Lesley Gore Passes on from Lung Cancer

Lesley Gore 1964.jpg

Submitted Courtesy of Rob Durkee
Photo: Lesley Gore 1964

Lesley Gore, who has died of lung cancer, aged 68, once told an interviewer: “There’s nothing more wonderful than standing on stage and shaking your finger and singing ‘Don’t tell me what to do.’” Gore later appeared in films and TV series and was a campaigner for women’s rights.

Legendary producer Quincy Jones discovered Lesley Gore. Around February of 1963, Jones had Gore record some 200 demo tapes and one of the songs was "It's My Party." According to Wikipedia, Lesley told Quincy, "It's not bad. I like it. Let's put it on the 'maybe' pile." Two solo women singers--Barbara Jean English and Helen Shapiro--would record the song but it went nowhere.  Then producer Phil Spector heard it and had the Crystals record it. When Jones found out about it, he rush-released the Gore version to beat the Crystals to the pop chart.

How did Lesley find out about "It's My Party" being released as a single? While driving in her car and hearing it on the radio. She was so shocked to hear herself singing "It's My Party" that she almost drove her car off the road.

Riding the success of "It's My Party," Lesley's followup was sort of an answer record...and "Judy's Turn To Cry" made top 5. So did her next single, "She's A Fool." Then came what would've been a #1 single at almost any other time. However, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles was riding the top of the pop chart as the kickoff song to Beatlemania...and would go on to become the biggest single of #1.

"I Want To Hold Your Hand" thus kept a landmark ballad out of #1 for three weeks, with the third week coming at this time in 1964. Still, Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me" became an anthem for girls and women.

Lesley Gore had 10 top 40 hits from 1963-67. One of them was "Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows," which was the first hit song written by Marvin Hamlisch. Hamlisch also co-wrote another Lesley Gore hit, "California Nights."

Gore also had some acting roles. She portrayed Catwoman's sidekick, Pussycat, on two "Batman" episodes plus sang on the final Donna Reed show. Her movies included "The Girls On The Beach," "The T.A.M.I. Show" and "Ski Party." She and her brother, Michael, co-wrote "Out Here On My Own" for the movie "Fame," which earned them an Oscar nomination.

"She was a wonderful human being--caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian," her long-time friend, Lois Sasson, told the Associated Press.