A perfect example of a song that had to change with the times is Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” which began life as a commentary on scandalous Depression-era happenings. Unfortunately it was specific to the time period so it became meaningless to later generations, creating the need for the lyrics that are more familiar to modern listeners. But even in its simplified form, the song carries a message that is still meaningful.
Like many songs of the era, “Anything Goes” was written for the stage, specifically for Porter’s musical with the same title that debuted in 1934. The original lyrics were chock-full of references to some of the gossip of the era, taking potshots at everything from shenanigans by Hollywood insiders to scandalous behavior by high society boneheads.
The Broadway show would be revived from time to time in later years but its first byproduct was a 1936 Bing Crosby movie that also starred Ethel Merman, who performed a truncated version of the song in the film. Both stars followed up on the musical during the 1950s but in different ways. Merman sang the song when she teamed up with Frank Sinatra* to do the musical as a TV special. A couple of years later Crosby remade the original movie. It differed from the 1936 film in a lot of ways but had some similarities, and Mitzi Gaynor sang the title song. By that time, the modern lyrics had become the accepted way to perform the song, and it has become a standard.
*Although Sinatra let Merman handle the song in the TV show, he did make his own record of it a little later and it’s one of the best interpretations around.