Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cole Porter: So In Love

SONG So In Love
WRITTEN BY Cole Porter
PERFORMED BY Patricia Morison (1948 OBC); Kathryn Grayson, (1953 film); Marin Mazzie (1999 revival); Rachel York (2003 revival). k. d. laing, Red, Hot, and Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter; Patricia Barber, Night Club (2000); many others.
By 1948, Cole Porter's career looked to have passed its peak. The man whose musicals has stood astride the Broadway boards like a colossus in the 1930's had suffered two straight flops and a general critical assessment that his songs had lost their magic. But the critics, as they often are, were wrong: Porter responded by writing Kiss Me, Kate, a play within a play about a theatre company staging a musical version of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. KMK dominated the 1949 Tony Awards, winning the categories of Musical, Score, Book (Musical), and Producers (Musical). The show delivered one show stopper after another with wit, verve, and -- in the case of "So In Love" -- breathtaking heartache.
The song opens almost innocuously, as if Porter wants early on to establish the melody and the vocal performance. Nonetheless, certain phrases and images foreshadow the devastating last verse: "the stars fill the sky," "even without you," and "the night mysterious" establish an atmosphere of a solitary person alone in the dark, clinging to the memory of a past love. Then comes the final verse, among the most penetrating lyrics ever written about vulnerability:
So taunt me and hurt me
Deceive me, desert me
I'm yours til I die
So in love with you am I
When sung with the correct degree of tragic resignation, Porter's words resonate with any human heart that has known unrequited love. The choice of simple one- and two-syllable words both strengthen the lyrics and disguise the sophistication of the songwriting. Note, for example, the internal rhyme of "taunt" and "hurt" in the first line and the alliteration of "deceive" and "desert" in the second, even as "hurt me" and "desert me" rhyme. Moreover, the rest of the musical -- like most of Porter's writing -- is urbane and sophisticated, often using Shakespeare's language as song lyrics. All of this serves to highlight "So In Love," a song devastating in its simplicity and chilling in its emotional nakedness.
My favorite version of "So In Love" remains Patricia Morison's take on the Original Broadway Cast recording. Her soulful mezzo-soprano (at least that's what I think it is) brings just the right touch of longing and despair to the song. But there are many worthy versions, including the one below by Rachel York from the 2003 revival of Kiss Me, Kate. Many other singers have sung "So In Love"; here, I've chosen jazz versions by Patricia Barber and Gwen Hughes. Men have covered the song, but not as successfully to my ears. Porter wrote it for a woman's voice, and perhaps it does express desperate, unrequited love most vividly and compellingly from a woman's perspective.

Strange, dear, but true, dear,

When I'm Close to you dear,

The stars fill the sky,

So in love with you am I.

Even Without you

My arms fold about you.

You know, darling, why,

So in love with you am I.

In love with the night mysterious

The night when you first were there

In love with my joy delirious

When I knew that you could care.

So taunt me and hurt me,

Deceive me, desert me,

I'm yours ‘til I die,

So in love, So in love

So in love with you, my love, am I.


  1. Nice analysis of a fantastic song. There's also some interesting musical stuff going on with the shift from minor to major & back again. Those are good renditions-- I also like the Dinah Washington version found on the Verve Cole Porter Songbooks album.

  2. Such a wonderful LOVE song....wish someone would write that for me (sigh).

  3. I was incredibly fortunate enough to be able to hear a 93 year old Patrica Morison sing this beautiful song at Cole Porter's birth home in Peru, Indiana in June, 2008. She was absolutely amazing!!! Her voice was still very strong and beautiful. She also looked fabulous. I could not help but cry to be able to witness such a poignant performace!

  4. What a treat! I had no idea she was still with us.

    Her rendition is one of the great moments in Broadway musical history. She elicits every possible ounce of doom and fate from the song. It's utterly heartbreaking.

  5. I made a mistake - this actually happened in June 2007. I found a link with some pics of her at the dinner that year at Westleigh Farms, Cole's mother's house in Peru. I was also lucky enough to attend this dinner. It was a "swell party" and so cool to be able to walk through the house and grounds where Cole once walked and worked. Hopefully this link will work.