It is impossible to imagine a female vocalist who has expressed teenaged love more precisely and passionately than Lesley Gore. Award-winning Quincy Jones ('Thriller','We Are the World'), who had already built a successful career writing musical arrangements for Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Dinah Washington in the early 60s, discovered the sixteen- year- old singer on the East Coast, and produced ‘It’s My Party’ (Mercury Records), which shot up to number one in 1963.

Her subsequent 1964 hit, ‘Maybe I Know’ ("That he’s been cheating/Maybe I know that he’s been untrue/But what can I do?”), was a far cry thematically from the chilling ‘You Don’t Own Me’ – a much darker, powerful and evocative song. But, then, Gore, who has worked as a TV actress, has always had the capacity to inject elements of both drama and humour in her interpretations.

But, though many of her classic hits have reached several generations, Gore’s repertoire has exceeded the pop realm. A serious jazz-lover, she has performed heart-drenching versions of American standards such as ‘Cry Me a River’ with equal passion.

Currently, she can be found performing at Manhattan venues such as Joe’s Pub, singing on themed-cruises (Malt Shop Memories Cruise/Carnival), and keeping up with writing and speaking engagements. The recent release of the documentary 'The T.A.M.I. Show', which showed the young star sharing the platform with the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys will undoubtedly find Ms. Gore reaching a brand new audience.

Moreover, when speaking to Pennyblackmusic by telephone, in a conversation that flowed effortlessly, it became increasingly clear that performing “live” and greeting members of her huge fan club, still gives her enormous pleasure.


PB: Let’s begin by talking about the song ‘Out Here On My Own'. How did you end up writing that with Michael?

LG: It came about because Michael (Gore, Lesley’s brother) was working on 'Fame' with Alan Parker who was working on the film, back in the late 70s, and he was brought in quite early. Originally, the project was not going to use original music. They were going to use old source music and Michael was brought in to put that source music together.

He was involved so early on that he started writing songs as he saw the scenes developing and he would turn that music over to Alan Parker, who loved it, and it became an original musical. There you have it. And, so, as the script got written, Michael wrote the melody for ‘Out Here On My Own’, gave me the script, I came back the next day and it’s been a well known song ever since.

PB: There was a point in your career in which you had to decide whether to go to college or not. This might have meant putting your career on hold. Was that a difficult decision?

LG: As far as I’m concerned, that’s one of the best parts about the business, being able to write songs. There was really no career decision for me. I had intended to go to college since the time I was a little girl and I got into the school I wanted to get into and there was never a moment of indecision for me. I knew I was going to go directly from high school into college and frankly I know I needed to do that for me. I was pretty correct in assuming that I wouldn’t get to college when music stopped coming.

As far as young people today, however much education you can amass, however many people you can work with…

PB: ‘Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows’ is a featured song in the movie, 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs'. How did that come about?

LG: I’m not privy to that information. I’m very thrilled they’re using it. Usually, that’s something the screenwriter comes up with. Sometimes it will be hand in hand with the director and/or the producer. Sometimes they have another song in mind and they can’t get the rights. You never know quite how those things happen, but it’s always, once again, a gift horse.

PB; People have said that ‘You Don’t Own Me’ served as a feminist anthem. Were you aware of its impact at the time of that recording?

LG: That wasn’t exactly deeply ingrained in me at the time. When I first heard the song, frankly, I didn’t strictly think of it as a feminist song. I thought of it as a humanist song. I could easily see a man shaking his finger at his girlfriend, saying the same thing. I think it was a little later down the road after ‘I Am Woman’ that the women’s movement began….

PB: Lesley, how do you manage juggling your writing with your touring schedule?

LG: I have been in the touring process in the past two months and I’ve been travelling so much that I haven’t really been doing too much writing. My last gig, for a while, is this weekend. It is the first thing I intend to get back to next week. I’m always in the middle of five or six of them (songs).

I’ve been asked to do some speaking engagements by this wonderful woman from Connecticut. She has her own agency and operates out of Stamford. They’re not so much inspirational, as kind of sharing your life thoughts and whatever experience you may have gleaned. We’re working to put a talk together of that nature.

So, I’m in the process of writing that and I’m going to take the month of May and June. I’ll be in writing mode. I’ll be in creative mode which will be exciting for me. It’s not too often – I get bogged down with the details of touring and performing.

PB: You're going to be doing the at the Malt Shop Memories-themed cruise?
What kind of audience do you think you will attract there?

LG: I think the tried and true oldies fans will be there. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a lot of poodle skirts. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see the men pompadouring their hair. They get pretty into it. So, I’m expecting anything, to be honest with you.

PB: Is this the first time you’re performing on this particular cruise?

LG: It is. I’ve done cruises before, but usually where I’m the only performer, where I perform once or twice within a given week. This is the first time I’ll be on a theme cruise like this. It should be most interesting and I’m sure everyone who’s on that cruise really wants to be there, so it should be fun.

PB: In terms of your live performing, how do you choose your material?

