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Remembering Lesley

February 20, 2015

This last Monday went by like any other day. The evening news was full of the same old stuff: terrorists, lying politicians and a terribly cold winter. Almost as a complete afterthought, some channels almost apologetically ran a small fly-by: Singer Lesley Gore had died at age 68.

While young people would hardly recognize the name, most of us who went to school in the 1960s clearly remember Lesley Gore and several of her iconic hit records. She was as much of the fabric of the times as cruising Bob’s Big Boy, calling someone “bitchin” as a compliment and sulking love sick through a history class. She was the very essence of the day.

Lesley Gore was born Lesley Sue Goldstein and lived with her parents in Tenafly, New Jersey when she first burst on the music scene. It’s safe to say that almost everyone, young and old, has heard “It’s My Party.” Most people don’t know that Lesley was just 17 when the record topped the charts in June of 1963. The hit was produced by non other than Quincy Jones. This hit was followed by “It’s Judy’s Turn To Cry” and “She’s A Fool,” Both were natural follow-ups to her first big hit.

Her next record was a departure from her teenage angst songs. “You Don’t Own Me” was a wonderfully melodic, superbly produced ballad that later became a sort of battle anthem for women all over the world. The song, penned by John Madara and David White, hit number two on the charts in 1963 right behind the Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” The chorus demonstrated that the girl could sing!

Later in life, Lesley Gore became a political activist, initially working on Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1968. She often lent her celebrity to political causes and always with class. Through the years she continued to perform and even had some success as a song writer with her brother Michael. They penned “Out Here On My Own” for the 1980 film “Fame.” Her last album, “Ever Since,” was released in 2005.

Lesley Gore was dignified in a time that was not. As an adult, she came out publicly as being a lesbian but did not make a big deal about it. Ignoring the personal press that other lesbians have sought, she lived her life the way she wanted and without fanfare. She was committed to her partner of 30 years, Lois Sasson and had battled cancer for some time. She died Monday, February 16. She left many of us feeling better about ourselves during the 1960s and had a pure voice that fit the times perfectly. Like my 1956 Chevy I will remember and miss Lesley Gore.

Will the world remember Lesley? Will you remember Lesley? Listen to this clip, I believe you will….

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at Amazon.com

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