Wonder what Noel Coward and Cole Porter would make of today’s Soundcheck Smackdown… I guess they’d both be too sophisticated and genteel to get involved, especially since the two were friends and occasional collaborators. (Coward wrote new lyrics for Porter’s “Let’s Do It” and often performed that song in his own acts.) I suppose if you really like one, you’ll probably at least admire and respect the other.
But where’s the fun in that?
If you’re looking for a Renaissance man, Noel Coward is your guy. Songs, poems, film scripts, plays, memoirs, a novel – the guy could apparently do it all. But we’re talking today about songwriting. Here are some of Noel Coward’s greatest hits:
Mad About The Boy Blithe Spirit
Mad Dogs and Englishmen Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans
And a bunch of others that I’m sure are good songs but which I just don’t know at all.
Now here are a few of Cole Porter’s hits.
Begin the Beguine Anything Goes
Night And Day I’ve Got You Under My Skin
I Get A Kick Out Of You Just One Of Those Things
You’re The Top Brush Up On Your Shakespeare
You get the idea - in fact, you're probably mentally singing along with each title as it comes up.
Look, both Porter and Coward were before my time; I grew up thinking this was Old People’s Music. And maybe it’s a UK/US thing, but the only reason I even knew of Noel Coward was because of Joe Cocker’s album Mad Dogs and Englishmen (and even then it took years to eventually hear the song that gave that album its title). On the other hand, even as a callow, rock-infected youth, I had the nagging feeling that songs like “Night And Day” and especially “Begin The Beguine” were somehow awesome, in a way I didn’t yet understand.
I still don’t fully understand what makes a song awesome – that’s part of what makes it awesome, isn’t it? But Cole Porter, “you’re the top.”
Which songwriter do you prefer, Coward or Porter? Leave a comment.