Love, Linda: The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter
“Just because a love between two people is difficult to define, that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.” So begins Stevie Holland’s clever homage to Cole Porter as refracted through the prism of his wife, Linda. In the stage version of Love, Linda, Holland is provided plenty of time to weave the story of the Porters’ unorthodox yet richly fulfilling 34-year relationship around nearly two-dozen Porter tunes, familiar and obscure. On disc, space limitations leave little room for connective narrative tissue. Still, Holland’s keen perspective shines brightly through.
The songs, appropriately delivered with cultured pearl elegance, serve triple purpose. Some, like “Ours,” “Ridin’ High” and “The Scampi,” elucidate the Porters’ globetrotting, high-society whirl; others hint at the peculiarities of the Porter union. “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” with its reflection on love’s seemingly unsolvable mysteries, is tailored to their unconventional pairing. “Let’s Be Buddies” reinforces how their compatibility was stronger as friends than as lovers. “Let’s Misbehave” slyly nods to Cole’s straying predilections, as do “Love for Sale” and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”
But most profound are the soul-deep love songs, beginning with the “strange, dear, but true, dear” passion of “So in Love” and ending with the little-known but ideally summative “When a Woman’s in Love,” which reinforce the grandly fulfilling uniqueness of a marriage that broke all the rules yet was held firmly together by shared wit, camaraderie, admiration and respect.