MUSIC MONDAY Cole Porter’s song “Night and Day”


Cole Porter’s song “Night and Day”

Cole Porter´s Day and Night by Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers

Night and Day (song)

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Night And Day
Written by Cole Porter
Published 1932

Night and Day” is a popular song by Cole Porter. It was written for the 1932 musical play Gay Divorce. It is perhaps Porter’s most popular contribution to the Great American Songbook and has been recorded by dozens of artists.

Fred Astaire introduced “Night and Day” on stage, and his recording of the song was a #1 hit. He performed it again in the 1934 film version of the show, renamed The Gay Divorcee, and it became one of his signature pieces.

Porter was known to claim, that the Islamic call to worship he heard on a trip to Morocco inspired the song.[1] Another popular legend has it he was inspired by the Moorish architecture of the Alcazar Hotel in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.[2]

The song was so associated with Porter, that when Hollywood first filmed his life story in 1946, the movie was entitled Night and Day.

Notable recordings

“Night and Day” has been recorded many times, notably by Fred Astaire, Eartha Kitt, Bill Evans, Art Tatum, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey, Sondre Lerche, Doris Day, Charlie Parker, Deanna Durbin, Jamie Cullum, Etta James, and U2.

  • Dionne Warwick recorded it for her 1990 album Dionne Warwick Sings Cole Porter.
  • Eartha Kitt, the inscrutable songstress, recorded it in 1991–but the song would not be released until 2000 on the much lauded album Thinking Jazz. While the words in her arrangement remain the same, the opening lines are purred instead of sung.
  • Allan Sherman‘s 1965 album Allan in Wonderland included a version, with Porter’s music and words unchanged, but with punctuation marks included, so it starts like this:
Night and Day;
You are the one;
Only you, beneath the moon, and under the sun ;
  • The rock/jam band Phish has played the song live only once in their more than 20-year career: at a private wedding on August 12, 1989.
  • “Night and Day” also reappeared on the American pop charts in 1967, done by Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66.
  • Victor Borge was better known for verbal punctuation than was Sherman, but in the case of this song, Borge would start playing Beethoven‘s “Moonlight Sonata” op. 27, with its opening left-hand octave, and then would begin playing the three right-hand notes, seguéing into the beginning of “Night and Day”.
  • Little River Band references the song in their song “Reminiscing“. One line of the song states “And the Porter tune/Made us dance across the room”, while in the background the backup singers sing the words “Night and Day”.

Song structure

The construction of “Night and Day” is unusual for a hit song of the 1930s. Most popular tunes then featured 32-bar choruses, divided into four 8-bar sections, usually with an AABA musical structure, the B section representing the bridge.

Porter’s song, on the other hand, has a chorus of 48 bars, divided into 6 sections of 8 bars — ABABCB — with section C representing the bridge.

Harmonic structure

“Night and Day” has unusual chord changes (the underlying harmony).

The tune begins with a pedal (repeated) dominant with a major seventh chord built on the flattened sixth of the key, which then resolves to the dominant seventh in the next bar. If performed in the key of B, the first chord is therefore G major seventh, with an F (the major seventh above the harmonic root) in the melody, before resolving to F7 and eventually B maj7.

This section repeats and is followed by a descending harmonic sequence starting with a -75 (half diminished seventh chord or Ø) built on the augmented fourth of the key, and descending by semitones — with changes in the chord quality— to the supertonic minor seventh, which forms the beginning of a more standard II-V-I progression. In B, this sequence begins with an EØ, followed by an E-7, D-7 and D dim, before resolving onto C-7 (the supertonic minor seventh) and cadencing onto B.

The bridge is also unusual, with an immediate, fleeting and often (depending on the version) unprepared key change up a minor third, before an equally transient and unexpected return to the key centre. In B, the bridge begins with a D major seventh, then moves back to B with a B major seventh chord. This repeats, and is followed by a recapitulation of the second section outlined above.

The vocal verse is also unusual in that most of the melody consists entirely of a single note — the same dominant pedal, that begins the body of the song — with rather inconclusive and unusual harmonies underneath.

In popular culture

In film:

On stage:

  • Gay Divorce (1932, Fred Astaire)
  • Gay Divorce (1933, Fred Astaire, Claire Luce) London revival
  • Cole (1974, 1: instrumental, 2: Kenneth Nelson) London
  • Happy New Year (1980, John McMartin, Michael Scott)
  • A Swell Party (1991, Angela Richards) London revue

On television:

  • Ford Star Jubilee: You’re the Top (1956, George Chakiris, Sally Forrest) CBS.
  • The Muppet Show (1981, The Mummies) Episode 112.
  • Highlander (1995, Tamara Gorski) Canadian TV, Season 3, Episode 11: “Vendetta”.
  • Friends (1997, Frank Sinatra) NBC sitcom Season 4, Episode 4 “The One with the Ballroom Dancing”.
  • Chocolate com Pimenta (2003, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Bregman Orchestra) Brazilian TV.
  • The Cosby Show, season 2, episode 3.

In other media:

  • This song was mentioned in Stephen King‘s short story “1408”.
  • This song featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV on radio JNR – Jazz Nation Radio 108.5
  • This song featured in the video game Bioshock.

See also


  1. ^ NPR 100
  2. ^ “Cleveland Heights’ Alcazar exudes exotic style and grace in any age”. Cleveland Plan Dealer. Retrieved 2010-11-15.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Miles, Barry (1998). The Beatles a Diary: An Intimate Day by Day History. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 9780711963153.
  5. ^ “VGMDB – UPCI-1036 – American in Paris”. Retrieved “25 June 2013”.

External links


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