Entertainment & Arts

Lesley Gore, It's My Party singer, dies aged 68

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Media captionLesley Gore was famed for her hit single 'It's My Party'

Singer-songwriter Lesley Gore, who topped the US charts with It's My Party aged 16 in 1963 has died, aged 68.

Her partner of 33 years, Lois Sasson, confirmed she had died of lung cancer at a New York city hospital.

Gore's hits include feminist anthem You Don't Own Me and the Oscar-nominated Out Here On My Own from 1980 film Fame.

"She was a wonderful human being - caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian," Sasson told AP.

'Phenomenal talent'

Gore was discovered by Quincy Jones as a teenager and signed to Mercury Records, before going on to record tracks including Judy's Turn to Cry, She's A Fool, Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows, That's the Way Boys Are and Maybe I Know.

Singer Neil Sedaka, who she opened for on several occasions and who attended her Sweet 16th birthday party, paid tribute on Facebook, calling her "a great person and a phenomenal talent".

"I fondly remember attending her Sweet Sixteen party in New Jersey. 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," said Sedaka.

The track You Don't Own Me, later covered by Dusty Springfield, The Blow Monkeys and a trio including Bette Midler in the movie The First Wives Club, embraced feminism way ahead of its time.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Lesley Gore in 1966

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Gore teamed up with Girls creator Lena Dunham and blogger-turned-actress Tavi Gevinson to turn You Don't Own Me into an online video public service announcement demanding reproductive rights for women.

Paying tribute, Amy Poeler's twitter feed Smart Girls tweeted a link to the video with the words, "Lesley Gore, you will be missed. Thank you for using your voice to advocate for women's rights + voting."

Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale tweeted, "Brilliant songs #lesleygore so perfectly sung, thank you. #YouDontOwnMe was the one I most identified with," while Mark Ronson called her "an incredible talent and a trailblazer".

'A man's world'

Gore 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.

In 2005, she released comeback album Ever Since, her first album in 30 years and in an interview that year said that unlike Hollywood, the music industry has "always been a man's world."

"It's always been a patriarchal situation, and it always puts women, not necessarily down, but certainly on a lower rung," she told AfterEllen.

However she credited Jones as a "great mentor" saying that he was "a very sensitive man and a beautiful human being."

"He was able to get a great performance out of me because he made me feel comfortable in the studio," Gore said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Gore said You Don't Own Me was her signature track

Gore said in the interview that she never hid her sexual orientation but was careful not to "put it in anybody's face."

"Times were very different then, so, you know, I just tried to live as normally as humanly possible. But as truthfully as humanly possible," she said.

"There were was very little acceptance of gay people. I think the record industry, by and large what's left of it, is still totally homophobic."

'Signature song'

Gore told Digital Interviews that she considered You Don't Own Me her signature work.

"After some 40 years, I still close my show with that song because I can't find anything stronger, to be honest with you," she said.

"It's a song that just kind of grows every time you do it."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Alongside her singing career Gore also appeared on Broadway and played Catwoman's sidekick in TV comedy Batman

Gore was born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey and had graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a degree in English/American literature.

During her career she also played Catwoman's sidekick in the cult TV comedy Batman and appeared in Smokey Joe's Cafe on Broadway.

Gore wrote Out Here On My Own with her brother, Michael, and in the 1990s co-wrote My Secret Love for Allison Anders' film Grace of My Heart.

She had been working on a stage version of her life with playwright Mark Hampton when she died. Her funeral will be held in New York on Thursday.

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