Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” Climbs Billboard Charts
Only 16 when she had her first hit, “It’s My Party,” Lesley Gore was Brooklyn-born and Tenafly, New Jersey-bred as Lesley Sue Goldstein. She began singing lessons at age 15, and after 6 months of training her teacher had her record a demo that found its way to Quincy Jones of Mercury Records. “It’s My Party” became a hit record (Jones’ first in his long career) and was followed by the sequel song “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” where the singer gets the boy she lost in the first song.
In late 1963, Jones and Gore released her album Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts, which included the single “You Don’t Own Me.” The song peaked at # 2 on the Billboard charts, behind the Beatles’ first hit “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
“When I heard [the song] for the first time, I thought it had an important humanist quality,” Ms. Gore told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 2010. “As I got older, feminism became more a part of my life and more a part of our whole awareness, and I could see why people would use it as a feminist anthem. I don’t care what age you are—whether you’re 16 or 116—there’s nothing more wonderful than standing on the stage and shaking your finger and singing, ‘Don’t tell me what to do.’”
Watch Gore sing “You Don’t Own Me” live from the 1964 movie The T.A.M.I. (Teen Age Music International) Show.
During the height of her fame, Gore performed on weekends and vacations while a full-time student majoring in English and American literature at Sarah Lawrence College. She graduated in 1968. “It would be very foolish of me to leave school to go into such an unpredictable field on a full-time basis,” she told an interviewer at the time. In addition to performances in clubs and concert halls, she appeared in the 1960s Batman television series as the Pink Pussycat, one of Catwoman’s sidekicks.
"Out Here On My Own," a song she co-wrote with her brother Michael for the Fame soundtrack, was nominated for a Best Original Song Academy Award in 1980. (Michael Gore wound up winning the Oscar that year for his song "Fame.")
In 2012, Gore endorsed a Public Service Announcement featuring women lip-synching to her rendition of “You Don’t Own Me.” The video encouraged women to vote to support the issues of pay equality, reproductive choice and health, and marriage equality.
In 2005, with the release of her album Ever Since, Gore came out as a lesbian. At the time of Gore’s death, Lois Sasson, her partner of 33 years, remembered, “She was a wonderful human being—caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian."
I'm young and I love to be young
I'm free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please
Sources: “Lesley Gore: How she went from ‘It’s My Party’ to ‘You Don’t Own Me,’” Washington Post, February 17, 2015; “Lesley Gore, ‘It’s My Party’ Singer, Dead at 68,” Rolling Stone; “Lesley Gore, Teenage Voice of Heartbreak, Dies at 68,” New York Times, February 16, 2015; “’It’s My Party,’ ‘You Don’t Own Me’ Singer Lesley Gore Dies at 68,” NPR.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” Climbs Billboard Charts." (Viewed on June 3, 2020) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/feb/01/1964/lesley-gore-s-you-don-t-own-me-climbs-billboard-charts>.