Lesley Gore's 1963 hit 'You Don't Own Me' is still incredibly powerful
As you likely already know, legendary 1960’s pop singer Lesley Gore, passed away last weekend at the age of 68. While she may be most famous for giving us full permission to cry at our birthday parties with her classic hit “It’s My Party,” Gore leaves behind an impressive legacy that reaches far beyond the timeless teen heartbreak tunes for which she’s best known. Not only is she a pioneer of the LGBT movement (she was openly gay and a huge supporter of women’s reproductive rights), her songs also represent a female independence and strength that has been celebrated the world over.
Long before Gore went on to achieve icon status, she sang a song that would foreshadow her future in female empowerment. Her 1963 hit, “You Don’t Own Me” encouraged young women around the world to take control of their relationships and assert their independence. Interestingly enough, the song was written by two men (big ups to John Madera and Dave White), but it was Gore who brought the song’s lyrics to life. The lyrics included lines like:
This was pretty big stuff for 1963 and at the time, it was mighty unusual for a 17-year-old girl to declare her independence to the world in song like this. Gore put the song’s cultural context into perspective with the following words later in her career:
In spite of the taboo surrounding the song, other young women dared to shake their fingers with Lesley. The song rose to legendary status at number two on the Billboard’s Pop Singles Chart, just behind The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
“You Don’t Own Me” was also a favorite of Gore’s. In fact, she loved the song so much, she closed all of her shows with it. In a 2002 interview, she revealed her deep love for the song, saying “I can’t find anything stronger, to be honest with you. It’s a song that just kind of grows every time you do it. It might mean one thing one year and boom, two years later, boy, it can mean something else”. Aaah, yes — music is kinda wonderful in that way, isn’t it?
Aside from its countless covers, “You Don’t Own Me” has been featured famously in The First Wives’ Club, American Horror Story, and a star-studded PSA which urged women to vote. Lesley even put her stamp of approval on it.
Her trailblazing spirit will be forever missed, but never forgotten. Lesley, this one’s for you!