'Love For Sale', Song Written By Cole Porter in 1930 Still Remains Irresistible & Relatable

'Love For Sale', Song Written By Cole Porter in 1930 Still Remains Irresistible & Relatable

In 1930, Cole Porter wrote this beautiful song about those who could sell it! And even today after all these years, this song remains just as relatable

LylaUpdated: Saturday, February 03, 2024, 11:51 AM IST
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Cole Porter pretty much set out to sell love. We believe that love is not something which you can buy. But in 1930, Cole Porter wrote this beautiful song about those who could sell it! And even today after all these years, this song remains just as relatable. It was recorded in 1956 in the magical voice of Ella Fitzgerald and has been immortalized forever.

She was born in 1917 in Virginia, USA. Her unmarried parents introduced her to Catholicism when she was in the third grade, and her love for music began with the carols, choirs and hymns from an early age. A few years later, Ella lost her mother in a car accident and was sent to an orphanage exclusively built for black American orphans. The suffocating surroundings and the crowded orphanage displeased Ella. Hence she entered a reformatory school in Hudson. The twentieth-century America was a nightmare for blacks though Ella, who found her refuge in music since her childhood, never compromised her values and morals ​​to get out of the difficult situations. Ironically, no one else has been able to sing the song 'Love for Sale' as powerfully as her till the date!

The song portrays a certain picture into the listener’s mind at the very beginning. America in 1935-1940. A dark alley in a city like Detroit or St. Louis. A dark night with a few street lamps weakly flickering. The sirens of police vans can be heard from somewhere in the distance. People hiding in their little homes for their fear of war. War news or a country song playing on the radio and a typical American bar open somewhere at the end of an alley. The building is old. Only the curtains of a shady room with a closed window above the bar are visible. Certain faces sitting at the bar. Alone, tired and conflicted. And that pretty face, the one standing outside the bar. Stopping every passing gentleman who might be interested in buying her ‘love’.. She would start her make-up when the women from the respected household would return home from working all day long.. The shiny leather boots, a mini skirt, blood red lipstick..and the kohl lined eyes that sell love. When she sees this lonely man who is lost in his own thoughts passing by, ignoring her sweet pleading, she says,

‘’Who will buy?
Who would like to sample my supply?
Who's prepared to pay the price
For a trip to paradise?’’

She promises him a trip to heaven for a small sum of money and rushes to him to seal the deal as he keeps on walking away from her. Every person walking by steals a glance at her, be it a man or a woman. You can call her names or buy that ride to heaven she’s offering but you can't ignore her! The lonely man successfully escapes from her blarney and she returns to her usual spot with a sad face. But her face lights up again as she sees another gentleman- probably a poet- entering the alley. The one in a long coat and a hat maybe! He just glances at her and smiles softly. She thinks she has found her prey! She repeats with a ray of hope in her eyes, “Appetizing young love for sale!” He shakes his head with a smile, releasing himself from her delicate half embrace around his neck. Pointing towards the typewriter case in his hand, she says ‘‘you must be a poet! But your poems about love are just a few childish tricks.. Look at me! I've been up close and personal with the types of love you may not even know about.. Do you want the thrill of THAT kind of love? I’ve been through the mill of love! All you have to do is climb these stairs and enter into that room with me!’

Her lips speak the language of love but her eyes are constantly staring at his pocket. The only true love for her is the dollars that come out of that piece of leather.

This song was written in 1930 but if you take a walk through Budhwar Peth in Pune or Kamathipura in Mumbai at night, you can actually experience this situation for real. (Or even under the trees along highways!) You will see these faces who are ready to sell love and how lonely they are from the inside.

Ella is called the ‘First Lady of Song’ for a reason. The vibrations in her voice that reflect the true pains of someone who’s been kicked in the teeth by life are heart-wrenching. Ella herself was chubby and colored, not conventionally beautiful but her voice in ‘Love for sale’ will make you imagine a stereotypical American white girl with a perfect figure. When Ella was banned from singing at the famous Mocambo club because of her color, Marilyn Monroe, who was a big fan of Ella's voice, called the owner of the club and said, "If you let her sing, I'll come to the club every day as long as she does!" There’s a picture of Marilyn and Ella sitting together outside the prison (a story for another time) and ironically, I always picturize Marilyn as the young woman who sells love in this song!

Ella was not a trained singer but all kinds of experiences were at her fingertips and the gifted vibrato in her voice was a boon to her. Her career began with singing on the streets of Harlem and she was able to sing a somber song like 'Love for Sale' and capture the listener's heart even at the pinnacle of her career.

Ella's improvisation of the word 'love' at the end of the song is poignant and truly moving. As the poet walks away, the harlot watches, her vulnerable face shows the shock of a fish escaping the net, and she continues to sing..Lo-h-h-h-ve for Sale.. More about Ella's personal life in the next chapter..adios!

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