If she had been called Lesley Gore today she would have been the singer in a blood curdling death metal band, as it happens she was born in the forties as Lesley Sue Goldstein – how they came upon Gore as an alternative to the family name remains a mystery but like the other famous Gores, Tipper and Al, it was just a name – not a description.
At the age of 16 she had a No.1 US hit with the teen heartbreaker, It’s My Party, produced by Quincy Jones no less – and she followed it up with a continuation of the story in Judy’s Turn To Cry reaching No.5. Her next single, She’s A Fool, also went to No.5 and she ended 1963 with her fourth Top Ten single, You Don’t Own Me, reaching No.2 on the US charts.
It’s My Party was Quincy Jones first No.1 single and he continued to work with her as she scored seven Top Twenty US Singles between 1963 and 1965. In 1967 she appeared in two episodes of Batman as Pussycat, one of Catwoman’s entourage. As Gore and her audience grew up she studied English and American literature and became a songwriter in her own right. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Out Here On My Own from the movie Fame, a song she wrote with her brother.
Coming out as gay, she worked as an activist for gay rights and although she is most remembered for that teen hit and a clean cut image she was also cited as being a champion of feminism and fighting for women in the male orientated music business. For those that looked a little deeper into her work she is not just remembered for that timeless classic It’s My Party. It was You Don’t Own Me that revealed her to be a voice of protest in a sexist world where nobody around her listened (despite her success with the public) simply because she was a girl. You Don’t Own Me was also recorded by Dusty Springfield on her album A Girl Called Dusty released in 1964. Joan Jett and Amy Winehouse also did their own versions of the song.
It seems incredible that this innocent young American kid grew up and now at the age of 68 has died of lung cancer. RIP Lesley Gore, condolences to your friends and family and partner of 33 years Lois Sasson.
Go here for her obituary in the Telegraph: