Mr. Porter and Mr. Wyatt

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I get an itch to listen to standards from time to time, especially the songs of Cole Porter. His work has always held a fascination for me because songs like I Get A Kick Out of You, Too Darn Hot and I’m Always True to You in My Fashion always sound so basic on the surface and then when you really listen to them, whoa! How did he get away with lines about man’s favorite sport (not football) being impeded by hot temperatures or expressing his disappointment with champagne and cocaine compared to real love. And this gem of a line from the long list of suitors presented in Fashion: “From Milwaukee Mister Fritz Often dines me at the Ritz. Mister Fritz invented Schlitz and Schlitz must pay.” Fantastic. What was really amazing to me about Cole Porter and his fascinating life was the way he reacted to his terrible injury riding horseback in 1937 that left him in a wheelchair. He endured over 30 surgeries and lived the rest of his life in pain but he continued to write beautiful songs such as You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To. Then I thought about another artist who also turned tragedy into opportunity, Robert Wyatt. His accident falling from a balcony left his body crippled, but it opened his mind to new possibilities of how his music should be composed. My introduction to his solo work was End of An Ear, and I didn’t get what he was trying to do but I was intrigued enough to listen to Dondestan, which is a musical feast of an album especially when listened to over headphones. Rock Bottom is considered a progressive masterpiece and he has proven to be a trailblazer working completely outside of the world of popular music. An example of one of his lyrics from Sea Song off of Rock Bottom caught my eye as being similar to one of Cole Porter’s lines: I like you mostly late at night, you’re quite alright
But I can’t understand the different you in the morning. Wyatt has a wide range of influences and it wouldn’t surprise me if Cole Porter was one of them. In 2010 in a collaboration with two other artists Wyatt released ...For The Ghosts Within an album mixed with popular standards (none written by Porter) which also made me think about the possible connection between Porter’s and Wyatt’s work. Both men faced pain and physical limitations and turned their anguish into art. I’m not sure I’m willing to say Robert Wyatt is the Cole Porter of progressive music, but after a couple more spins of Wyatt’s albums, I might.

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