By Mark Kennedy
NEW YORK — Singer-songwriter Lesley Gore, who topped the charts in 1963 at age 16 with her epic song of teenage angst, “It’s My Party,” and followed it up with the hits “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” and the feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me,” died Monday. She was 68.
Gore, a nonsmoker, died of lung cancer at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, according to her partner of 33 years, Lois Sasson.
“She was a wonderful human being — caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian,” Sasson, a jewelry designer, told The Associated Press.
Brooklyn-born and New Jersey-raised, Gore was discovered by Quincy Jones as a teenager and signed to Mercury Records. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a degree in English/American literature.
Gore’s other hits include “She’s A Fool,” ”Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” which Marvin Hamlisch co-wrote, “That’s the Way Boys Are” and “Maybe I Know.” She co-wrote with her brother, Michael, the Academy Award-nominated “Out Here On My Own” from the film “Fame.”
She sang at the 1964 T.A.M.I. Show in Santa Monica, California, alongside future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers like the James Brown and the Rolling Stones. Gore also played Catwoman’s sidekick in the cult TV comedy “Batman.”
“She was a serious artist that was way ahead of her time,” said Ronnie Spector in a statement. “She had a certain sound. But you want to be able to do new things too, and it can be hard on an artist that is so identified with a specific sound. Although she wasn’t in a girl group, Lesley was definitely a huge part of that era. But she continued to be creative, and kept looking ahead, and that’s how I will remember her.”
In a Facebook post, songwriter Neil Sedaka, who attended Gore’s Sweet 16 birthday party, shared his thoughts: “She was a great person and a phenomenal talent, who had opened for me on many occasions. She recorded a few of my songs (“Magic Colors” and “Summer Symphony”) and was a great songwriter in her own right. I’m glad I had the chance of knowing her.”
In the 1990s, Gore co-wrote “My Secret Love” for Allison Anders’ film “Grace of My Heart,” released in 1996. A couple of years later, she appeared in “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” on Broadway. Gore had been working on a stage version of her life with playwright Mark Hampton when she died.
In 2005, she released “Ever Since,” her first album in 30 years, but was sure to revisit older hits in front of fans. “If I’ve learned anything in this business,” she told The New York Times that year, “how stupid would it be not to do ‘It’s My Party’ when people come to hear it?”
She officially came out to the public when she hosted several episodes of the PBS series, “In The Life,” which dealt with gay and lesbian issues.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Gore turned “You Don’t Own Me” into an online video public service announcement demanding reproductive rights which starred Lena Dunham and Tavi Gevinson, among others
In the last few years, she performed at Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency in New York and, along with Spector and LaLa Brooks, headlined the “She’s Got the Power” concert outdoors at Lincoln Center in 2012.
In addition to Sasson, Gore is survived by her brother and mother. Services will be held on Thursday at the Frank E. Campbell funeral home on Madison Avenue.