Looking back over some of the blog notes I’ve posted since the beginning of last year it struck me that I did not attach a vocal version of this wonderful song to my original post. Porter’s songs are meant to be sung as well as played for their charm lies in the interplay of the lyrics and the music. So to make up for that oversight I’m reposting an amended version of the original note accompanied by a scintillating rendition of my favorite Cole Porter tune crooned by the legendary Tony Bennett.
Written for the 1932 musical play “Gay Divorce”, “Night & Day” is perhaps Porter’s most popular contribution to the Great American Songbook. He wrote the song expressly for Fred Astaire, who when he first heard it doubted whether he could sing it as he was worried that his voice would crack. Despite his misgivings, Astaire recorded the song and even performed it again in the 1934 film version of the show (“The Gay Divorcee”). It became a #1 hit and one of his signature pieces.
There are several accounts of how Porter became inspired to compose “Night & Day” 1) he claimed he had been inspired by a muezzin’s call to prayer that he had heard on a visit to Morocco 2) at a lunch party in Newport, where the guests sat under an awning on the porch in the rain, his hostess announced she must have the irritating noise of a broken roof gutter fixed at once as the “drip, drip, drip was driving her mad”. The story goes that Porter leapt up exclaiming that those words would work perfectly to complete the lyrics to a song he had been struggling with.
Listen to the many repeated notes in the introduction as Porter creates a carefully controlled monotony in the melody, almost a hypnotic spell, an endlessness as implied in the title. This must be one of the most compelling love songs ever written.
“Like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom When the jungle shadows fall, Like tick tick tock of the stately clock As it stand against the wall, Like the drip drip of the raindrops When the sum’r show’r is through”