The Day Cole Porter Died

Photo by Don Hunstein. Taken in 1958 during the rehearsals for Alladin, his last show.
Photo by Don Hunstein.

Cole Porter died on October 15, 1964 in Santa Monica, CA.

Reportedly, his last words were, “I don’t know how I did it.”

This is his obituary.

The picture I’ve selected isn’t one where he’s smiling. That’s because his last years were pretty bleak, honestly. Not long after this picture was taken, the leg that had given him pain for over 20 years was finally amputated.

And he never wrote another song.

Around the time that this photograph was taken, he was writing what would end up being his very last song called “Wouldn’t it Be Fun?” You can read the lyrics here, if you like. But they might make you cry.

I think it’s the saddest song he ever wrote.

What’s your favorite Cole Porter tune?

Here are mine.

(Next week, I’ll finish up my “Do the Math” series of posts about time management, but today, I wanted to take a moment to remember the death of my fellow Peruvian.)


Mrs. Cole Porter


  1. Tom Harleman says:

    This story comes from my younger brother Scott.

    It was an unusually cold autumn day in 1964, in Peru, Indiana. I was 9 years old and attending 4th grade at Ridgeview Elementary School on the west side of town. I had recently transferred to Ridgeview from Victory Elementary. The playground, on the west side of Ridgeview, was bordered by a fence. On the other side of the fence was a cemetery, which generally saw little activity mid-week. So…on this particular day, during recess, several students took notice when a very small funeral procession entered the cemetery.

    Maybe it was the uniqueness of the event that caused a small group of students to huddle by the fence and watch the simple service. I joined in partly out of curiosity, but mostly to seek relief from the cold.

    Maybe a dozen mourners were at the gravesite, and whole affair didn’t last very long. One teacher chastened us for gathering to gawk at an event that was so obviously very private.

    A few weeks later, I transferred back from Ridgeview to Victory.

    As unusual as it was to have spent a cold recess watching a quiet, simple burial, I probably wouldn’t remember the event at all over 45 years later…except for something startling that happened the following day. As soon as the morning bell rang, our 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Ash, fought back emotion as she told us that she—and the rest of the world—had just learned of the death of somebody important. His death wasn’t reported until AFTER he was buried.

    During recess the day before, we had gathered by the fence, distracted from the bitter cold by macabre curiosity. We had no way of knowing that we were observing the burial of someone whose work had touched the world…composer and songwriter Cole Porter.

  2. Ralph W Schranghamer says:

    I saw a documentary that said he died alone, drunk in an apartment. There is much confusion about this.

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