holt Rinehart Winston the publishers in the very [unintelligible] cause it's really a study of a time when of an artist is that even though he lived in what would seem to be a limited social circle. Again [they?] the what we call the jet set today of the beautiful people with quotes about them. Some not that beautiful.
Robert Kimball Yeah.
Studs Terkel Come to the fact that he knew something else like way back was it 1914 year [unintelligible]. He used the phrase Montessorian to rhyme with Victorian.
Studs Terkel But the Montessori School setup was just about beginning. He knew of it. Not too many people knew of it.
Robert Kimball Because I think of his wealth. He was able to travel all over the world and he absorbed musical and literary and topical influences everywhere
Robert Kimball He was a very curious man and in his travels, he would constantly look for something interesting and unique about about a place. Of course one of the one of his very very great songs from Anything Goes. And I I think in some ways one of the most famous songs he ever wrote he had to he had to change the lyric.
Studs Terkel I get a kick out of you.
Robert Kimball If you look at the original lyric the famous line of course is, "Flying too high with some guy in the sky is my idea of nothing to do." It was five rhymes. Well that only came about because originally he had a line, "I wouldn't care for those nights in the air at the fair Mrs. Lindbergh went through." He wrote the song in 1931 before the kidnapping and after the kidnapping he changed it.
Studs Terkel When I ask you about the matter of changing particularly as involving his Hollywood experience with the sharks, we come to that.
Studs Terkel That's that's an interesting story of Porter's own standards but.
Robert Kimball This is a, the song is a wonderful song and in fact it was probably one of the greatest opening numbers in any musical comedy. The show opened then within 5 minutes Ethel Merman came out and she sang, "I get a kick out of you."
Studs Terkel Because in a way I suppose Ethel Merman 34 Anything Goes is the was the ideal interpreter for Porter the actress as well as singer you know the, not the song itself.
Robert Kimball And in a sense but it's his you know incredible subtlety she's this open almost as the trumpet sound but very muted and restrained there she was almost a perfect contrast and the contrast of her singing style with his very subtle intricate songs creates a marvelous creative experience.
Studs Terkel Her brashness, oh what called brasher style was against his.
Robert Kimball Her brashness was against his kind of arch, subtle urbanity.
Studs Terkel Yeah. So again we come to the thirties, of course there so many aside from the musicals cause Kiss Me Kate which came along in the fifties.
Robert Kimball The late late forties.
Studs Terkel It was The Thirties that was his most fruitful period.
Robert Kimball Absolutely, and this is a, you know it was a time of of the nightclubs and became the speakeasies became fancy nightclubs like El Morocco and The Stork and you had these great nightclub performers like Mabel Mercer. So it started
Studs Terkel Yeah, that's another aspect. We'll hear Bobby Short in a moment who was a marvelous Porter interpreter who knows about any Porter song written. But Mercer and Short, there are some some artist performers have cults around them and these cults are around Porter type songs, they're Porter type songs such as Alec Wilder himself would write and others.
Robert Kimball Well Bobby talks about people coming to hear him and asking for Porter almost as if they're ordering champagne and caviar. They feel that if they hear a Porter song they're getting what, the best in a supper club kind of song.
Studs Terkel There's something else before we even because that's gon- come oh it's going to come in he wrote for movies Porter did
Robert Kimball He did he did he fin- after he wrote he was writing primarily shows at that time. And and then he after his great success with Anything Goes and Jubilee. He got a chance to go to the coast and he wrote his first film score. In 1936 a film called Born To Dance and I believe that Bobby Short has [on?] his new album Bobby Short loves Cole Porter.
Studs Terkel "Rap Tap on Wood" again his lesser knowns of the.
Robert Kimball We this is an obscure song and the kind of song that a Bobby Short keeps alive. The the the little-known gems of these great artists that get buried and the Bobby Shorts keep them alive and I think the cult is more than just the a personality cult it's a feeling that many of us have about things we love dearly and hate to see get lost. And Bobby is wonderful at keeping these this material alive.
