Artists - Lesley Gore

Artist Biography

Lesley Gore first graced the Ed Sullivan Show stage on October 13th, 1963, opening with her quintessential teenage anthem “It’s My Party” before transitioning into “She’s A Fool.” She instantly captivated American audiences with her melodic sound and infectious smile. Lesley would appear on the show four more times between 1963 and 1970. Perhaps one of the most influential women in the music scene in the 1960’s, she became a trailblazer for other female artists at the time. 

Lesley Sue Goldstein was born on May 2nd, 1946 in Brooklyn, New York, however she grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey. Her parents made the choice to change their surname to “Gore” shortly after her birth most likely to protect themselves from rising antisemitism at the time. Lesley had an affinity for singing from a young age and was so focused on her dream she successfully convinced her parents to set her up with a vocal coach. Once she felt confident enough, they went into a recording studio rather than her usual lesson and recorded several demos. These would soon make their way to founder and president of Mercury Records, Irving Green. Not long after, they were passed along to musician and producing legend Quincy Jones who was immediately taken by her voice and sound. He soon got in touch with Lesley and would end up visiting the Gore residence to sort through her demos until they landed on the one that would change the course of her career forever at just 16 years old. 

“It’s My Party” was released in 1963 through Mercury Records and instantly became a hit, in particular with teenage girls who found themselves identifying with the character Lesley was portraying. The song was inspired by songwriter Seymour Gottlieb’s daughter Judy, who was upset about being forced to invite her grandparents to her 16th birthday party. He told her not to cry, and her response; “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.” This may be among the most recognizable phrases in the English language, made famous by Lesley. The song has recently resurfaced with younger generations as it was sampled by Melanie Martinez in her song “Pity Party”. After the overwhelming success of the single, Lesley released her debut album of the same title in June 1963, which reached #24 on the charts. She would go on to record a slew of well-known and culturally recognizable hits while still in high school, including “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows”, “Look of Love” and most notably “You Don’t Own Me” which became a feminist anthem for girls across the nation and still remains so today.

Lesley Gore was also a massive figure in the LGBTQ community. She was openly and proudly lesbian in her personal life, despite having most of her songs be about heterosexual relationships. Living in a time where heteronormativity was expected, she did not publicly come out until 2004 while hosting the PBS series “In the Life.” When asked about this, she stated “”I just tried to live as normally as humanly possible, but as truthfully as humanly possible.” She became an activist and advocate for the community later in her career and is seen as a trailblazer for female artists to come. From the 1980s onward, she lived with her partner Lois Sasson whom she met in college. While never officially married, the two were together for over 30 years until Lesley sadly passed away from lung cancer on February 15th, 2015 at just 68 years old. 

To this day, Lesley Gore’s songs continue to be staples, having been covered and sampled by countless artists and used in popular television and films and even ad campaigns. She remains an incredibly important figure in music history as her legacy lives on.  

Check out our  Lesley Gore playlist to see full performances from The Ed Sullivan Show!