Of course nostalgia is a simplified and romanticized view of something. In light of that, my understanding of the 1960s was narrow at best. And that's why for many years I had very little appreciation of Lesley Gore. All I knew of her was that she sang two of my least favorite songs "It's My Party" and "Judy's Turn to Cry". Those were the records they chose to revive during the nostalgia era. It was the 80s, the decade in which they tried to turn back the clock to more conservative values. They weren't going to be pulling out Lesley's declarations of independence or anything that would challenge the traditional conservative way of living. So, when daytime talk shows would have their "where are they now" shows dedicated to pop idols of the 1960s, it was "It's My Party" that they wanted Lesley Gore to lipsynch to. I thought she was a travesty because young me couldn't imagine letting some boy ruin my party.
It wasn't until the late 1980s that I found out about "You Don't Own Me." I'm not even sure how I heard it. I just know that it completely changed my perspective about everything I thought I knew about women of the 1960s. I rarely felt connected to the pop music of the 80s. I mean, one of the biggest hits of 1987 was "Only In My Dreams" by Debbie Gibson, who like Lesley Gore, was the teen star of her day. It is a far cry from a demand for respect of one's personal identity. That's why as I grew into a teenager who would come to identify myself as a feminist, I realized the music of the 1960s had so much more to offer me in terms of radical messages than the pop music that was made for my own generation.
Additionally, it's worth considering the magical partnership of Lesley and Pacific Northwest native Quincy Jones. I really think that even to this day it's not widely known that Q produced most of Lesley's greatest records. He often gave her a soul-pop influenced sound that was key in her phasing out of teen drama and crossing over to become a tiny giant in pop music history.
So today, I grieve for Lesley Gore. I lament the way she's regretfully been summed up in today's headlines as Singer of "It's My Party", because Lesley Gore is so much more than that. She deserves to be recognized and acknowledged as someone who lit a fuse for feminism in the hearts of millions of young girls everywhere. Her anthem was one of the reasons that women like me were able to break free from societal expectations and go our own way, and though the path we choose my be uphill and rough and rugged, at least it's ours. Our choices belong to us.
She lived the life she sang about in her songs. She took the difficult path and remained true to herself, living as a lesbian in much less accepting times. As I said yesterday, I can't imagine how difficult it must have been juggling pop superstardom as a lesbian in the early 1960s. She deserves accolades for that in itself.
Today's song of the day is another one of Lesley's songs of independence. It's also a KILLER dance record. Just a couple of weeks ago I finally got my hands on a copy (thanks to Wildman James) after years of searching. Today I ask you to salute Lesley Gore by dancing to this record and then celebrate your individual identity, what ever it may be.