Studs Terkel Nostalgia is there, nostalgia is in the air but it's more than
Studs Terkel it's a certain, its a certain
Robert Kimball This, the material itself has a quality or it couldn't endure it couldn't it couldn't stand
Studs Terkel Before we hear Bobby Short's "Rap Tap on Wood", Porter and Hollywood. This would, cause this involves a man standards and he was very furious with himself because Louis B. Mayer. So we have this marvelous story he says, "Listen let's not just have sing for Nelson Eddy fans but for the general public." And he had him change a certain lyric that
Robert Kimball So he. There's a song called "Rosalie" and kept writing and writing and writing and he had written 6 versions and he finally thought he had the mar- marvelous one and Louis B. Mayer said, "No no no no no, write something very simple." So he's as he relates he went back and wrote a song and hate which became the song that everyone knows and and he was furious about it. That was Irving Berlin who said, "You know listen kid, you know you know never hate a song that sells a million copies you know."
Studs Terkel Isn't this a little different. I know Berlin played a role in in Porter writing but isn't there a difference this very this very story. Tell us a bit. I think of
Robert Kimball Different type of men one
Studs Terkel Different standards.
Robert Kimball is a great the greatest and greatest plugger and promoter in the business. Berlin is still plugging and promoting.
Studs Terkel But it it wasn't a question of of I see, even though Porter scored with it and sold millions he himself the creative guy was not satisfied whereas Berlin would say, "If it sells that's it." That was
Robert Kimball No, no Cole was, many of the songs that he loved very much were not his popular favorites. He was
Studs Terkel "Night and Day" was an example, for example one of those popular ones that was not his favorite.
Robert Kimball I don't think so. I think he he he preferred, preferred some of the songs that didn't receive the attention. I think that "Rap Tap on Wood" was an Ele- old Eleanor Powell song from Born to Dance. I think Bob Bobby does a marvelous job.
Studs Terkel There it is again as Bobby Short who is described by Alan Rich the music critic in New York as singing the so elegantly.
Robert Kimball Quintessence of style is what it's
Studs Terkel But the "Rap Tap on Wood" then again the body is a tap dance for Eleanor Powell the movie's 1936 deep in the Depression
Robert Kimball And look at that high spirited openness. You know have fun, enjoy.
Studs Terkel But coming back to to the songs though some were written for many for the musicals and they just songs [unintelligible].
Robert Kimball Almost all his songs were written were written for productions for a specific show or film and rarely. And we'll talk about a couple of them later I think but they're almost never did he write a specific song that was not connected to a production. And he as we said earlier he's a marvelous way. If you look at a particular lyric, it says it sort of says just exactly what's happening in a particular time it's social history in its own way. And I I the song that I like that that that that Bobby does is a song called "Let's Fly Away" which are his which Cole's good friend Noël Coward used to parody himself as he did Let's, "Let's Do It". And one of the things that's so wonderful about "Let's Fly Away" aside from the idea of flying in 1930, getting away from from the cold weather and then what was happening in the city was the way it you knew it the references are such perfectly apt descriptions of what New York was like in 1930.
Studs Terkel It is marvelous lines, he she this is a boy girls thing, he, "I'm tired of the telephone always ringing she, "I'm tired of hearing Rudy Vallée singing. I'm tired of the Paramount's gaudy gilding. I'm tired of looking up at the Chrysler Building."
Robert Kimball It's the tallest building then.
Studs Terkel "I'm tired of having Texas Guinan greet me. I'm tired of having Grover Whalen meet me." Here again the greater of New York and of course Texas Guinan the great raffish girl
Robert Kimball The great big girl, yes.
Studs Terkel But more is something else listen to Bobby Short and to Ethel Merman. Something else here. His lyrics call for a certain kind of interpretation not concert ties but almost conversational.
Robert Kimball Yes.
Studs Terkel That's Bobby Short it's conversational
Robert Kimball Your mind must be engaged as well as your feelings and you must listen to to the sense and the intelligence of the man is present his his intelligence is present in everything he writes except the occasional song where he feels he's forced to to do something to order. But I think that that "Let's Fly Away" as if, what I'm saying it be nice to fly away some time.