LG: It’s very much a process of the songs. It’s the function of some of the musicians that I’m using. It’s the function of the venue. A lot of things get factored into it and the music I’ve been listening to at that time.

PB: And, what kind of music are you listening to these days?

LG: Right now, I’m listening to Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 1. I just got a beautiful gift from a friend yesterday and I haven’t had it off the turn table. It’s quite wonderful.

PB: The DVD version of the documentary, 'The T.A.M.I. Show', recently came out. You were there with the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys. How do you feel watching that now?

LG: I did a lot of press for them. It came out about a month, a month and a half ago. They very kindly sent me a copy, and, usually, I don’t enjoy looking at old footage, but this was sort of fun. And, it took me back to that time, and I thought my performance was pretty darn good considering I’d been in the business all of six months, at that point. So, I was very pleased and I enjoyed seeing the reproduction. I thought they did a darn good job and a lot of people are very happy it’s released. I’m always amazed at that kind of phenomenon, that something like that should take off like that 40 years later. But, there you go.

PB: If a movie of your life were made, who could play your part?

LG: I really couldn’t say. That’s a really great question. I really couldn’t answer it and I haven’t thought about it very well.

PB: You acted in the 'Batman' television series. Would you consider acting again?

LG: It really depends what comes up. If I was going to go over the acting I should have done it when I came out of college. If any character stuff came up later in my life, I might try a little acting, but it’s not on my front burner at the moment.

On my front burner are writing a bunch of songs for the project that I’m doing and trying to get the speech solidified in some way. It’s kind of my homework for the summer. I have to harken back to the promise and the beauty and sometimes the heartbreak of collaboration. So much of what we do in this industry is so much about being at the mercy of the people we work with. There’s no one who holds all the cards and runs the whole show.

I learned that every time you work with somebody, you’re going to learn something else. They’re going to bring something else to the table, and the beauty of that is sometimes they bring out something in you that you didn’t know existed.

So, really, collaboration is still something I really seek, even when choosing my musicians. When I play with the drummer or the guitar player, I have to have a similar sensibility. You’ve got to find kindred souls. It’s like getting married. It’s like dating. There’s a band on the cruise. I believe I know some of them.

PB: Can you tell me about your early musical inspirations?

LG: Yes, I can, actually. You know my parents were not greatly educated, but they did enjoy music. I must say in the house, if they were playing music for a cocktail party or they had friends over, there was a lot of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. You know, right off the bat, you can’t exactly go wrong there.

And, they enjoyed social dancing a lot. They did a lot of dancing, so I heard a lot of music, a lot of mambo, a lot of cha cha.

So, there was music around the house, but I was sort of left to my own devices. When I hit about nine, ten, eleven, I was listening to the radio, so I was beginning to get involved in some pop music, some of the beginnings of rock and roll. I was very fortunate to have a record store, called 'Music Manor', in the town called Englewood, next door to Tenafly, NJ, where I grew up about 15 miles from Manhattan.

I used to go there with my five dollar allowance, every week on Friday. The wonderful man who owned the store would turn me on to different singers. I would usually buy an album every week and it would be usually a jazz singer. It wouldn’t be Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan, because I heard them at home, but I did come to know Judy Christie, Anita O’Day, Carmen McRae and Dinah Washington, and some of the people who were not quite on my parents' radar, but became an institution for me, and I think it’s because of these wonderful women that I grew up wanting to interpret songs.

PB: Can you recall when you first heard ‘It’s My Party’ on the radio?

LG: It was just a complete shock because I had only recorded it about seven days before and I had never really heard it on a car radio, which was really different from hearing it on huge speakers in a studio.

So, it took, probably, a good 30 seconds until I realized it, and it took an eternity until I realized it was actually my recording. I thought it was somebody else’s recording.

PB: What was it like becoming so well-known at such a young age?

LG: There are too many things to even begin to analyze. You get a pretty good sense of what life is about, the good, the bad. Every good thing comes with a lot of stuff attached to it. So, it was a lot of lessons in life that came down on me at a very young age. That was my path. That’s what I was supposed to do.

PB: What have you been reading lately and what films have interested you?

LG: There’s a couple of things I have seen like 'The Last Station'. I’m reading 'The Game Change' right now and I’m in the middle of a couple of Dickens’novels because I haven’t read them since I was in college. I like to read, but I like to read biographies and autobiographies.

PB: Are you considering writing about your own life?

LG: It’s beginning to be an off-shoot of the talk idea

PB: Which of your songs has meant the most to you, in terms of personal growth?

LG: ‘You Don’t Own Me’ is, without a question. Even more importantly, ‘You Don’t Own Me’ gave me some gravitas to my career which songs like ‘It’s My Party’ and ‘It’s Judy’s Turn to Cry’ didn’t.

Here is some news I’m going to disseminate that probably nobody knows. Amy Winehouse is doing a re-recording of ‘It’s My Party.’ Go figure, 47 years later. She could make it a top ten song again.

PB: Thank you, Lesley.











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