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Cole Porter

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  159 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
In his life and in his music, Cole Porter was "the top"—the pinnacle of wit, sophistication, and success. His songs—"I Get a Kick Out of You," "Anything Goes," and hundreds more—were instant pop hits, and their musical and emotional depths have made them lasting standards.

William McBrien has captured the creator of these songs, whose life was not merely one of wealth and p
Paperback, 480 pages
Published December 5th 2000 by Vintage (first published October 6th 1998)
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La Tonya  Jordan
Jul 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to La Tonya by: Palladium Bookies
Shelves: good-read
This book had a slow start for the first 100 pages. The book starts to get interesting when Cole graduates from Yale and starts his musical career. The life of Cole Porter was complex and high society. The lifestyle of the fabulous wealthy in the era of the early 1900's was that of servants, travel, luxuries, automobiles, on-going parties, etc. that this country may never see again. Cole Porter was raised in this lifestyle; therefore, finding defeat in his choice career in the beginning was humb ...more
Thomas Armstrong
Dec 18, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this biography of Cole Porter. It was a fun read, vicariously living his sophisticated, urbane, cosmopolitan life along with all his eminent and eccentric friends. Call me naive, but I didn't know he was homosexual and that his marriage was a non-sexual union. Porter seemed to enjoy his gay lifestyle, but it must have been very trying to have to separate that life from his public and marriage life. I picked up the book because I've enjoyed his songs, especially Begin the Beguine (mysti ...more
I'm of two minds about this biography. On the one hand, it's clearly well-researched and tries to offer a well-rounded portrait of Porter, with all due respect for his musical and literary genius and sympathy for his personal issues (though less for his wife Linda, whom I felt didn't get enough space).

On the other hand, it's simply poorly written. The narrative flow is choppy and interspersed with irrelevant factoids. The prose is stilted and excessively formal, with formulations like "[t]hey qu
Feb 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The very best bio of the great songwriter, and the only one who gets all the boyfriends mentioned.

A must read. Why? Well as Cole would say "You don't sing enough, you don't dance enough, you don't drink the great wines of France enough. You're not wild enough, you're not gay enough, you don't let me lead you astray enough."
Jun 17, 2010 rated it liked it
I can't put my finger on what's lacking from this biography. The language isn't particularly noteworthy but it's good enough. Maybe it's Cole Porter himself: a very talented rich guy who wrote some of the most popular and memorable songs in the English language -- a great entertainer, which is an extremely valuable thing, but mostly he devoted himself to enjoying himself, partying and living the high life, a number of doomed love affairs, a snob who was also very generous to his friends, a homos ...more
Cathy Day
If you love Cole Porter, read this book alongside George Eells THE LIFE THAT LATE HE LED. McBrien's biography is incredibly thorough; he tracked down many, many people who knew Cole. Eells, however, was friends with Cole, and it shows in his biography, published shortly after Cole's death. The problem, of course, is that Eells never mentions that his subject was gay. Twenty years later, McBrien's book fills in that gap (and a few others) in wonderfully readable ways.
Dec 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amaaaaaazing
Very helpful for someone who wanted to know the true Cole - not just the man of De-Lovely. Learned much about his life both with his male lovers and his wife, Linda, as well as the success of his music, his relationships with his colleagues, and above all, the incessant and endearing dandyism that went along with his clever personality.

Truly engaging.
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Got this book to answer some questions about Porter and his music. I have always loved his music. My questions were answered. Not sure I like knowing many of his beautiful love songs were written for young soldiers during WWII he was in love with. He was very brave facing the loss of his leg and living with the agony of a dreadful riding accident. The book seems well researched and full of respect for Mr Porter.
My only thought was if Mr Porter were alive today he might be in rehab with Kevin Sp
Michael Armijo
Nov 02, 2010 rated it liked it
This is simply a ride down memory lane.

I was more curious about Cole Porter's life because I, too, am in love with the lyrics and music he created. Songs like ANYTHING GOES, YOU'RE THE TOP, I LOVE PARIS to name a few are classics to no end. I like a book that takes me back in time, but I'd prefer a good story. I was a bit disappointed how the book became too informational with naming of who's who and who did what vs. a classic story. There are definitely stories behind the stories that would be
Aug 14, 2008 rated it liked it
This is an interesting biography of Cole Porter; arguably the definitive one: well-researched and authoritative. While McBrien does a good job of detailing Porter's lifestyle and explaining his loving but sexless marriage, you learn little about the approach Porter took to songwriting or about his historical importance as a composer.
May 31, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very dry look at Cole Porter's life & work.
Jordan Kinsey
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
This biography is not very good, primarily because McBrien is just not a very good storyteller. Lots of things out of order chronologically, emphases on lesser details while barely touching on more important aspects, overly pretentious language, etc.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Chatty, somewhat gossipy account of Porter's life.
andrew rabatin
A very thorough book on Cole. The book is clearly well researched. I did enjoy the sections on his relationships with his wife and other men and the complex private life he had to live during that period of time. The book name drops on all, and I mean all, the people Cole knew during his life. I don't think you will find a more comprehensive book on Cole Porter. I did find the book somewhat dry and stilted. In the final analysis it comes off as a great bit of research, but a very slow read.
Phil Thoden
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quite a life story of emergence from small-town Peru, Indiana to the global entertainment stage. Well-researched and filled with many interesting life details. Highly recommended for people with an interest in classic Hollywood films and their musical accompaniment.
Jill Hutchinson
I'm not sure why I didn't particularly like this book. I am interested in Porter and his music......wonderful songs which have become a part of American popular music history and are still enjoyed today. But, the book did not keep my attention.....was it the writing style, the overuse of lyrics in the text, the not-very likable persona of the subject?.....I don't know but I was disappointed. There was an overabundance of people in Porter's life and they are all here....some you know, some you do ...more
Aug 27, 2012 rated it liked it
On the plus side, any biography of one of America's finest songwriters has to be worth a read and McBrien has the advantage of being able to reveal what was previously hidden about Porter's life, i.e. his pool parties and numerous homosexual liaisons.

On the minus side, McBrien's style is truly NOT a thing of beauty. Using absurd archaisms like 'cicerone', he writes like an elderly opera queen on a spree.
Michael Pearce
Mar 26, 2016 rated it liked it
I love his music and he was certainly an interesting character. This book, however, was poorly written and difficult to read. There were so many details that were simply not interesting and about minor characters - so unnecessary. A tighter piece of writing would have made this a much more enjoyable read.
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
He is my favorite musical composer. I read this book to learn more about his life and work. I thought this was a good biography of a man who led a very complicated life, but at the same time created AWESOME musical theatre.
Jun 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting book though waay too much name dropping of those in the elite circles Porter frequented.
Oct 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
very slow, very honest, you have to really be a Cole Porter fan to dig through this one
Sarah Alawami
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
An exhaustive biography of the famous composer is what this is. Iv'e always wanted to know more about him, and you get to know a lot more in this worth wile read.
Jun 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent in-depth narrative of his life.
Shawn Thrasher
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
I finished this one, but I'm not sure why. Cole Porter's life was interesting; I think the hints of gay sex and orgies kept me reading. The author is an awful name dropper.
Oct 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't read the whole thing, just scanned it.
I enjoyed learning more about Cole Porter and his life, music, and lyrics. I felt that the book moved a little slow sometimes, but overall if you're a fan of Porter's work, an interesting read.
Jesse Bornemann
Aug 06, 2011 marked it as to-read
i heart cole
rated it liked it
Aug 14, 2012
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Mar 25, 2018
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