Studs Terkel Bobby Short. I'm thinking we'll listen to Bobby Short before we take a slight break with Robert Kimball who has put together this marvelous book of Cole Porter lyrics, photos, rec- records, correspondence, with a preface very moving preface by Brendan Gill. Holt, Wins-, Rinehart Winston the publishers, Cole recreates about 4 decades there of his life. About that wasn't it. Roughly. Almost half a century. And his college years to a lot of stuff. We return I think the moment cause here again in listening to Bobby Short again the talking again that it's as though there were a lighthearted Brecht. He is to Porter what Lotta Lenya might be to Brecht in a way.
Robert Kimball Oh I think so definately.
Studs Terkel Anyway, that that sort of interpreter.
Robert Kimball He's a perfect in- in- interpreter of Porter's work.
Studs Terkel We return to Robert Kimball in a moment and the book Cole. [pause in recording] Resuming the the the conversation and as well as hearing the music too of Porter himself and of various interpreters of his different songs. Now "Let's Fly Away" the song we heard Bobby Short sing with The New Yorkers.
Studs Terkel Yeah. Now did he ever, these were musicals almost whatever.
Robert Kimball This was a book musical and book about about gangsters in New York City in that. It had an enormous cast. I mean in those days you could you could practically have 10 or 12 big stars in a show and it wouldn't be a strain. Clayton, Jackson, and Durante, Fred Waring's Orchestra, Hope Williams, Francis Williams, Charles King, Mary Cahill, and Pennington late Ann Pennington was in this.
Studs Terkel The dancing girl.
Robert Kimball Yes.
Studs Terkel But also Porter whether he wanted to or not since he wrote about society and times he lightheartedly though he did. By the nature of some of his lyrics and songs became involved with the obstacles. In this case there's a song "Love for Sale".
Robert Kimball Well one of the very greatest songs he ever wrote and a song that he I think felt may have been if not his favorite one of his favorites an exquisite song, a song which was banned as a vocal from the air until very recently because of the the suggestiveness.
Robert Kimball That a girl was a street walker.
Robert Kimball A street walker [was?] a very. But it's a very poetic and exquisite song and here a great work of of art is is dep- people are deprived of the experience of of savoring this fully. Sure there were recordings of the song but so many people never heard them.
Studs Terkel It's anything like Percy Hammond when The New Yorkers was performed "Love for Sale" was sung by a white singer was a white girl. He said this this song may be banned. He's worried about censorship and there was another critic Charles Darnton who was a sort of comestockian figure.
Robert Kimball Exactly.
Studs Terkel He thought "It's a dirty song."
Robert Kimball Oh yes, the this the Cole was very sensitive to this as were the people who produced the shows. And when a critic would say something like this the song would either go out or they'd have to do something to change the way it was presented.
Studs Terkel You know Bob I my was looking for. I left it at home Libby Holman they say who made a
Studs Terkel A classic recording of that song.
Studs Terkel Libby Holman sa- but I haven't got that we have Ella Fitzgerald but which leads to a story which leads to what happened really. They changed it didn't they. I said white girl earlier. They changed to quote unquote "a colored girl" and made it at the Cotton Club in Harlem.
Robert Kimball It was all right then. Somehow it was OK for a colored girl to be a prostitute but not for a white girl that somehow made it all alright in 1930 we were still a little bit confused.
Studs Terkel And a little bit as we talk about 1930 and that was it. So the change was made see he had
Robert Kimball So he changed the locale.
Studs Terkel So pressures were on
Studs Terkel Every now and then as in Hollywood and Louis B. Mayer here to
Robert Kimball To change and he'd he I he never talked much about it but he was loyal to the song and of course it Ella is one of the great
Studs Terkel We hear Ella Fi- it's her Porter album but I think from page 1 0 4 of Bob Kimball's book is a note here was changed from the white girl to the Cotton Club the singer to a quote unquote a "colored girl" seen exterior the Cotton Club that was the very popular black club, Negro club, colored club near the pedestrians walking into Cott-. It was on the stage newsboys selling papers. Morning papers about gang killings, 6 months bride, Admiral Byrd, morning papers, well-known clubman put in pen, Clara Bow seen with several men and [unintelligible] first and socks a mother again. Morning papers and then 2 colored boys doing dancing specially. Colored girl sings "Love for Sale"
Studs Terkel Its right from a script.
