I consider this a public service. For year, I have wanted to find “Solomon” by Cole Porter somewhere on the Internet. I had this song on a much-loved Cole Porter album when I was a kid and I remembered “Solomon” distinctly, mostly because of the catchy way the singer (who turns out to be Gertrude Lawrence*) sashays through the word “Sooooooooo-lo-mon.”

As a kid, I remember standing in my bedroom trying to sing along with this song, but not knowing what any of the things in the song were. I understood the basic plot, however. Solomon has a thousand wives like in the Bible, but they cheat on him with gigolos, so he brutally murders them. In retrospect, this seems very odd. Thus as an adult, I wanted to hear this song again.

However, because Cole Porter went on to write many superior songs later in his career, “Solomon” seems almost forgotten, at least on the Internet. The closest thing I could find was the other song by Gertrude Lawrence that was on the record, The Physician, about a woman lamenting how a doctor loves all her body parts but not her. (Wink wink.)

I found out that “Solomon” was from a forgotten musical called Nymph Errant, which ran once in 1933. I tried to find a free Mp3 of the song, then a YouTube video of it, and then the CD version of the record I had as a child, which seems to be out of print. Finally, I found a CD with the song and I purchased the Mp3 for $.89.

At an adult listen, I was slightly turned off by how much Gertrude Lawrence’s voice strains at the end. She gets somewhat shrill. I also found that I *still* didn’t know what some of the vocabulary words are. I didn’t know what a Hispano was–it’s a car–or what a dais is–I think it’s a throne?–so I looked up the lyrics. I was impressed. First of all, I love when people mix old and new together. Using what would have been cutting edge things like a microphone or a term like “jazzing” with an ancient concept of Solomon and his wives seems fresh and strange even today, 76 years later. I also liked the rhyming. Today, we have “My Humps” with Fergie rhyming “my humps” with “my lumps” over and over like a drugged-out eighth grader. Cole Porter slant-rhymes “Hispano” and “piano” with “kimono” all within two lines of the song. Wow I wish we were as smart today as we were back then.

Of course, we were also more racist back then, and there’s this whole issue in the song with the eunuch Rastas Brown who Solomon tells him to call “massa,” evoking an image of a castrated African American slave. It doesn’t sound like “massa” in the song. It sounds like “mother.” However, all the lyrics of the song that I have read, including The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter edited by Robert Kimball, lists “massa.” And then there’s the fact that the punishment for adultery is murdering your wives brutally, because hey, you’re king, right? Still, I can totally see why I loved this song as a kid. Gigolos? Jigsaw puzzles? Mass murder of a thousand people? Yes.

Anyway, take a listen to “Solomon” if you are curious. And sing along:

by Cole Porter

Solomon had a thousand wives
And being mighty good he wanted all of them
To lead contented lives.
So he bought each Mama a platinum piano
A gold-lined kimono and a diamond-studded Hispano.
Solomon had a thousand wives

In spite of all he gave them, the wives of Solomon
Found their papa slow.
And for her jazzing
Every wife of Solomon
Took on a gigolo. [Ed. note: I love this word]
And while they pampered those high-brow heroes
By bunching them and lunching them and supping them at Ciro’s,
Solomon had no place to go

Soon Solomon began to miss those baby dolls of his
And got his favorite eunuch, Rastas Brown.
And when he heard the lowdown on those molls of his
He said, “Go out and hunt the whole darn town
Until you’ve found your massa a thousand knives.
I’m tired of doing the treating for a thousand cheating wives.
Solomon is going to cut the whole crop down.”

So Solomon summoned his thousand wives
Then Solomon pulled out a thousand knives
And he slashed their gizzards and gashed their muzzles
‘Til all that was left of them was a lot of jigsaw puzzles.
Then slowly mounting his royal dais,
He took out his microphone and said,
“All I got to say, is
Solomon no longer has a thousand wives.”

* ETA: I have since learned that it is Elisabeth Welch singing here, not Gertrude Lawrence.

2 thoughts on “Solomon by Cole Porter

  1. Colin Ward

    When Adelaide Hall was bombed out of her Club in the war, my father and mother took her in for a time until she could find somewhere to live. She was my nanny for a time and performed the opening ceremony for my parents’ shop in Station Road, Horley. Dad put up a sign which said “Now Open” The next day a landmine fell at the end of Station Road and blew in every alternate window (Reflected wave damage) Sign now reads “We are now WIDE OPEN”
    In 1982 Adelaide was performing at The Kings Head Islington and I bought tickets for myself and Dad for his 82nd birthday. She sang Solomon for Dad that night. During the Intro she said Cole had written the song for her, NOT for Elizabeth Welch -she winked at the audience to convey???????
    Regards………………..Colin Ward

  2. Colin Ward

    Further………….I am writing a book about my father. If you would like, I could send you the chapter that is about Adelaide Hall if you would find it interesting


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