Although the story on the back of her first album "I'll Cry If I Want To", said she was first discovered when she sang at a friend's birthday party, the true story is; her cousin Allen had a band that needed a replacement lead singer because the usual singer was sick and could not perform at their next big gig. Lesley was offered the job and took it. It just so happened that night was a showcase gig for the band and Mercury Record's president Irving Green heard her sing.
Soon after that, she and her vocal coach, Myron Earnhart, recorded some demos and sent them to a booking agent, Joe Glaser. After Joe listened to them, Irving Green went back down to hear her sing again, and was impressed enough to introduce her to Quincy Jones.
Jones and Lesley listened to over 200 possible song to record; "It's My Party" was the only one to make it to the "maybe" pile. Little did Lesley know that song would be the biggest hit of her entire recording career! On March 30, 1963, she recorded the song . Only one week later, while driving home from school, she heard her song on the radio and couldn't believe it. Unknown to Leslie, the "It's My Party" single was rush-released when Jones found out that Phil Spector had plans to record the same song with the Crystals.
Quincy Jones, had filled the teenager's sound with double-tracked vocals and intricate backup vocals and horns, and by May of 1963, the 17 year old Lesley Gore had the number one hit in the nation.
"It's My Party" became so popular, that, as was quite common in the sixties, the follow up to it was an "answer song", a kind of continuation of the original story. "Judy's Turn To Cry" was written just for Lesley and it too became a Top 5 hit nation wide.
Lesley Gore had became the standard bearer for teenage angst and her next releases "She's A Fool" and "You Don't Own Me", united teenage girls around the world with someone who seemed to be going through the same things they were. She provided an anthem of independence with a feminist theme that was considerably advanced for early 1964. She continued in this vein with two more hit singles, "That's The Way Boys Are" and "Maybe I Know."
Lesley appeared on the legendary T.A.M.I. Show alongside the Rolling Stones, James Brown, and Smokey Robinson, but she seemed out of place along side these heavyweights and after 1964 her star plummeted rapidly.
Mercury was still investing a lot of care in her sessions throughout the rest of the '60s, and her material and arrangements showed her capable of greater stylistic range than many acknowledged. But after the mid-'60s, Jones no longer worked with the singer on a regular basis. "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" (1965) and "California Nights" (1967), both of which were co-written by Marvin Hamlisch, would be her only Top 20 entries after 1964.
In 1969, Lesley stopped recording with Mercury records all together and joined on with Bob Crew's 'Crew Records' in 1972 to record the album "Someplace Else". Having little success, she left Crew Records in 1975 to sign with A&M records. There she attempted comeback album, "Love Me By Name", but by this time, she was hopelessly out of style. Soon after this album, Lesley took a long break from recording, although she continued to tour and eventually had some success as a songwriter for other performers. In 1980, she contributed lyrics to the song "Out Here On My Own," sung by Irene Cara in Gore's brother Michael's Academy Award winning score for the movie "Fame."
Lesley's first two hits are remembered the most, but much of her subsequent material was both more mature (or, perhaps more accurately, less immature) and stronger. The singles were also very well-produced, with orchestral arrangements (by Claus Ogermann) that hewed closer to mainstream pop than Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. Retrospectives of Quincy Jones' career usually downplay or omit his work with Gore, although it was among his most commercially successful; he's known now for recordings that are funkier. But his success with Gore did a lot to build his already impressive résumé within the industry.
In January 1999, Lesley Gore sang "All One Family" on a new album called "Sounds For The Soul". This CD was released by the New Jersey Benefit Project, to raise funds for some Northern New Jersey charities. There are several other artists on the collection, including Bruce Springsteen and Gloria Gaynor.
Lesley continued to appear on television and in concerts and in 2005 recorded "Ever Since", her first album of new material since the "Love Me By Name" LP in 1976. Three songs from that collection have been used in TV shows and films: "Better Angels" in CSI: Miami, "Words We Don't Say" in an episode of the TV series The L Word and "It's Gone" in the film Flannel Pajamas. In 2009, "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows" was featured in the film Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and was also used in The Simpsons episode Marge on the Lam. Target also used the song in its Australian TV ads in 2010.
Fans were shocked and saddened to learn of Lesley's death on February 16th, 2015 after a brave fight against cancer. She was just 68 years old.
Leslie Gore recorded eleven Top 40 hits in total, all before her 21st birthday. She continued to delight audiences around the world at festivals, theaters and arenas with her likable stage presence and fun songs that relived those teenage days when boys were the most important thing in a young girl's life.
Lesley Gore's Biggest Hits:
1963 - It's My Party - #1
1963 - Judy's Turn To Cry - #5
1963 - She's A Fool - #5
1964 - You Don't Own Me - #2
1964 - That's The Way Boys Are - #12
1964 - I Don't Want To Be A Loser - #37
1964 - Maybe I Know - #14
1965 - Look Of Love - #27
1965 - Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows - #13
1965 - My Town, My Guy and Me - #32
1967 - California Nights - #16
Be Sure To Read Gary James' Interview With Lesley Gore