Lesley Gore was perhaps best known for her hit single “It’s My Party,” but was also known as a proto-feminist singer, and later in life became notable as an openly lesbian pop legend. She passed away today at age 68 due to lung cancer.
Gore was only sixteen years old when she recorded “It’s My Party,” the first of several hits for her that included that song’s sequel “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” the very upbeat “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” and the feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me.” She went on to have a guest spot as Catwoman’s singing henchwoman Pussycat on the 1960s Batman TV show and co-write the Academy Award nominated song “Out Here On My Own” from Fame. In her career she had four top-five hits, two Grammy nominations and one Academy Award nomination. She also earned a degree in English and American Literature from Sarah Lawrence College.
Over the years “It’s My Party” has become an iconic song that’s played all over the world and has been covered and sampled by many artists over the years, including Amy Winehouse and Icona Pop. The chorus has even found its way into the American lexicon.
In 2004, Gore started hosting the PBS program In the Life, which focused on LGBT issues, and then stated in a 2005 interview that she was a lesbian. She continued to advocate for LGBT and feminist issues for the rest of her life. Her death was first reported by her partner of 33 years, Lois Sasson. Sasson, a jewelry designer, said that Gore “was a wonderful human being — caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian.”
Her song “You Don’t Own Me” has been used over the years to empower women all around the world. It has a strong, simple message: each woman is her own person and no one controls or owns her but her herself. Recently it was given new life in a PSA encouraging women to vote that included female celebrities like Tavi Gevinson, Natasha Lyonne, Miranda July, Carrie Brownstein, Sia, Tracee Ellis Ross and many more. Gore ended the video with the message “I recorded ‘You Don’t Own Me’ in 1964. It’s hard for me to believe, but we’re still fighting for the same things we were then. Yes ladies, we’ve got to come together. Get out there and vote and protect our bodies. They’re ours.”
Lesley Gore was a great pop singer, a powerful feminist, a devoted partner and an inspiration to many. She will be greatly missed.
My mom had the opportunity to sing with Lesley when she was in the Seattle Women’s Chorus. She said that Lesley was a true professional who treated the singers in the chorus like equals. I’m sad to hear of her death.
I don’t know her other than her music, but she did seem like such a generous, nice, genuine human being. How cool that your mom had the opportunity to know her.
oh wow, that’s super cool that your mom got to do that! That must have been really incredible.
It was! The concert was an absolute joy to watch, too.
Lesley Gore was one of my favorite pop singers. Writing this article made me cry. Also, I one time I had a dream where I was in an episode of Glee where Santana and I went to Quinn’s wedding and we were both upset because we had both slept with her and now she was marrying someone else so we sang a duet of “It’s My Party” (even though it was really Quinn’s party I guess) and then Santana and I hooked up.
I didn’t think that was appropriate to write about in this article, though.
Probably not appropriate, but I’d read that fanfic.
Mey — Thank you so much for writing this article…I’m upset that I hadn’t really heard of Lesley until today, especially since I love the 1960’s music! She’s definitely being added to my list of favourite singers.
Thank you for sharing her story with us…RIP Lesley Gore xx
*love 1960’s music
not to mention the most important contribution to film in recent history:
I heard on NPR that she had died but they neglected to mention anything beyond “It’s my party. Thank you for writing this!
You’re welcome! I’m glad I could spread some other news about her life and accomplishments!