Lesley Gore (1946-2015), Who Created a Feminist Anthem

Cover art for Gore's I'll Cry If I Want To. The copyright is believed to belong to the label, Mercury Records.

Cover art for Gore’s I’ll Cry If I Want To. The copyright is believed to belong to the label, Mercury Records.

On a sultry evening in July of 2011, music fans young and old took over a plaza at Lincoln Center for a concert called “She’s Got the Power.” On the bill were stars from many classic “girl group” bands—singers from The Toys, The Cookies, The Crystals, and others. Even The Ronettes’ legendary Ronnie Spector was set to perform. In this powerhouse lineup, no one generated more excitement than Lesley Gore.

And who wouldn’t love her? Gore had intelligence and humor, power and grace, and a voice that could belt with the best. On that night and many others over a decades-long career, she held the crowd in her hand. 

Born Lesley Sue Goldstein in Brooklyn, to parents Ronny and Leo (the Goldstein family changed its name to Gore soon after her birth), Lesley grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey. Her love of singing led to vocal lessons, and in 1963 a demo tape that she had made managed to reach up-and-coming producer Quincy Jones. He embraced her sound—a compelling mix of innocence and sophistication—and quickly produced Gore’s first single, “It’s My Party.” It reached No. 1 in the United States in May of 1963, when she was just 17. The sudden fame could be a shock: When DJs called Gore “the sweetie pie from Tenafly,” fans located her family’s home in the suburban town and camped out on their lawn. 

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