A Brief History
Lesley Gore was born in New York City in 1946 and was raised in Tenafly, New Jersey. While
she was in high school, Quincy Jones discovered her singing in a hotel and signed her to
Mercury Records. With Quincy and Mercury Records she recorded the enormous
hits IT’S MY PARTY, JUDY’S TURN TO CRY and YOU DON’T OWN ME.
YOU DON’T OWN ME reached #1 on Cashbox and #2 on Billboard, second only to The Beatles. It has appeared on some of the biggest grossing soundtrack albums of all time, including “Dirty Dancing” and “Hairspray”. In 1996, the movie “The First Wives Club” not only featured the son in the movie but made it the theme of the movie. It was recorded by Bette Midler, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn.
YOU DON'T OWN ME remains the song that defined women’s liberation during the 60s, and it
continues to this day to be one of the most recognized and well-loved songs of that era.
In 1963, Dave White and I were approached by Mercury Records. They liked our songs and
productions and wanted to sign us to find and develop new talent for their record label. They
flew us to Chicago where we were introduced to all of the top brass. In the meeting were
Quincy Jones, Irving Green, Shelby Singleton, Irwin Steinberg and the whole executive staff
from each department.
Dave and I were in awe, to say the least. The talent around the table was enormous. At the
end of our meeting, Dave and I played them a new song we had been working on, Dave on
piano and me singing the vocals. It was called YOU DON’T OWN ME. They flipped over it.
We left that day feeling pretty good!
About a month or so later, Dave and I met Lesley Gore while we were attending the Mercury
Records Convention at Grossingers Hotel and Resort in the Catskills. Lesley was getting
ready to record a new album with Quincy Jones and was looking for new material. Dave and
I played YOU DON’T OWN ME to her. She loved it and brought it to Quincy who, having
heard it a month before, agreed to put it in the album. We worked with the arranger on the
album, Claus Ogermann.
On the day of the recording, Dave and I walked into the studio. They had already begun
rehearsals on the song, but the sound was different than we had envisioned it. We told
Quincy and in his ever-generous fashion, he sent us out onto the floor to work with Claus
on the song. After it was finished, Quincy asked everyone in the studio that day to write
on a piece of paper which song on the album they thought would be a hit. Everyone wrote
YOU DON’T OWN ME. That was one of the great moments of my life.
What Happened Next?
Lesley Gore went on to record over two dozen chart records. She earned an Oscar nomination
for the song, "Out Here On My Own," for the movie, "Fame," co-written with her brother,
Michael Gore. Many of the songs she has written have been covered by Dusty Springfield, Patti Austin and Bernadette Peters. She acted on television and on stage in musicals and dramas, and continued to work on the concert circuit and as a cabaret star. Lesley Gore passed away February 16, 2015. She was 69 years old.