On this day in 1963, the song “You
Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore was first released. Although at the height of her
success, Lesley was just another successful pop artist making music about boys,
she would later come out as a lesbian in 2005.
An 18 year old Lesley Gore belts it out in 1963 (x).
Lesley Sue Goldstein was born on
May 2, 1946 into a Jewish family living in Brooklyn, New York. Her father was
the owner of an apparel manufacturing company while her mother was a housewife.
Lesley would be raised in the town of Tenafly, New Jersey and attend Dwight
School for Girls. She was only a junior in high school when she saw her first
major commercial success in the music industry; with the release of her cover
of the song Quincy Jones song “It’s My Party” in April of 1963, Lesley Gore
became a household name.
“You Don’t Own Me” was just one of
many hit singles that Lesley released in 1963, including “Judy’s Turn to Cry”
and “She’s a Fool.” However, what set “You Don’t Own Me” apart from the pack
was its protofeminist message. Many have cited the song as an anthem for
the second wave feminist movement that would begin to take off in the 1970s.
Lesley herself once said, “My take on the song was: I’m 17, what
a wonderful thing, to stand up on a stage and shake your finger at people and
sing you don’t own me.”
Lesley (left) photographed with her partner, Lois Sasson, in 2010 (x).
Although Lesley career as a pop
princess was relatively short lived, she would work in the music world as a
composer for the rest of her life. She and her brother Michael were even
awarded an Academy Award in 1980 for their work on the soundtrack for the film Fame. In 2004, she started her coming
out process by becoming the host of In
The Life, a documentary television series that focused on the
everyday life of LGBT people in America. Lesley officially came out to the
public in 2005 during an interview with AfterEllen.
In the interview, she
stated that she had known she was a lesbian ever since she as 20 years old and
that although the music industry was and is “totally homophobic,” she “just kind of lived my life naturally and did what I wanted to do.” Tragically, Lesley passed away before
her memoir and the Broadway show based on her life could be released. She passed
away on February 16, 2015 at 68 due to lung cancer and was survived by her
partner of 33 years, Lois Sasson.