RIP: Leslie Gore

Posted February 16, 2015 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

‘It’s My Party’ singer passes away at the age of 68

“It’s My Party,” a rock and roll staple and a No. 1 hit on both the R&B and pop charts, was actually the first single to be released on Brooklyn native Lesley Sue Goldstein. Unknown to many, Quincy Jones selected the song among a list of demos to produce for the unknown singer. At the time, Goldstein — later christened into Leslie Gore — didn’t really care for the song as much, stating it had a good melody, but thought nothing more of it. When released on Mercury Records, the song shot to the top of the charts, making it Gore’s first big hit.

Recorded in Manhattan at Bell Sound Studios on March 30, 1963, “It’s My Party” was quickly released a month later after Jones rushed advanced copies to radio programmers in major markets. The label wanted to put a stop to the campaign, feeling that Gore’s name wasn’t “pleasant” enough. It didn’t matter; the record buyers fell in love with the song and turned the brokenhearted pop songs into one of the most iconic songs of the era. With big Latin swagger, saucy horns, double track vocals and lots of girl group energy, the song crossed over to black markets, helping to give birth to the sub-genre of blue-eyed soul.

On the very front of the packaging of her single, Gore wrote: “Thanks to you and my many wonderful friends for making my first record a hit.”

Gore, who recorded the hit record, passed away at the age of 68 on February 16 after suffering from lung cancer. Her partner, Lois Sasson, delivered the news to the Associated Press. “She was a wonderful human being — caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian,” Sasson, a jewelry designer, said.

Gore also recorded other hits after “It’s My Party” including the feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me” later that same year. A quick follow-up to “It’s My Party” surfaced in “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” which went to number 5 on the pop charts and number 10 R&B. Other Top Twenty hits followed, including “That’s the Way Boys Are,” “She’s a Fool” and the Grammy-nominated “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” but nothing came close to matching the success of her darling debut single.

Gore took a shot at television, starring in the hit comic book adaption of Batman. She appeared as Catwoman’s sidekick, Pussycat. On the show, she was able to lip-synch to her songs “California Nights” and “Maybe Now,” a clever gimmick used to help boost record sales.

Later in her career, Gore focused on songwriting by contributing compositions to the motion picture soundtrack of Fame. Her song, “Out Here on My Own,” even earned her an Academy Award nomination. That passion continued well into the ’90s when she co-wrote “My Secret Love” for Allison Anders’ 1996 film Grace of My Heart. She jumped into the field of Broadway appearing in Smokey Joe’s Cafe. She returned to recording music in 2005 when she entered the studio to record Ever Since, her first major recording since 1976.

Also add advocate to her resume. Gore ended up becoming one of the first major rock ‘n roll legends to come out as a lesbian. In 2004, she hosted the Television series In the Life, a PBS-funded series that focused on LGBT issues.

As a tribute to Gore’s success, Jones re-imagined the hit “It’s My Party” on his 2010 Q: Soul Bossa Nostra album. The UK soul songstress Amy Winehouse performed the recreation, becoming one of her last works before her untimely death.

Gore is survived by her life partner, brother and mother. Services will be held on Thursday at the Frank E. Campbell funeral home on Madison Avenue.


UPDATE: We did a little research and discovered that Gore HAS NOT been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Another organization, the Rock ‘n Roll Pantheon, inducted her as one of their honorees in 2012.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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