Songs we miss from a less vulgar time

The reliably excellent Kevin Kline in the 2004 film De-Lovely brought delighted nostalgia to the viewer, bringing back memories of a more innocent, less vulgar time in songwriting.  Cole Porter songs, written in the late 1920s and '30s, the likes of which we have not heard since, can still be heard being hummed in pockets of the country where genius is still appreciated and where mean times still hold some pleasant and evocative nostalgia for the truly Good Old Days.

Porter's plaintive, longing songs were for the most part romantic, such as "So in Love," "I Concentrate on You," and "Night and Day."  The words were genteel and lovely.  The melodies were hauntingly beautiful and could bring even the strongest men to tears.  The lush orchestration touched something deeply spiritual and elegantly mathematical in one's soul.

But one song stands out for sheer brilliance.  "Let's Do It," a lighthearted song is notable for the purest, smoothest cadence and the clever images it conjures in the listener's mind.  This kind of songwriting takes special inspiration and stunning creativity.

Here, take a listen to the alliterative "Let's Do It":

And that's why birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love
In Spain the best upper sets do it
Lithuanians and Letts do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love
The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it
Not to mention the Finns
Folks in Siam do it--
Think of Siamese twins.
Some Argentines, without means, do it
People say in Boston even beans do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

In a time of what often feels like tsunami-strength cultural vulgarity, listening to the oldies penned by the adroit inventiveness of Cole Porter (and, for that matter, Irving Berlin) gives a lift to the spirit and maybe an earworm that will put a spring in your step. 

Porter's song "Let's Misbehave" could not be published today because of the victim mentality so many women seem to harbor, but it's still a work of genius.  The lively cadence, the music, everything about it screams of Porter's playful mindset.  Listen for yourself.

We're all alone, no chaperone
Can get our number
The world's in slumber
Let's misbehave!!!

There's something wild about you child
That's so contagious
Let's be outrageous
Let's misbehave!!!

Cole Porter's brilliance will never be matched, and his death in 1964 brought to an end such timeless, witty, cosmopolitan songwriting.  Today's composers can't hold a candle to Porter's whimsical genius.  I don't know about you, but music has never been the same after Cole Porter, and we are poorer for it. 

Image: Library of Congress.

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