Pop vocalist, talented songwriter, and LGBT advocate, Lesley Gore recently passed away and I wanted to share my favorite songs from her early career. I was introduced to her music, and the entire girl group/60s pop genre, through Allison Anders’s absorbing and enchanting film Grace Of My Heart. There is a sequence in the film where Bridget Fonda plays a closeted performer, Kelly Porter. Gore co-wrote the song, “My Secret Love,” performed by the character in film.
After seeking out more of the genre, The Shangri-las, The Ronettes, The Shirelles, The Crystals, and Linda Scott (to name a few), Lesley Gore’s music struck a chord with me. “The Golden Hits Of Lesley Gore” didn’t leave my car for the entirety of 2010. “It’s My Party” of course rocketed Gore to fame, and “You Don’t Own Me” locked her into the history books, but her catalog is rich and definitely worth a closer look.
Here are my five favorite Lesley Gore songs to get you started in your exploration.
1. “Off And Running”
A dash of surf-rock rhythm, some perfectly articulated handclaps, and Gore at her most buoyant, “Off And Running” is a monstrous delight. The verses start and stop with amazing precision, Gore pointedly kissing off a now ex-lover. She’s had enough, and the exhilaration of saying goodbye couldn’t be sweeter.
2. “The Old Crowd”
Gore, with a killer melody and some well-timed bop-shoo-bops, reflects on friends and deeds since past on “The Old Crowd.” She plays it very understated here. I imagine her flipping through an old yearbook laughing, but also getting a bit choked up. It’s something we all can relate to no matter the era.
3. “It’s Judy’s Turn To Cry”
Sequel to “It’s My Party,” Lesley Gore gets sweet sweet revenge in the deliciously malicious “It’s Judy’s Turn To Cry.” Knock-down, drag-out fights, party embarrassments, youthful angst, and lots and lots of tears, Gore paints a acerbic picture set to a jaw-droppingly cheerful melody. I’m simply in awe of the whole thing.
4. “Small Talk”
A folksy jaunt, “Small Talk” has Gore, with an almost hushed whisper, taking delight in a sun-soaked afternoon with a potential lover, pondering what it even means to get together. The whole affair has a dreamy psychedelic-vibe that I could listen on repeat for hours.
5. “The Bubble Broke”
Lesley Gore sounds exasperated here. Brazen horns, screeching backup singers, the clatter of a hundred drum kits, and possibly the organ from “96 Tears,” she is straight up defiant on “The Bubble Broke,” taking pleasure in the collapse of a relationship, nay her very reality. When she sings, “I could not lose what I never had/the bubble broke and I’m glad,” you can feel her losing her grip, but she embraces the chaos with a smile on her face.