Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Miss Otis Regrets - Cole Porter

From the genius, Cole Porter, this song has joined the ranks of great ones that have buried themselves in my heart since I started listening to it again (and again) a few months ago.
As with all examples from the Great American Songbook it’s been covered many times but the version I’ve grown to love is by Ella.
The formality of the narrative content and brutality of the story’s conclusion (and imagery) create a stunning contrast as well as a master class in lyrical storytelling.
Miss Otis regrets, madam, that despite inhabiting the high society world of middle-class American manners she was driven to homicidal vengeance for being wronged by a man. She strayed down Lover’s Lane but ‘woke up and found that her dream of love was gone’.
Porter beautifully juxtaposes a symbol of opulence with the hard mechanism of death in the lines: ‘And from under her velvet gown/She drew a gun and shot her love down’.
The final great lines elicit our sympathy, even for a killer, how could they not? Dragged from jail by the mob Miss Otis is taken to the ‘old willow across the way’. This is another masterstroke which, consciously or not, exploits our fondness for things like that good old willow tree, here turned into a tool for violent ‘justice’. ‘And the moment before she died/She lifted up her lovely head and cried’.
Magic from the pen of Mr Porter.

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