Studs Terkel Yeah that's in the script.
Robert Kimball Right from the script of The New Yorkers.
Studs Terkel Ella Fitzgerald. That's "Love for Sale" one of the controversial songs of 1930 of Cole Porter, Ella Fitzgerald sings, talking to Robert Kimball his biographer. You thought of of Porter, yo- Porter writing for books. Writing for something larger his songs being the the core of it the flesh and blood of it you know at the same time every now and then he'd he'd write something that was disconnected,
Robert Kimball He did, particularly in the early years when he was getting started he would write a lot of songs that were just know for friends that sometimes were published but there were few of them "Laziest Gal in Town" which Marlene Dietrich made a permanent part of her repertory and famous song, "Miss Otis Regrets."
Studs Terkel "Miss Otis Regrets." This is one that's often you hear at parties or the bar 2 o'clock in the morning some or a lounge somewhere and than a guy is the future Miss Otis. It's very dramatic its supposed to be. You'd think it's a song that deals with drama and tragedy. A woman kills a guy and she's lynched for it but you're saying the origin is something entirely different.
Robert Kimball Often if you you think about it and you listened to it the it's. This is very very great deal of of tragic solemnity about it here's someone saying Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today madam. And all the formalities are being observed while this horrible incident of a lynching has occurred. Well the the origin of the song was quite different. I think Monty Woolley and Cole Porter were listening to the radio and Monte was they were listening to these these popular tunes of the of the day and cowboy songs and and suddenly Monty you know says, "Cole I bet you can't do a song like that." And he egged him on as he often did and finally Cole said, "Well, I'll do it I'll try it for." So Monte said, "I bet you can't write a hillbilly song that begins with these lines: Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today madam." But Cole wrote this song as a kind of a parody on this Frankie and Johnny type song. The the country-western style and he did it com- so straight that everyone has has taken it as a very serious song when its origins were entirely parody and the very first recording of it [night?] was done by a gal who took it exactly in the spirit that Porter originally intended it was a joke and I think she sang it something like this, "Oh Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today madam. Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today." Well that's the last time I ever heard it like that. And people like Josh White recorded it and Ethel Waters and Maxine Sullivan.
Robert Kimball And it does have today when invariably when it's heard people go, "Ooh, ahh." This tragic moment is going to be brought forward. And in a sense it is that. But there is also this other level to it and it's the level that Porter's joke.
Studs Terkel It's Porter's joke really taken. Do you want to sing some more
Robert Kimball Well I think I'd rather hear someone else do it but I give you a sense of how he had intended it originally. And no one else's other than this one gal who recorded very early ever recorded
Studs Terkel The rest is serious.
Robert Kimball Every recording of it is very serious and and in it's sense quite properly so because even though he started out writing a parody he created an art song a beautiful art song.
Studs Terkel Here it is, Ella Fitzgerald.
Robert Kimball Right.
Studs Terkel I suppose songs are a good example to what happens when someone who is very creative starts something in fun and suddenly as he writes it's no longer funny and changes occur as a guy
Robert Kimball Beauty of any great work of art is that it. It's it's it the ambiguity in many levels many facets. There's a song which is can be interpreted so many ways.
Studs Terkel We're just talking in a cursory fashion really going through the book of Bob Kimball, Cole. Cole Porter's lyrics his life lyrics life music all are already fused and so about how many starting at Yale 1914 15 to a musical for TV back at 19?
Robert Kimball Fifty-eight? Fifty-eight
Studs Terkel Fifty-eight so some 44 years.
Studs Terkel And which is, let's have an experiment here an early one 1928.
