New York (AFP) – Lesley Gore, who became a breakthrough teen star with her 1963 hit “It’s My Party” and emerged as an early feminist in pop music, has died at 68.
Her death was announced by her longtime partner, jewelry designer Lois Sasson, who said that Gore died from lung cancer at a New York City hospital.
Gore, born as Lesley Goldstein, was a middle-class teenager when, as legend has it, one of her recordings from a voice lesson in New York found its way to legendary producer Quincy Jones.
Built up with studio effects including a doubling of Gore’s voice and backing horns, “It’s My Party” turned the 16-year-old into a pop sensation well before the concept of a teenybopper star was mainstream.
The lyrics to the song — “It’s my party / And I’ll cry if I want to / You would cry, too, if it happened to you” — have become quotable for generations of Americans charmed by the song’s tale of a girl stood up by a boyfriend who leaves with “Judy.”
Even as the song evoked the dating scene in the conservative post-World War II era, Gore herself was lesbian, although she says that she did not realize her sexual orientation until she was in her 20s.
Gore soon afterward scored another hit with “You Don’t Own Me,” in which the teenager demanded of her partner: “Don’t tell me what to do / And don’t tell me what to say / And please, when I go out with you, don’t put me on display.”
The song, later covered by Dusty Springfield and by a trio including Bette Midler in the movie “The First Wives Club,” was unusually forthright in an era long before Beyonce and other successful women in music have embraced feminism.
In a 2005 interview, Gore said that unlike Hollywood, the music industry has “always been a man’s world.”
“It’s always been a patriarchal situation, and it always puts women, not necessarily down, but certainly on a lower rung,” she told AfterEllen, an online publication about lesbian and bisexual women in entertainment.
However, she credited Jones as a “great mentor,” saying that he was “a very sensitive man and a beautiful human being.”
“He was able to get a great performance out of me because he made me feel comfortable in the studio,” Gore said.