Lesley Gore: You Don't Own Me (1963)

 |   |  1 min read

Lesley Gore: You Don't Own Me (1963)

For someone who was only semi-professional, tiny Lesley Gore (5' 2") was astonishingly busy in the Sixties: Between '63 and '69 she released 29 singles (19 of them went Top 100) and eight albums - outside of greatest hits packages.

And she had some great hits: her first was It's My Party ("and I'll cry if I want to") when she was only 17. It was produced by Quincy Jones and topped the US and Australian charts (and went to #9 in the UK). She quickly followed it with the answer song: Judy who had stolen her boyfriend at the party has lost him back to Lesley, so she sings with glee Judy's Turn to Cry.

At the time the story went around -- because it was a better story than the truth -- that she had been discovered singing at a friend's 16th birthday party. In fact she'd been singing with a small jazz group in New York (she'd had voice training) when she was spotted by someone from Mercury Records and asked to submit an audition tape, which Jones heard and decided to move her into the pop world.

At that time in the States girl groups (the Shirelles, Chiffons, Supremes and Crystals) were big, but solo female singers were more rare. The likes of Little Peggy Marsh (4' 10", I Will Follow Him) and Little Eva (The Loco-Motion) were one-hit wonders.

But with powerful pipes, good material and clever production (echo or double tracking on her voice, handclaps, horns) Lesley Gore was on her way.

It lasted -- with diminishing returns -- throughout the Sixties but in the mid Seventies she retired.

She left a body of great pop, and songs with lyrics which often meant something more than boy-meets-girl superficiality. She sang songs, with great emotion, about genuine teenage feelings.

"I identified with the lyics of my hits," she said later. "I was more than a mouthpiece. I never regretted my position as a female artist singing about teenage life and problems."

But on the moody You Don't Own Me she introduced something more adult and assertive, a song which many consider a pre-feminist statement of power and confidence.

Unfortunately it was to be her last big hit, but it anticipated feminist anthems by the likes of Helen Reddy. And she was still only 18 when she sang with utter confidence "Don't tell me what to do, and don't tell me what to say, and please when I'm out with you, don't put me on display. I don't tell you what to say, I don't tell you what to do, so just let me be myself, that's all I ask ofyou . . . . I'm free to say and do whatever I please".

Powerful self-assertion in less than two and a half minutes.

For more one-off or unusual songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Roy Loney and the Phantom Movers: Born to be Your Fool (1979)

Roy Loney and the Phantom Movers: Born to be Your Fool (1979)

Some songs hook you in with a great opening line or couplet, something which just makes you want to hear more. There are plenty of them about and it's a fine rock'n'roll parlour game after a few... > Read more

Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder: What's That You're Doing? (1982)

Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder: What's That You're Doing? (1982)

The reissue of Paul McCartney albums continued recently with expanded editions of his largely unloved albums from the early Eighties, Tug of War ('82) and Pipes of Peace ('83). At the time they... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE BARGAIN BUY: Bruce Springsteen; Nebraska/The Ghost of Tom Joad

THE BARGAIN BUY: Bruce Springsteen; Nebraska/The Ghost of Tom Joad

Elsewhere has already made the case for Bruce Springsteen's 1982 Nebraska as an Essential Elsewhere album. It was not only a great album but a turning point in his career: it allowed him to step... > Read more

Ko Samet, Thailand: Lonely days

Ko Samet, Thailand: Lonely days

Greg would have been hard to miss in most places, but on the small beach at the southern end of Ko Samet -- a tiny teardrop-shaped island off to the east of Bangkok -- he was impossible to... > Read more