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In the Spotlight: Lesley Gore

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In the Spotlight: Lesley Gore

Lesley Gore

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Born:

Lesley Sue Goldstein on May 2, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York, NY

Styles:

Instruments:

Vocals

Contributions to music:

  • The most popular solo artist of the "girl group" craze
  • Gave producer Quincy Jones his first pop hit with "It's My Party"
  • Became a major teen idol by portraying the quintessential heartbroken teenage girl
  • One of the first pop singers to record alternate-language versions for the international market
  • Helped put the "Brill Building" songwriters on the map
  • The first female singer of her generation to publicly out herself as a lesbian
  • A pioneer in the field of women in rock
  • A successful songwriter in her own right

Early years:

Transplanted to Tenafly, NJ, not long after her birth in Brooklyn, Lesley took an active interest in music from a very young age; by the time she was 15, her parents realized her budding talent and paid for a vocal coach. When her cousin Allen's band was faced with canceling a local concert at the Prince George Hotel because their lead singer had fallen ill, Lesley stepped in to take over. Turns out the gig was a showcase event for the band, so instead of signing them, Mercury Records head Irving Green instead found a new teen star. Green hooked her up with a jazz producer named Quincy Jones, who was looking to break into pop production: after sifting through a number of demo tapes at her home, Jones and Gore agreed on a number called "It's My Party."

Success:

After cutting the song, Quincy attended a Charles Aznavour concert, where he met producer Phil Spector. Turned out Phil had also heard the demo and planned to cut it with The Crystals; Quincy, who never let on that he'd already cut the song, left the concert and went straight to the studio, where he pressed 100 copies of "It's My Party" to mail to influential DJs. Within two days, the song was on the radio, and soon became a smash hit. Since it pretty much defined girl-group drama of the era, Gore and Jones immediately followed it up with her own answer song, "Judy's Turn to Cry," and then furthered the plot with the Top 10 hits "She's a Fool" and the relatively moody early feminist anthem "You Don't Own Me."

Later years:

Lesley's tenure at the top of the girl-group genre arrived late, however -- the British Invasion arrived as "It's My Party" climbed the charts, although the Beatles themselves were big fans of the singer -- and she also refused to give up her education at Sarah Lawrence College to further her singing career. Lesley diversified as the rock world moved farther away from its teen-dream beginnings, trying cabaret pop for a while, dabbling in TV and movies, and finally moving into songwriting during the '70s, earning a Grammy and Oscar nomination for her song "Out Here on My Own" from the film Fame. She engineered a comeback of sorts in the '90s, as an entire generation rediscovered her sassy early hits, then in the 21st century, publicly came out as a lesbian and became a voice for GLBT awareness and civil rights. She still records and tours today.

Lesley Gore facts and trivia:

  • Billed as the "Sweetie Pie from Tenafly"
  • Was originally offered the chance to cut the Mindbenders' hit "A Groovy Kind of Love," but balked at the title
  • Quincy Jones wanted to find a more suitable pop name for her than "Gore," but the hit came out too soon for him to change it
  • Played "Pussycat," Catwoman's younger sidekick, in a 1967 episode of ABC-TV's Batman series
  • Lesley's struggles with her sexuality inspired a character in the 1996 film Grace of My Heart

Lesley Gore's hit singles and albums:

#1 hits:
Pop:
  • "It's My Party" (1963)
R&B:
  • "It's My Party" (1963)
Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "Judy's Turn to Cry" (1963)
  • "She's a Fool" (1963)
  • "You Don't Own Me" (1964)
R&B:
  • "Judy's Turn to Cry" (1963)
UK:
  • "It's My Party" (1963)
Other notable recordings: "Maybe I Know," "That's the Way Boys Are," "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows," "California Nights," "I Don't Know Anymore," "I Don't Wanna Be a Loser," "Hey Now," "Look of Love," "All My Life," "My Town, My Guy, and Me," "I Won't Love You Anymore (Sorry)," "We Know We're in Love," "Young Love," "Off and Running," "Treat Me Like a Lady," "Summer and Sandy," "Brink of Disaster," "Magic Colors," "Small Talk," "He Gives Me Love (La, La, La)," "I Can't Make It Without You," "I'll Be Standing By," "Take Good Care (Of My Heart)," "98.6-Lazy Day," "Wedding Bell Blues," "Why Doesn't Love Make Me Happy," "Come Softly to Me," "When Yesterday Was Tomorrow," "Back Together," "She Said That," "Immortality," "Sometimes" with The Brothers Johnson

Film appearances: The T.A.M.I. Show (1964), Ski Party (1965), The Girls on the Beach (1965)

TV appearances: "The Donna Reed Show," "Batman," "Murphy Brown," "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," "The Ed Sullivan Show," "The David Frost Show," "The Mike Douglas Show," "The Joey Bishop Show," "American Bandstand," "The Midnight Special," "Shindig!" "Thank Your Lucky Stars," "Hullabaloo," "Where the Action Is," "Hollywood Squares," "Playboy After Dark"

Covered by: Amy Winehouse, Dusty Springfield, Joan Jett, Rasputina, The Shangri-Las, They Might Be Giants, The Ventures, The Chiffons, Bryan Ferry, The Paris Sisters, The Blow Monkeys, Glenn Yarbrough, The Chipmunks

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