"Perhaps the greatest songwriter of the century," says the Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music. That's high praise in the century in which a dozen or so great American songwriters redefined the musical comedy form and raised it to the level of enduring art. But Cole Porter, who would have been 100 today, was certainly right up there at the top. After seeing "Can-Can," Irving Berlin wrote him, "anything I can do you can do better."
That was in 1953, and the young lovers who were humming and singing "I Love Paris" and "It's All Right With Me" then were the children or grandchildren of the lovers who hummed and sung "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love" 25 years before. Another generation is doing it today. And another and another will in the next century.
Porter alone among America's musical comedy creators wrote words and music for the medium through four very different decades. His songs had a universality that overcame their time. People who enjoy his music on records and in revivals today don't think of them as period pieces. It is not "the Twenties," "the Thirties," "the Forties," "the Fifties" that we recall, listening to him the Nineties.