Lesley Gore died on February 16 2015 but her empowering music lives on. The singer/songwriter’s career began as a teenager with ‘It’s My Party (so I’ll cry if I want to)’ and ‘You Don’t Own Me’.
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You don’t own me.
I’m not just one of your many toys.
You don’t own me.
Don’t say I can’t go with other boys.
Within a few years of recording those words, Lesley Gore realised she didn’t want to go with other boys anyway. After she met jewellery designer Lois Sasson, the pair shared their lives until Lesley’s death 33 years later.
Music writers described Lesley Gore as ‘the queen of teenage angst’. Indeed, her early songs resonated with teenage girls and young women who grew up conditioned to believe that boys did ‘own’ them.
But ‘You Don’t Own Me’ went far beyond teenage angst.
You Don’t Own Me
I’m young and I love to be young.
I’m free and I love to be free,
To live my life the way I want,
To say and do whatever I please.
And don’t tell me what to do.
Oh, don’t tell me what to say.
And please, when I go out with you,
Don’t put me on display.
Years before the groundbreaking ‘I am Woman’, Lesley told women that no one need ever keep them down again.
And before self-empowerment came to the fore in songs like ‘This is My Life’, “I Am What I Am’, and ‘The Greatest Love of All’, Lesley roared a giant FU to the idea that anyone should need to conform.
Despite her successful music career, Lesley Gore took time out for education — studying British and American English literature at college. Following the decline of her youthful pop career, she continued to write, record and perform. She and her brother co-wrote the OSCAR-nominated ‘Out Here on My Own’ for the 1980s movie Fame.
Despite describing the music business as ‘totally homophobic’, Lesley Gore refused to conceal her sexuality or her relationship with Lois Sasson.
“I just kind of lived my life naturally and did what I wanted to do. I didn’t avoid anything, I didn’t put it in anybody’s face.”