“You’re The Top” — Cole Porter / Ella Fitzgerald

No Words, No Song
6 min readMay 9, 2020
Photo by Ashley Knedler on Unsplash

“You’re The Top” is pretty much the tale of every relationship I’ve ever had. I’m great at putting people on pedestals.

I’ll grant you that Cole Porter says it a good deal more extravagantly than I’ve ever done, but then he’s a much better wordsmith.

“You’re The Top” is a very clever song, though, from the golden age of songwriting. Cole Porter, along with Irving Berlin and the songwriting team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, are my very favourite songwriters of the 1920s and 30s…and among my very favourite songwriters of all time.

In addition to “You’re The Top”, Cole Porter wrote many other great songs, including “Anything Goes”, “Begin The Beguine”, “I Get A Kick Out Of You”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “Who Wants To Be A Millionare?”.

Although Cole Porter mostly wrote more serious songs, in “You’re The Top” he demonstrates a considerable gift for writing more light-hearted lyrics too.

He might not quite match Lorenz Hart’s skill at writing very funny (and bitingly satirical) lyrics, but to be fair to Cole Porter, he wrote the music as well, whilst Lorenz Hart had Richard Rodgers to look after that element for him.

Looking back, Cole Porter captured a significant historical record of how Americans saw the world back in the 1920s and 30s. So much so that in 2006 “You’re The Top” was added to the Library of Congress as an artistic work of historical significance.

Cole Porter wrote “You’re The Top” for his Broadway musical “Anything Goes”, a hugely popular show back in the mid-1930s and still a regular revival in the West End and on Broadway getting on for 100 years later.

However, it’s not all played for laughs. The original opening verse is often left out of more modern recordings as it isn’t often seen as the best mood-setter for the jaunty tune and light-hearted lyrics which follow.

At words poetic, I’m so pathetic
That I have always found it best
Instead of getting ’em off my chest
To let them rest, unexpressed

In addition to putting people on pedestals, my other big relationship failing is keeping things unexpressed because I always put my partner’s needs ahead of mine. For a song that’s meant to be…

No Words, No Song

Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.