Monday, February 16, 2015

Good night, Lesley

It was her party. Lesley Gore (1946-2015)

"Can you relate to Lesley Gore's music?"
-dialogue from John Waters' Hairspray (1988)

I feel I should say something about Lesley Gore, who passed away today from lung cancer at the age of only 68. It's not a topic to which I have given a great deal of thought, but I suppose it's fair to say that I've been a fan of Ms. Gore for most of my life, from the time when I first started hearing her songs on the radio until today. Due to laziness on my part, I don't claim to be familiar with much of the music she wrote or recorded after that initial burst of hits in the 1960s, but those hit records from the JFK/LBJ era still resonate with me. Everyone remembers "It's My Party," of course, and its soundalike sequel, "Judy's Turn to Cry." But don't forget "Maybe I Know," which was covered decades later by They Might Be Giants, the chilly and dramatic "You Don't Own Me," which turned up in John Waters' Hairspray (1988),  and the ridiculously cheerful "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows," which was used to hilarious effect on The Simpsons once and which I semi-jokingly, semi-sincerely named as my "recovery anthem" when I was hospitalized for depression in 2012. I actually listened to that song dozens of times back then. Yes, I could relate to Lesley Gore's music. She had a clean, strong, solid voice and sounded like she really meant everything she said. When she told her boyfriend he didn't "own" her, brother, she wasn't kidding! I like emotional directness in music, and Lesley had it to spare.

If you want to remember Lesley Gore today, please watch her (typically stellar) set from the best concert film ever made, 1965's The T.A.M.I. Show. Study it, and see how female pop singers used to be able to comport themselves. Fifty years later, Lesley's still a great role model. Johnny wasn't good enough for you, honey.

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