Born on May 2, 1946, in Brooklyn, NY; daughter of Leo and Ronny Gore. Addresses: Management--John Regna, World Entertainment Associates, 297-101 Kinderkamack Rd., Oradell, NJ 07649.
Lesley Gore, who will forever be identified with the memorable anthem of teenage angst, "It's My Party," remains a performer and songwriter. She quietly tours the casino and resort circuit performing all her hits from the 1960s. She has also appeared in Smokey Joe's Café on Broadway and gotten much more involved in work behind the scenes. Collaborating with her brother, Michael, with whom she penned some of her own hits in the 1960s, Gore continues to write songs. Together the team turned out a number of songs for the popular 1980 movie Fame, including "Out Here on My Own," which garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Song.
Born on May 2, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York, Gore was the oldest child of parents Leo and Ronny. When she was about five years old, the family left New York for the relative quiet of the New Jersey suburbs, settling in Tenafly. It was in this comfortable, middle-class setting that Lesley and her brother Michael grew up.
Both Gore children showed an interest in music at an early age. Even before she could read, Lesley had learned to identify the 45 rpm records of her favorite songs by the color of their labels. Impressed by their daughter's obvious interest in music, Lesley's parents scraped together the extra money needed to send her to a professional vocal coach. Before long, Gore's singing lessons gave her the self-confidence to take the stage and sing with her cousin's band at professional engagements whenever she could. One such appearance at the Prince George Hotel proved particularly fortuitous. In the audience that night was Irving Green, president of Mercury Records. So impressed was Green with Gore's singing voice that he quickly signed her to a contract. As the first order of business, Green had Lesley record a few demo tapes that he circulated among the creative types at Mercury. All agreed that Gore had the makings of a star.
When it came time to team Lesley up with a producer to work on her first recordings, Green had yet another stroke of genius. He put Lesley in the very capable hands of Quincy Jones, who was at that time A&R director for Mercury. The now-legendary music producer and Gore hit it off from the beginning. It proved to be an ideal creative marriage.
Despite the excellent vibes between Gore and her newfound mentor, finding the right vehicle to introduce Lesley to the record-buying public was anything but easy. Together the petite singer from New Jersey and Jones listened to more than 200 demo tapes in their search for just the right song. Finally, when they heard "It's My Party," both knew instantly that this was the perfect song for Gore. But the adventure had just begun. On the evening of the late March day that Lesley recorded the song, Jones learned that rival producer Phil Spector had another version in the works for the Crystals. Jones pulled out all the stops, rushed the record to radio stations around the country, and beat Spector and the Crystals to the punch. Gore and her record label had a smash hit. Her success with "It's My Party" was quickly followed by "Judy's Turn to Cry," which revisits the central theme of the first song, but with an added twist of vengeance. Other big hits for Gore included "You Don't Own Me," "Maybe I Know," "She's a Fool," and "That's the Way Boys Are."
His successful management of Gore's early career at Mercury helped to solidify Jones's already substantial reputation within the music business. Gore's early singles, including "It's My Party," were exceptionally well produced. Orchestral arrangements by Claus Ogermann gave Gore's records much more of a mainstream pop feel than some of the early rock sounds emerging in the early 1960s. Perhaps because the music one most closely identifies with Jones is a far cry from the somewhat petulant pop of Lesley Gore, many biographers have overlooked how important a role the Gore years played in the producer's overall development.
In 1963, her first year at Mercury, Gore released two albums--I'll Cry If I Want To and Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts. The following year saw two more albums from Gore, namely Boys, Boys, Boys and Girl Talk. This breakneck recording pace began to slow considerably after 1964, with only one album from Gore appearing each year from 1965 through 1969. The feverish demand for Gore's sound cooled off considerably after her first couple of years in the market. Even a label switch in the late 1960s failed to reverse the decline. The albums Love, Love, Love and Sound of Young Love were released on the Wing label in 1968 and 1969, respectively.
Gore tried a number of marketing strategies in an attempt to revive her sagging recording career. On the big screen she showed up in the company of James Brown, the Rolling Stones, the Supremes, and Marvin Gaye in the 1965 film The T.A.M.I. Show, and she appeared later that same year in Ski Party. She took her turn in the parade of celebrities making guest appearances on television's Batman a few years later, playing Pussycat, a sidekick to Catwoman.
As the 1960s faded into the past and the 1970s arrived, it became clear that the popular music market's taste for Gore's songs had declined sharply. Helping to accelerate the downswing in demand for Gore was her decision in the late 1960s to step away from her singing career so that she could attend college. College made it impossible for the singer to tour, which in turn meant her records got little or no promotion. The inevitable result was an absence of hit records.
Having had her day in the sun, Gore lost no sleep over the decline in her recording career. With her brother Michael she returned to another of her passions--songwriting. A couple of albums were released after the end of the 1960s, but none enjoyed commercial success on the scale she had enjoyed at the beginning of her career. With Michael, Lesley composed a few songs for the hit movie Fame, including the Oscar-nominated "Out Here on My Own." In the 1990s Gore co-wrote "My Secret Love" for Allison Anders's film Grace of My Heart, released in 1996. A couple of years later, she appeared in Smokey Joe's Café on Broadway.
After college was behind her, Gore began touring again, but on a scale far less grand than she had enjoyed during her heyday. Now she toured the resorts and casino clubs to entertain people who had loved her sound as teenagers in the early 1960s but had since passed into adulthood. A big surprise for Gore was the large number of younger listeners who came out to hear her songs of the 1960s. "You know what is amazing?" she told the New York Daily News, in comments included at the Salon.com website. "You look around and you see these baby boomers in the audience who've brought their kids along [and in some cases their grandkids]. It just proves how durable this music is."
by Don Amerman
Lesley Gore's Career
Began formal vocal training, age 15; spotted by Irving Green, president of Mercury Records, during gig with cousin's band, early 1960s; signed to contract and teamed with producer Quincy Jones, early 1960s; first single, "It's My Party," reached number one on pop charts, 1963; followed up with "Judy's Turn to Cry," "She's a Fool," "You Don't Own Me," "That's the Way Boys Are," and "Maybe I Know," 1963-64; co-wrote songs for movie Fame, 1980; appeared on Broadway in Smokey Joe's Café, 1999.
- Selected discography
- I'll Cry If I Want To (includes "It's My Party"), Mercury, 1963.
- Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts , Mercury, 1963.
- Boys, Boys, Boys , Mercury, 1964.
- Girl Talk , Mercury, 1964.
- My Town, My Guy & Me , Mercury, 1965.
- Lesley Gore Sings All about Love , Mercury, 1966.
- California Nights , Mercury, 1967.
- Love, Love, Love , Wing, 1968.
- Sound of Young Love , Wing, 1969.
- Someplace Else Now , MoWest, 1972.
- Love Me by Name , A&M, 1978.
- Anthology , Rhino, 1986.
- Knopper, Steve, editor, MusicHound Lounge: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1998.
- "It's Still Her Party," Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/people/rewind/1999/07/24/gore/ (December 3, 2001).
- "Lesley Gore," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=1LESLEY|GORE (December 3, 2001).
- "Lesley Gore," The Lesley Gore Home Page, http://members.tripod.com/~Lesley_Gore/ (December 3, 2001).
- Lesley's Place, http://www.patswayne.com/lesley/lgore.htm (December 3, 2001).