Lesley Gore: “It’s My Party” Turns 50

It was March 30th 1963, that 16 year-old Lesley Gore recorded one of the year’s biggest hit  songs, “It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To).” Lesley isn’t crying anymore, and still happily performs her million selling song, most recently in Palm Springs.

The 22nd season of “The Palm Spring Follies” just wrapped. This is a modern day vaudeville show at The Plaza Theater, featuring dozens of singing and dancing performers, all over the age of 50. Each season they feature a guest star during the 2nd half of the 2 1/2 hour show.

Palm Springs Follies (Photo courtesy of Michael Hixon)

Palm Springs Follies (Photo courtesy of Michael Hixon)

Lesley Gore appeared for the past two months of this year’s run, singing all of her 1960s hits, that were produced by none other than the legendary Quincy Jones. Born in New York City, and raised in New Jersey, Lesley had cut a demo in February of 1963 that Quincy had heard and liked very much. A month later, Quincy arrived at her home in New Jersey.

“It’s my Party” was just one of some 200 songs that Quincy brought to Lesley. It was the only one they both liked enough to become her first single. She was then whisked off in a limousine to Manhattan to cut it. It was recorded on March 30th, 1963.

A mere six days later, on April 6th, it was on the radio. Lesley heard it as she was coming home from school. It became one of the year’s biggest hits, going to #1, and selling over one million copies. Quincy ended up producing seven more hit songs for Lesley between 1963 and 1967. With her famous flip hairdo, Lesley is considered to be part of the best girl groups of the 1960s, even though she is a solo act. Being in the same company as The Supremes, Ronettes, Shirelles, and Crystals is a great honor for Lesley. She was also featured in two episodes of the 1960s TV series “Batman,” and appeared in the very last episode of “The Donna Reed Show.”

One of Lesley’s final hits was co-wriitten by her  musical director and pianist, a very young Marvin Hamlisch. I asked Marvin about this song when he appeared on The WAVE’s Sunday Brunch broadcast with me shortly before he passed away. He remembered it fondly, and was very impressed that I knew about it. So was Lesley.

Marvin’s composition,”Sunshine Lollipops & Roses” was her opening song at the “Palm Springs Follies.” She also sang her other Top 10 hits “Judy’s Turn To Cry,””She’s A Fool,” “Maybe I Know,” the latter of which was co-written by her lifelong friend Ellie Greewich. Another of Lesley’s huge hits has become an anthem for young women to this day, “You Don’t Own Me.” This song has been covered by several other acts over the years, including The Blow Monkeys. It is more popular now than ever.

Lesley still lives on the east coast and doesn’t get out west too often.I felt very fortunate to see, hear and meet such a big star from my childhood. She was very gracious, taking pictures and signing autographs after the show. In 1980, Lesley and her brother Michael wrote  “Out Here On My Own” for Irene Cara, featured in the film “Fame.” The song received an Academy Award nomination.

Lesley will be featured on “Malt Shop Cruise 2013” this fall with a star-studded 60s lineup, including Neil Sedaka, Bill Medley (of the Righteous Brothers), Little Anthony & The Imperials, Four Tops and Petula Clark. Go to maltshopcruise.com or lesleygore.com for more info on Lesley.

Please also check out the Palm Springs Follies at psfollies.com. The engaging vaudeville show will return to Palm Spring’s Plaza Theater in October, with  guest star Maureen McGovern. It is wonderful entertainment. Don’t miss it!

More from Bill Dudley

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