You’re the Top, Calvin Coolidge!

As an iconic figure of the 1920s, Calvin Coolidge was also immortalized in several popular songs. There probably are many more than the two I’ll single out here, and I’m grateful for any comments and helpful hints.

The stage (and later film) musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with music and lyrics by Jule Styne and Leo Robin, premiered on Broadway on Dec. 8, 1949 and was based on the best-selling novel by Anita Loos. The show, which relates the exploits of two dizzy American flappers and their search to nail down the right (and preferably wealthy) man, introduced Carol Channing to Broadway audiences (as the eponymous blonde Lorelei Lee, with Yvonne Adair playing her brunette friend). In the 1953 movie, Marilyn Monroe played Lorelei, paired with Jane Russell.

While Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend is the musical’s most famous number, the score also includes as a finale a paean to 1920s jazz-age America and its incongruously puritan chief executive, entitled Keeping Cool with Coolidge, that culminates with:

Cal has got the country boomin’,
Down on Wall Street, stocks are zoomin’,
Still he’s so darn unassumin’!
Ha-ha! Hee-hee!
What a relief
You get when the rhythm has gotcha,
Hotcha,
Hail to the chief,
Hail to the chief,
He’s our favorite son
And we hope that he’ll run
In nineteen-twenty-eight,
‘Cause he’s great, great, great!

(Complete lyrics here).

The immortal Cole Porter referred to Calvin Coolidge (or at least to the soundness of Coolidge’s economic policies) in his classic You’re the Top, originally performed in his 1934 musical Anything Goes. The intricately rhymed lyrics, representing a “hot or not” list of 1920s and early 1930s persons and objects, are explained in a 2005 Slate.com article (continued, with Coolidge reference, here), and include:

You’re the top,

you’re an Arrow collar,

You’re the top,

You’re a Coolidge dollar.

Obviously, Porter singled out the dollar under the Coolidge presidency as the epitome of fiscal and financial soundness.

2 thoughts on “You’re the Top, Calvin Coolidge!

  1. You have made my day!
    I had known about “You’re the Top” but the lyrics from “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds” are new & news to me.
    Where else is Coolidge hiding – I wonder.
    I may have asked you this – Have your read John Derbyshire’s “Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream”? It is fiction but I cannot find an error in Mr. Derbyshire’s “take” on Coolidge. In fact, he had a phone conversation with Coolidge’s son, John Coolidge, to confirm some of them.

    • Well, it makes my day to see that I can find something Coolidge-related you hadn’t known! Yes, I have read (and own a copy of) the Derbyshire novel. I wouldn’t know about errors (if you can’t find any, then there probably aren’t any), and I agree, the author has a great sense of the Coolidge essence.

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