It’s the great gay songwriter Cole Porter’s 132nd birthday today, and so I offer this: in his era, Porter’s songs were considered “dance music” or worse, “Jazz”, sinful music that suggested sex and stuff.
I still get a kick from anyone objecting to any song lyric, even in our own times when lyrics can get deeply dirty. Porter’s tunes brought on the ire of his era’s Conservative Christians activists who were (and continue to be) always so willing to ruin somebody else’s good time. The Catholic League of Decency objected to Porter’s songs. The league was the brilliant idea of Archbishop of Cincinnati, John T. McNicholas, who in 1934 felt the country needed an organization dedicated to identifying for Catholic audiences, objectionable content in films and radio. Members were asked to pledge to only watch movies or listen to radio programs that did not “offend decency and Christian morality”.
Porter spent his career battling censors, who thought his lyrics were corrupting the morality of America.
The lyrics for My Heart Belongs To Daddy (1938) and Love For Sale (1930) caused the pearl-clutching Bible thumpers to have a stroke. Because of them, both songs were banned from radio play:
If I invite a boy some night
To cook up some hot enchilada
Though Spanish rice is all very nice
My heart belongs to Daddy
So I want to warn you laddie
Though I know that you’re perfectly swell
That my heart belongs to Daddy
Cause my Daddy, he treats it so well
Love for sale
Appetizing young love for sale
Love that’s fresh and still unspoiled
Love that’s only slightly soiled
Love for sale
Who will buy?
Who would like to sample my supply?
Who’s prepared to pay the price
For a trip to paradise?
Love for sale
In 1928, Andrew Volstead, a Republican from Minnesota, gave us the 18th Amendment which prohibited the sale of liquor. Volstead, always a downer at a party, targeted Porter for his lyrics with their references to sex, drugs and booze. It seems nutty today, but this was a time when some Americans attempted to legislate against other citizen’s personal freedom based on their own Christian faith. Can you imagine such a thing?
In Porter’s musical 50 Million Frenchmen (1931), he included the song A Toast To Volstead with the lyrics:
A long life to Volstead
Our senator from heaven sent
Let us give our endorsement
To his act of enforcement
Here’s a long life to Volstead
and I hope he dies of thirst!
My favorite Cole Porter song is I Get A Kick Out Of You from the never produced show Stardust (1931), but it was eventually used in Anything Goes (1934). The original verse goes as follows:
Some get a kick from cocaine
I’m sure that if
I took even one sniff
That would bore me terrifically, too
Yet, I get a kick out of you
But to get by the Hayes Code censors for the 1938 film version, the line was changed to: Some like the perfume in Spain, which makes no sense. Since when has Spain be noted for cologne?
Sinatra recorded both pre-Code and post-Code versions and in 1962 on Sinatra & Swingin’ Brass, Francis Albert changed it to: Some like the bop-type refrain.
In the original production, Ethel Merman, the original Reno Sweeney, would mimic snorting coke, pausing in the middle of “terrify…ic’ly”. In concert recordings, Sinatra sings the word “terrifffffff…ic’ly”.
Despite what you may have heard, I never did cocaine with Merman or Sinatra. I’m left alone fighting vainly the old ennui. I could use a kick.
I Get A Kick Out Of You is used to great dramatic effect in Mel Brook‘s classic, now highly cancelable comedy, Blazing Saddles (1974):