Though Cole Porter could create a catchy melody like no other, for most listeners what usually lingers about his songs are his inventive rhymes and wordplays. He was especially adept at the “list” song – a tune where the lyrics are comprised mostly of a list of items.
Legend has it that Porter wrote “You’re the Top” while on a cruise down the Rhine. He is said to have polled his fellow passengers to tell him what they considered most important in life and from their assorted answers he fashioned a song. It is a call-and-response arrangement in which two characters attempt to one-up each other with creative compliments. While today some of these superlatives don’t seem all that complimentary, the 1920’s and 30’s was a different time.
“You’re the top!
You’re the Coliseum
You’re the top!
You’re the Louvre Museum
You’re a melody from a symphony by Strauss”
You’re a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare’s sonnet,
You’re Mickey Mouse”
“You’re the Top” was first performed in the Broadway show “Anything Goes” (1934) along with still-popular tunes such as “I Get a Kick Out of You”. In this YouTube version, Anita O’Day alters some of the lyrics to pay tribute to several of her favorite, fellow jazz musicians; you will hear references to Sarah Vaughn, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Art Tatum, Lena Horne and Benny Goodman among others.