By Craig Clizbe
On this past Monday (February 16, 2015) the Pop music world lost one of the original teen Pop stars of the 1960s. Former teen idol turned composer and LBGT activist, Lesley Gore past away from lung cancer at the age of 68. Throughout her career Lesley has accomplished many things. Most notably she was recognized for her work as a composer for film soundtracks with her brother, Michael Gore. She and Michael wrote the music for the 1980 Pop film, Fame, including the song , “Out Here On My Own”, which earned her an Academy Award nomination. This eventually led to Lesley composing the song “My Secret Love” for the 1996 film Grace Of My Heart, a film that was partially inspir3ed by Gore’s career as a female Pop singer. She later became one of the first Pop stars to not only come out of the closet as a lesbian, but talk about it openly in the media. Beginning in 2004, Gore hosted the show, In The Life on PBS. That show’s focus was discussing various issues in the LBGT community in a news magazine format.
But all this started thanks to Lesley’s remarkable success in Pop music in the 1960s. From 1963, until about 1968, Gore enjoyed massive success on the Billboard charts. Some of her famous songs include “You Don’t Own Me,” “Judy’s Turn To Cry,” “She’s A Fool”, the Grammy nominated “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows.” However on this week’s #Throwback Thursday I felt it was a good idea to focus on the song that started it all, her very first hit, “Its My Party.”
“It’s My Party” was originally credited as being written by John Gluck, Wally Gold and Herb Weiner, who were employed by famed music publisher, Aaron Schroeder. However information later surfaced that the lyrics to the song were actually written by Seymour Gottlieb. This is significant because, Judy, his 16-year-old daughter, inspired the lyrics. Seymour was using the song in an effort to relate to her, basing it on actual events that occurred at her sweet sixteen party.
While Lesley Gore’s version is the most famous one, she is one of many artists to record it. Her record producer, music legend Quincy Jones, brought the demo to her. Quincy served as the producer of Lesley’s music from 1963 to about 1965. When going over songs that would be right for her, Jones presented Gore with “Its My Party” among hundreds of other demos in February of 1963. At that time there was already a version of the song that was recorded by singer and actress, Helen Shapiro for her Helen in Nashville album. However despite having faith in the song upon recording it, “It’s My Party” was not chosen as a single from that album, leaving room for music fans to become familiar with Lesley Gore’s version later. Lesley and Quincy selected the song and recorded it in March of 1963. However, Lesley’s version was given some stiff competition as well before it was ever released.
The story goes that the song’s publisher, Aaron Schroeder was not originally aware of Quincy Jones’ intention to record the song with Lesley. This became a problem when now infamous producer, Phil Spector heard the demo in March of ’63, and expressed interest in recording the song with his group, The Crystals. Schroeder and the song’s writers were excited with the possibility of Spector’s ability to make a stronger version of the song compared to Quincy Jones’ version. Aaron Schroede originally tried to persuade Jones to suppress the release, to allow Spector’s version to take center stage with the listening public. Apparently Schroede did not even tell Quincy Jones about Spector’s version, and he found out about it when engaging in a conversation outside Carnegie Hall before a concert they both happened to be attending on March 30, 1963. Spector ended up mentioning The Crystals’ version of “Its My Party” to Quincy in that conversation. After being surprised to learn about Spector’s version, Quincy quickly skipped the show, spending his Saturday night at Bell Sound Studios pressing up one hundred test copies of his production with Lesley Gore. He then proceeded to mail the test copies out to various radio program directors in key markets in the country in the next days that followed. Lesley Gore has said that she would hear “Its My Party” on the radio the following Friday.
Even though it was reported that Aaron Schroeder originally considered Quincy Jones’ production of the song to be formulaic, and expected Phil Spector’s production to be better, the version of “Its My Party” by Lesley Gore, is now the version every knows and loves today. It helped make Quincy Jones the respected producer he is today, giving his first hit single as a producer. It hit number one on both the Pop and R&B singles chart, selling over one million copies, and received a Grammy nomination for best Rock and Roll recording.
It was placed on Lesley Gore’s 1963 album, I’ll Cry If I Want To. The title was obviously inspired by the hit single, and the album featured songs with similar themes. These included, “Cry Me A River”, “The Party’s Over,” “What Kind Of Fool Am I”, and more. The album even featured a sequel to “It’s My Party” that everyone now knows as, “Judy’s Turn To Cry”, which also hit the top 5 on the Pop charts. Lesley Gore and Quincy Jones collaborated on making her sound what many would describe as the “soundtrack of the 60s” and led to Lesley making some very high profile TV appearances. Among those, probably her most famous appearance of the 60s came in 1967 when she appeared on ABC’s Pop phenomenon, Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward. In a two-episode story arch, Gore famously guest starred as Catwoman’s protégé, “Pussycat.” In that story, Gore premiered her single “California Nights” produced by Bob Crewe (Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons) “California Nights” hit #16 on the Billboard Hot 100.
As I mentioned previously Lesley Gore then went on to compose music for film soundtracks with her brother, Michael. Gore died from lung cancer on February 16, 2015, at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City Her New York Times obituary described her as a “teenage and feminist anthemist “ Following her death, Neil Sedaka commented that she was “a phenomenal talent” and “a great songwriter in her own right.”Her funeral was held today (February 19, 2015) at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home in New York City. So in loving memory of everything Lesley Gore has given us to enjoy in the entertainment industry, this week we remember her first hit from April, 1963, “It’s My Party”, enjoy!
“Its My Party”
From I’ll Cry If I Want To
“Judy’s Turn To Cry”
From I’ll Cry If I Want To
Mercury Records (20th Century Fox/Warner Bros.)
Lesley Gore Fighting With Batman And Robin
20th Century Fox/Warner Bros.
From Fame (1980 Film)
(Written By Lesley Gore/Michael Gore)