Robert Kimball Okay
Studs Terkel "Let's Do It." Of course this is from what, Paris?
Robert Kimball It's from Paris this was probably the song that that established him at the top of his profession. And Irene Bordoni introduced it for
Studs Terkel And we've got to have Billie Holiday.
Robert Kimball Oh I'd be very upset if we didn't have Billie Holiday.
Studs Terkel "Let's Do It." Here's here's it's a raffish kind of song. There's a double entendre.
Robert Kimball Yeah. It's a very adult attitude toward things that people were talking in terms of moon and spoon.
Robert Kimball He
Studs Terkel In contrast to moon and spoon he has all the sophisticated yet marvelous except one little thing here that shocked
Studs Terkel That's why the chinks do it, Japs
Robert Kimball That was the opening line in the original and the early recordings all had it.
Studs Terkel Yeah, they all had
Robert Kimball But they never reissued them they won't reissue them now.
Studs Terkel So that's altered
Robert Kimball That's been altered to birds do it, bees do it.
Studs Terkel Anyone who would probably do that today would be Spiro Agnew [laugh]. But he
Robert Kimball But even Cole I think would do it in favor of changing that.
Studs Terkel Yeah, Cole would change it right. Here then is "Let's Do It." 19 this is 1928.
Robert Kimball Right.
Studs Terkel Way he sings, "Electric eels do it. Though it shocks 'em I know [laughs]."
Robert Kimball Marvelous.
Studs Terkel So we go from we haven't even talked about the variety of musicals later on. Kiss me Kate and Silk Stockings and CanCan and the down
Robert Kimball Course he started out writing about Paris. And then his last shows were set there in a kind of ret- return to the setting of his youth where he had lived so many happy years.
Studs Terkel Yeah. So we go back to Paris too and he
Robert Kimball He wrote so many wonderful wonderful songs about Paris.
Studs Terkel I think the variety of singers to, talking to Bob Kimball his book Cole, variety known singers, musicals singers, nightclubs singers, semi pop singers and Will Holt who so often is taken for granted has his own way of singing so gently seems to me is a marvelous Porter interpreter and from, since you mentioned Paris from CanCan which was one of the later this was
Robert Kimball His last show was 1953.
Studs Terkel Fifty-three, almost 40 years. Yes I love Paris.
Robert Kimball I'd love to hear that.
Studs Terkel I thought I surprised you with that one Bob that Will Holt
Robert Kimball That is just marvelous! Ahh!
Studs Terkel You think of a variety of the Porter songs and one his tribute to Porter
Robert Kimball Beautifully put to- it together and he the way he the way he just intertwined them so so marvelously was just it was great.
Studs Terkel So in a sense what it what
Robert Kimball Beautiful recapitulation of the man's work.
Studs Terkel And of course as your book is too. Robert Kimball.
Studs Terkel My guest we open with the voice of Holt Winston. Holt Rinehart Winston the publishers and it's a beautiful book and we open with the voice of Cole Porter and close to the voice of the artist and this is from a tape you have.
Robert Kimball Yes, this is a got a couple of recordings. These were private recordings never recorded commercially. When he was doing Jubilee with Moss Hart he went into a studio and made recordings for the cast so they could hear how he'd like to have his songs done. And the- there are 2 of them that I think we might have time for. One is "A Picture of Me Without You" and then a song which shared the critical spotlight with "Begin the Beguine," a song called "The Kling-Kling Bird on the Divi-Divi Tree."
Studs Terkel So this, this was what year?
Robert Kimball Nineteen-thirty five
Studs Terkel Thirty-five and yet
Robert Kimball It's called, the voice is Cole Porter and.
Studs Terkel That's a good way I think to say goodbye for now. Hearing the voice of Porter now and couple of songs 35 and yet quite appropriately 72 as well.
Studs Terkel The book is Cole. There's a preface in it, tribute by Brendan Gill. The author of the book that put it all together is Robert Kimball. Cole, Holt Rinehart Winston the publishers and it's quite available and as we get the voice of Porter. Thank you very much.