Lesley Gore, best known for singing the 1960s hits “It’s My Party,” “Judy’s Turn to Cry” and “You Don’t Own Me,” has died. She was 68.
Gore died Monday in New York City after a battle with cancer, said Blake Morgan, the chief executive of ECR Music Group, which released Gore’s latest album.
While still in high school, Gore burst onto the music scene in 1963 with “It’s My Party.” The Quincy Jones-produced single, a pouty song from the perspective of a girl lamenting that the boy of her choice has spurned her, topped the charts.
That song was followed by others, including the vengeful sequel “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” the resigned “Maybe I Know” and the upbeat “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” as well as the one that irrevocably linked her to the feminist movement: “You Don’t Own Me.”
“She was a wonderful human being — caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian,” Lois Sasson, Gore’s partner of more than three decades, told the Associated Press.
Jones, who produced several songs Gore sang, said Monday that he was heartbroken over her passing. Recalling her teenage years, he said in a statement: “Lesley was an incredibly soulful singer/songwriter even at that young and that was why the world embraced her songs the way it did.”
As a songwriter, Gore worked with her brother Michael. Their “Out Here on My Own” from the 1980 film “Fame” was nominated for an Academy Award.
Gore also dabbled in television acting, playing the role of Pussycat in the cult 1960s show “Batman.”
Born in 1946, Gore grew up in Tenafly, N.J. After high school, she slowed the breakneck pace of her music career as she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and American literature at Sarah Lawrence College, then hit the nightclub circuit.
“Oddly enough, the performer whose sound she projects most strongly is Bing Crosby,” the New York Times said in 1969. “She has Mr. Crosby’s casual, low-throated manner of talking and in the easygoing passages of her songs she uses a husky, glottal projection that is very reminiscent of the old groaner in his heyday.”
She appeared on Broadway in “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” in the late 1990s.
A few years later, she was a host of “In the Life,” a PBS series that dealt with gay and lesbian issues. She publicly came out as a lesbian around that time, and she told AfterEllen.com in 2005 that she realized it in her early 20s.
Also in 2005, she released her first album in three decades. The jazz-, folk- and indie-tinged “Ever Since,” produced by Morgan, heavily featured new material but also revisited “You Don’t Own Me” and “Out Here on My Own.”
“Lesley was like my rock ’n’ roll godmother,” Morgan told the Los Angeles Times, adding that he had known her since his childhood. “It was a very courageous record for her to make, and a very defiant one…. We toured on that record for more than two years.”
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