Is there a former teeny-bopper alive who can’t lip sync to the lyrics of Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To,” “It’s Judy’s Turn to Cry” or “You Don’t Own Me”?
These golden oldies, along with many other memorable Gore hits from the ’60s and some songs from her current repertoire, can be heard tomorrow night (Sat.) when Gore brings her act to Cain Park’s Evans Theatre.
“I’m gratified that my songs from the ’60s have continued to resonate with three generations,” says Gore, 62, in a phone interview from her New York City home. “I love it when I see young children dancing in the aisles and belting out the lyrics to “It’s My Party” because they heard the song in their parents’ and grandparents’ homes or on their CD player.”
Born Lesley Goldstein, Gore began singing “just about the time I began talking,” she says. “When I was 3, I remember jumping on the coffee table and singing pop songs when my parents had company for dinner.”
The aspiring singer was discovered at age 16 when she filled in for a female singer in her cousin’s band. Mercury Records’ president Irving Green happened to be at the club where she performed, and he introduced her to the famed record producer and arranger Quincy Jones.
Jones gave her the lyrics to an unrecorded copy of “It’s My Party” and filled in Gore’s sound with double-tracked vocals and intricate back-up vocals and horns. Sensing he had a winner, Jones rushed the song to radio stations. In May 1963, the Jewish teenager from Tenafly, N.J., suddenly had the number one hit in the nation.
“My world changed overnight, and I was an instant celebrity,” Gore recalls. “I lived a fantasy life which included VIP treatment, international fame, incredible perks, and a tremendous fan club.” Even while attending Sarah Lawrence College, Gore performed with The Rolling Stones, James Brown and Smokey Robinson.
The downside to all the celebrity, says Gore, is that she was exposed to a darker side of life. “My family was extremely loving and nurturing,” she says. “But many of my fans responded to the teenage angst in the songs and poured their troubled hearts out to me in letters. I quickly learned about family abuse and teen drug and alcohol addictions. Not everyone was having a ‘party’ or anything close to it.”
The other downer was that even though Gore’s records earned millions for her record company, promoters, and agents, all she ever initially received from her teenage recordings, was $17,000.
“I had to wait 25 years before I got another dime for my hit songs, and I only was able to collect the money owed me because I had a good lawyer,” she says. “Although my parents were supportive, they did not understand the record business, and no one, including my agent at the time, was looking out for my best interest.”
Nevertheless, Gore has no regrets about being the famed teen idol.
Although Gore’s celebrity began to wane in the ’70s, she continued to perform and has produced albums like “Someplace Else Now” and “Love Me by Name.” But her old iconic standbys have never left her repertoire when she performs live.