Decades later, Lesley Gore is still known for her poppy anthem It's My Party, and the sultry You Don't Own Me—a song that has remains a staple for many independent women all over. She doesn't mind, even though she's far removed from those early years.
Gore is probably in the best place she's ever been. She called into Windy City Times and immedietely sent this reporter into peals of laughter with her humor and charm.
These recent years have been a kind a rebirth for her, if you will. After nearly three decades of her success as one of the few solo artists during the girl-group era, she hopped back into the studio, went indie, officially came out and hit the road—and that's not all. As she said, 'I have a lot of irons in the fire.'
Windy City Times: I know you are starting up touring, but what else have you been up to lately?
Lesley Gore: I have a lot of opportunities open to me on a constant basis, mostly because of the fact that people know It's My Party, or You Don't Own Me. The beginning of 2005, I decided to record a new album, and I hadn't recorded a studio album in many, many years—like 28 or 30 years. That is sort of a wonderful thing to just know that the hits are great and they are always there to lean back on, but you can do other music as well. That's kind of what I've been doing the last year and a half. … It's just been really congenial and amiable musical time. I don't need to worry about what I do on the stage. I just need to worry about getting to where I need to go, and I can stand up and make magic, hopefully.
WCT: What's it been like going from someone who has been involved in mainstream music, to being on an independent label?
LG: It's the antithesis of what I knew. Even though Mercury was a small label in comparison to so many others at the time—almost a mom-and-pop label—they did take care of pretty much everything for me in terms of promotion. They had a pretty big arm. I couldn't have seen working with an independent label unless the state of the art has changed, [ and ] the Internet is now a factor. That really changed my mind. It took 25 years to change my mind [ laughs ] and to see there was another way out there to get your message out.
WCT: What did push you back into the studio?
LG: It was Blake Morgan, [ who ] runs Engine Company Records [ who Gore is signed with ] . He's been a friend of mine, and I've known his mom for some 30 years, and I've watched him grow up, which has been an extraordinary experience. At the end of 2004, we sat down and listened to everything he was doing, because he wanted to take me back into the studio.
WCT: Are there any plans for a new album, maybe later on down the road?
LG: Absolutely, a live album and a studio album. I'm also working on my memoirs, which have been on hold for the last month. So, I've got a number of projects coming up. My feeling is that I got to stay healthy and just keep moving. I'm working with a young man to work on a musical, possibly based on my music of the early years. There are a lot of irons in the fire, and I'm feeling quite productive and very happy with my life right now. I think I'm in a pretty good place.
WCT: I know at the time you recorded the new album, you also came out. But you never really kept your life very private.
LG: That's true. Anyone who knew me or worked with me—I certainly have not been living in the closet the last 30 years. I came out after college, and then I became aware, consciously, of my sexuality. I had a number of different relationships, but the relationship that I'm in now has been a 25-year relationship. That's a difficult thing to hide. I think what sort of happened in relation to when the album came out, I was playing my first show at Joe's Pub, which was a club here in New York City that's very music-oriented. We were sort of kicking off the summer and the album, and it also happened to be Pride week. So, Time Out magazine sort of outed me on the back page. But I have been out, so it was no big deal to most people.
WCT: You've also done In the Life [ an LGBT television program ] for a number of years.
LG: Exactly. It's sort of my way of trying to help the community without having to announce, 'Hey, guess what?' Because you know what? Nobody cares anymore.
WCT: Yes, it has really changed.
LG: It's so old. It's older than I am. [ Laughs ] .
WCT: You said you didn't really come out until your early 20s so, at that point, were you concerned about how the music industry would react?
LG: By that time, they had already dropped me—I think by my second or third year in college. By the time I graduated college in '68, everyone was going on to a new beginning, and I was sort of a has-been by that point.
WCT: So, were you then more concerned about how your fans would react?
LG: It was not a popular concept at the time, so I kept it among friends, family and people I trusted. Not that it mattered. Before I actually came out, when I was in the experimental stages right after college, someone had seen me walking into a bar and took it upon themselves to type my parents a letter and let them know. So, I had to deal with that first before I actually came out with my parents, literally putting my back to the wall. It wasn't even easy to come out. I was sort of forced to come out to my parents, and maybe that was a good thing. But that's how it worked. I would have preferred to choose my own time and place.
WCT: Since you have come out, how different has life been for you? How have your fans changed?
LG: I think it's a fascinating dynamic. One of the reasons I started doing In the Life some years ago was I would get into the middle of the country—not necessarily Chicago—but Iowa and New Mexico and Texas, and I would meet people after a show and they would confess to me that they were gay. You know, these people need something to relate to they can have access without having to wait for someone like me to come into town once every five years. I started watching In the Life and knew we needed something like this. People would come up to me after a show, and say, 'We're so proud of you for doing that show.' So, over the years, it has changed. Many of my fans, of course, are gay, and have been all their lives. So, it's just sort of a validation for them in some silly way, but whatever it takes to make someone feel good about themselves is fine by me.
WCT: So, you've been involved in the music industry for so long. How has it changed? Is it better for women now?
LG: I have to say, and I've said it before, I think the record industry is the last bastion. The film industry has more women today than it ever did in leading scenes and directorial, making-decisions positions. I still see total gender-phobia, as well as homophobia in the record business, and maybe that's why it is disappearing and becoming a dinosaur.
Update: Catch Gore June 15 (the show has been rescheduled) at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln. There will be two shows, one at 7 p.m., and another at 10 p.m. For tickets, call 773-728-6000 or see www.Ticketweb.com .