Today is the 76th birthday of the singer Lesley Gore. Her songs are icons of the 60s. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.
NAME: Lesley Gore
BIRTH DATE: May 2, 1946
DEATH DATE: February 16, 2015
EDUCATION: Sarah Lawrence College
PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
ORIGINALLY: Lesley Sue Goldstein
Father: Leo Gore
Brother: Michael Gore (composer)
Girlfriend: Lois Sasson (long term relationship, together from about 1983 until her death)
BEST KNOWN FOR: Lesley Gore was a singer-songwriter known for her 1963 smash single “It’s My Party.” Gore also scored hits with “Maybe I Know” and “You Don’t Own Me.”
Singer-songwriter Lesley Gore was born Lesley Sue Goldstein on May 2, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York. Gore grew up in nearby Tenafly, New Jersey. She was only 16 years old when she was discovered by legendary music producer, Quincy Jones. Though several versions of the story of their auspicious meeting exist — one source said that they met at a party, while another claims that Jones saw Gore singing in a hotel — Gore herself remembers that it happened through a string of lucky connections.
As Gore recalled, “The short story and the truth is that I was taking vocal lessons here in New York … One day, instead of my lesson, the piano player and I went into a studio … and we put down some demos … Those demos got to Quincy Jones through an agent … He listened to them, he called me, and we started to record.”
Gore could not have begun her music career with a better team behind her. Her first single, 1963’s “It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To),” was arranged by famed Brill Building songwriter Ellie Greenwich and produced by Quincy Jones. The song resonated with millions of teenage girls across America, becoming an overnight success.
Gore’s sudden fame was a little overwhelming: “We recorded the record on a Saturday afternoon, March 30th, and I heard the record for the first time on April 6th. I was driving to school, literally seven days later. You know, that doesn’t happen anymore, so when it started getting played, we weren’t prepared for it. We didn’t even know it had been released.”
“It’s My Party” soared to the top of the charts and hit No. 1 within weeks. In June 1963, Gore released her first album with Mercury, entitled I’ll Cry If I Want To, reaching No. 24 on the U.S. albums chart.
Though Gore and her family tried to live normally despite her new celebrity, soon, hoards of fans began literally showing up on her front doorstep: “You have to take into account that this was a long time ago, and we didn’t have things like answering machines,” Gore later said. “So when the disc jockey … would say, ‘That was Lesley Gore, the sweetie pie from Tenafly,’ well, people just came to Tenafly. You know, I’d wake up and there were people camped out on the grass.”
Despite all the attention, Gore stayed in school and studied hard while continuing to nurture her music career. Her next single, “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” was a kind of sequel story to “It’s My Party” and reached No. 5 on the charts.
Mostly content to drop out of the spotlight, Gore did not release an album or single between 1982 and 2005. Toward the end of this time, she began hosting episodes of a PBS documentary series called In the Life, focusing on gay and lesbian issues.
She officially came out to the public at large on the show, something she said her work on the show inspired her to do: “I met a lot of young people in the Midwest, and I saw what a difference a show like In the Life can make to their lives in some of these small towns where, you know, there are probably two gay people in the whole damn town.”
In 2005, Gore released a comeback album, Ever Since, which was praised by critics and featured in the soundtracks to several movies and television shows, including CSI and The L Word.
Gore died of lung cancer on February 16, 2015 at the age of 68. She had lived in her native New York City with her partner of over 30 years, Lois Sasson, and their dog.
“She was a wonderful human being — caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian,” Sasson told The Associated Press.
“The best part of what I do now is getting up in front of an audience and doing my show,” she said. “The getting there is what is a horror: the travel to the airport, getting to the gig, the prep time. After 44 years, it doesn’t hold too much glamour for me. But the moment that the emcee says, ‘the one and only Lesley Gore,’ I am so in that moment. It’s like an athlete — you’ve got to be feeling good, and you get around from place to place. It’s the ultimate reality.”
I’ll Cry If I Want To (1963)
Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts (1963)
Boys, Boys, Boys (1964)
Girl Talk (1964)
My Town, My Guy & Me (1965)
Lesley Gore Sings All About Love (1966)
Off and Running (1967) (canceled)
California Nights (1967)
Magic Colors (1967) (canceled)
Someplace Else Now (1972)
Love Me By Name (1975)
The Canvas Can Do Miracles (1982)
Ever Since (2005)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones (3-Oct-1990) as Herself
Ski Party (30-Jun-1965) as Herself
The Girls on the Beach (12-May-1965) as Herself
The T.A.M.I. Show (29-Dec-1964) as Herself