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Coward or Porter

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Our weekly Soundcheck Smackdown pits Noël Coward against Cole Porter -- two titans of 20th-century popular music go head-to-head in our weekly debate. Guests include Barry Day, editor of two books of Coward’s writing, and singer and actress Andrea Marcovicci.

Tell us: Anything goes for Cole? Or is Noël your hero? Leave a comment below.


Barry Day and Andrea Marcovicci

Comments [19]

Laurie from Forest Hills

Cole Porter is my absolute favorite song composer--for the passions displayed in his music, the sophistication, the deep feelings--his music has been emblematic of certain times of my life. And to hear Sinatra or Fitzgerald sing it--the best!

Dec. 07 2010 10:14 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Lovely music from the cast. Thanks!

Dec. 07 2010 02:49 PM
jeff from hoboken

I went to a Marvelous party sounds like Monty Python meets Eyes Wide shut!

Dec. 07 2010 02:49 PM
James from CT

Whilst Noel was the true rennaisance man who rightly received considerable acclaim from his vast array of skills he was lacking Cole Porter's potent weapon that insured him world domination... i.e. Nelson Riddle! It was Riddle's arrangements that catapulted these already phenomenal songs to an entirely new level of universal appeal that transcends generations and geography.

Dec. 07 2010 02:39 PM
tom from uws

From Coward's lyrics to Porter's song:

Ferrante and Teicher don't do it, they're merely good friends.
Doris Day never does it, she thinks it offends.

The Royal Ballet to a man do it. Tinker Bell and Peter Pan do it.

Poles do it, Greeks do it, nice young men who sell antiques do it.
Let's do it, let's fall in love.

Dec. 07 2010 02:35 PM
Margaret carne from jersey city, nj

Can't choose between them - both favorites and incomparable. Few Americans can truly appeciate Coward.

Dec. 07 2010 02:34 PM
tom from uws

BTW - Coward and Porter surely were fans of one another. That said, I don't know of any direct riffs on Coward by Porter, but Porter's "Let's Do It" has a brilliant lyric Coward wrote to perform himself.

Dec. 07 2010 02:32 PM
Michael Rosen from New Jersey

Cole Porter -the clear winner always for outstanding lyrics. Favorite Porter novelty song....below.

THE TALE OF THE OYSTER (Fifty Million Frenchmen, 1929)

Down by the sea lived a lonesome oyster,
Ev'ry day getting sadder and moister.
He found his home life awf'lly wet,
And longed to travel with the upper set.
Poor little oyster.
Fate was kind to that oyster we know,
When one day the chef from the Park Casino
Saw that oyster lying there,
And said "I'll put you on my bill of fare."
Lucky little oyster.
See him on his silver platter,
Watching the queens of fashion chatter.
Hearing the wives of millionaires
Discuss their marriages and their love affairs.
Thrilled little oyster.
See that bivalve social climber
Feeding the rich Mrs. Hoggenheimer,
Think of his joy as he gaily glides
Down to the middle of her gilded insides.
Proud little oyster.
After lunch Mrs. H. complains,
And says to her hostess, "I've got such pains.
I came to town on my yacht today,
But I think I'd better hurray back to Oyster Bay."
Scared little oyster.
Off they go thru the troubled tide,
The yacht rolling madly from side to side.
They're tossed about 'til that fine young oyster
Finds that it's time he should quit his cloister,
Up comes the oyster.
Back once more where he started from,
He murmured, "I haven't a single qualm,
For I've had a taste of society,
And society has had a taste of me."
Wise little oyster.

Dec. 07 2010 02:31 PM
Scott formerly of Park Slope

On balance, Cole over Noel. Cole Porter worked very hard and failed frequently before mastering his craft. Noel Coward was perhaps more facile. However, John, if you can squeeze it in, please play "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" as performed by Danny Kaye... rotflmao funny!

Dec. 07 2010 02:30 PM
Ian from UWS

I love both. I think Porter's songs are more accessible and in that regard has the upper hand. But I MUST say, 'Brief Encounter' is one of the best theater moments I've had in a LONG time. I've seen it three times. The cast really makes Coward songs soar!

Dec. 07 2010 02:30 PM

A man needn't have a relationship with a woman to write romantically, as stated by your guests

Dec. 07 2010 02:27 PM
a g from n j

they seemed polar opposite in personality.
how much do you think this affects their artistry?

Dec. 07 2010 02:25 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Your guests might get a kick out of the audio book of Michael Caine's new memoir, "The Elephant to Hollywood," in which Mr Caine does an hilariously spot on imitation of his good friend Mr. Coward.

My father, the very model of a macho working class Massachusetts-Irish kid and one-time Marine and career Air Force sergeant, had several of Noel Coward's records, which he enjoyed immensely. He was also a big fan of Gertrude Lawrence. Life is often too silly for words.

Dec. 07 2010 02:20 PM
kendra daniel from nj

bobby short sang coward to perfection!!

Dec. 07 2010 02:19 PM
a g from n j

inanity,the FED, and tuesday smackdowns, make the world go 'round..........

Dec. 07 2010 02:17 PM
tom from uws

Hands down - just look at the catalog - and Porter wins as songwriter.

As playwright, actor, performer and filmmaker, Coward wins - by default.

What a silly debate.
BTW - Sinatra recorded I'll Follow My Secret Heart, an exquisite Coward ballad.

Dec. 07 2010 02:15 PM
oil monkey

Is there any more inane show on WNYC than Soundcheck (the inanity taken to new levels each time there is a 'smackdown')?

Dec. 07 2010 02:12 PM
a g from n j

this being a "high culture" smackdown,are felt gloves, the only weapon of choice?

Dec. 07 2010 02:10 PM
Nick from UWS

Apples and oranges when it comes down to it. I really don't know what the two men have to do with each other, other than they were both gay.

Coward was basically a British music hall performer and playwright who wrote songs for himself. Porter was an American songwriter of enormous skill both musically and lyrically. He didn't perform his own songs unless demonstrating them for singers and actors.

I vote for Porter as having by far the more far-reaching talent, as measured by the unmeasurable number of performances of his songs in all media. Coward has not come close to this universality.

Dec. 07 2010 02:06 PM

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