Lesley Gore died on February 16 2015 but her music lives on, power-filled and empowering. 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’.
Scroll down to watch ‘You Don’t Own Me’ and ‘It’s My Party’.
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. Lesley and jewellery designer Lois Sasson later lived together for 33 years until Lesley’s 2015 death. Lois died in 2020 from COVID.
Although Lesley Gore never wrote her early hits, she chose them. Quincy Jones, the music producer who discovered her, trusted the high school student’s choice of material.
Music writers sometimes describe her as ‘the queen of teenage angst’. Indeed, Lesley Gore’s early songs resonated with teenage girls and young women who grew up in a society that conditioned them 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.
After high school, Lesley Gore studied British and American English literature at college. Her pop career went into decline afterwards, probably due to bad choices by her record company — Quincy Jones having moved along.
However, Lesley continued to write, record and perform for the rest of her life.
She and her brother co-wrote the OSCAR-nominated ‘Out Here on My Own’ for 1980’s Fame.
While she described the music business as ‘totally homophobic’, Lesley Gore never bothered to hide her own 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.”