February 16, 2015 – Lesley Sue Gore was born Lesley Sue Goldstein on May 2, 1946 in Brooklyn, New York City into a middle-class Jewish family, the daughter of Leo and Ronny Gore.
Her father was the owner of Peter Pan, a children’s swimwear and underwear manufacturer and later became a leading brand licensing agent in the apparel industry. She was raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, a little distance from the George Washington Bridge and was a junior at the Dwight School for Girls in nearby Englewood when “It’s My Party” became a number one hit. The song was eventually nominated for a Grammy Award for rock and roll recording. It sold over one million copies and was certified as a gold record.
“It’s My Party” was followed by many other hits for Gore, including the sequel, “Judy’s Turn to Cry” (US No. 5); “She’s a Fool” (US No. 5); the protofeminist million-selling “You Don’t Own Me”, which held at No. 2 for three weeks behind The Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand”; “That’s the Way Boys Are” (US No. 12); “Maybe I Know” (US No. 14/UK No. 20); “Look of Love” (US No. 27); and the Grammy-nominated “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” (US No. 13), from the 1965 movie, Ski Party. In 1965 she appeared in the beach party film, The Girls on the Beach in which she performed three songs: “Leave Me Alone”, “It’s Gotta Be You”, and “I Don’t Want to Be a Loser”.
Gore was given first shot at recording “A Groovy Kind of Love” by songwriters Carole Bayer and Toni Wine, with a melody from a sonatina by Muzio Clementi, but Shelby Singleton, a producer for Mercury subsidiary Smash Records, refused to let Gore record a song with the word “groovy” in its lyrics. The Mindbenders went on to record it, and it reached No. 2 on the Billboard charts.
Gore recorded composer Marvin Hamlisch’s first hit composition, “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows”, on May 21, 1963 while “It’s My Party” was climbing the charts. Her record producer from 1963 to 1965 was Quincy Jones. Jones’ dentist was Marvin Hamlisch‘s uncle, and Hamlisch asked his uncle to convey several songs to Jones. “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” was released on the LP Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts but did not surface as a single until June 1965. Hamlisch composed three other Gore associated songs: “California Nights”, “That’s the Way the Ball Bounces” and “One by One”.
Gore was one of the featured performers in the T.A.M.I. Show concert film, which was recorded and released in 1964 by American International Pictures, and placed in the National Film Registry in 2006. Gore had one of the longest sets in the film, performing six songs including “It’s My Party”, “You Don’t Own Me”, and “Judy’s Turn to Cry”.
Gore performed on two consecutive episodes of the Batman television series (January 19 and 25, 1967), in which she guest-starred as Pussycat, one of Catwoman’s minions. In the January 19 episode “That Darn Catwoman”, she lip-synched to the Bob Crewe-produced “California Nights”, and in the January 25 episode “Scat! Darn Catwoman” she lip-synched to “Maybe Now”. “California Nights”, which Gore recorded for her 1967 album of the same name, returned her to the upper reaches of the Hot 100. The single peaked at number 16 in March 1967 (14 weeks on the chart). It was her first top 40 hit since “My Town, My Guy and Me” in late 1965 and her first top 20 since “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows”.
Gore also performed the single “We Know We’re in Love” ten months earlier on the final episode of The Donna Reed Show, which aired on March 19, 1966.
After high school, while continuing to make appearances as a singer, Gore attended Sarah Lawrence College, studying British and American English literature. At college, folk music was popularly lauded as ‘chic’ whereas pop music was often derided as ‘uncool. “Had I been tall with blonde hair, had I been Mary Travers, I would have gotten along fine.” She graduated in 1968.
Gore composed songs for the soundtrack of the 1980 film Fame, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for “Out Here on My Own”, written with her brother Michael. Michael won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the theme song of the same film. Gore played concerts and appeared on television throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Gore co-wrote a song, “My Secret Love”, for the 1996 film Grace of My Heart. The film includes a subplot about a young singer named Kelly Porter, who is based in part on Gore and is played by Bridget Fonda. The character, who is a closeted lesbian, performs “My Secret Love” in the film.
In 2005 Gore recorded Ever Since (her first album of new material since Love Me By Name in 1976), with producer/songwriter Blake Morgan, with the label Engine Company Records. The album received favorable reviews from The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Billboard Magazine and other national press. The album also included a revised version of “You Don’t Own Me”, about which the New York Daily News wrote: “In Lesley Gore’s new version of ‘You Don’t Own Me’—cut more than 40 years after its initial recording—she lends a pop classic new life.” Gore commented: “Without the loud backing track, I could wring more meaning from the lyric”. And: “It’s a song that takes on new meaning every time you sing it.
She was 68 years old when she died on 16 February 2015 from lung cancer.