The iconic figure of the urbane Noël Coward clad in a silk dressing gown holding a cigarette holder in one hand and a cocktail in the other will always be with us - and was an image he actively courted - despite the fact that it belied the true nature of this committed writer and entertainer whose 'louche' disguise hid the hours spent with pen-in-hand and face-to-face with his typewriter. His mind always working on ideas and complexities for dramas, tunes and songs.
You do not produce some 50 plays and musicals and over 400 songs and lyrics from stylish reclining on a chaise longue! Noël Coward knew that the mythology of his persona was just a pleasant and necessary adjunct to his real skill as a craftsman of words and music - it is after all the image that most of us recall when his name is mentioned.
In this part of the site we look at the range and variety of Coward's musical work, its origins, appeal, popularity and place in the history of light music and the musical theatre. Detailed musical discussion is prompted by references to the NCMI where the music is looked at in some greater depth.
At this stage let's start by at looking at the popularity of Coward's songs - he has after all been referred to as the English Cole Porter - a composer with whom he is often compared and who was one of his greatest friends.
Author and composer Stephen Citron describes, in his book Noel & Cole, the reasons for their commonality:
"...for they traveled in the same sets, knew the same elegant citified people, and if you asked either to describe the other in a single word, he would probably have used 'urbane.' In fact that word might have been invented to describe these two personalities who wrote the most intellectual songs of the mid-twentieth century."
But which songs were, and still are, the most popular? Research has revealed the following - more . . .