The Story Of Lesley Gore’s Empowering Hit

Teen pop sensation Lesley Gore wasn’t known for making statements in her songs before she released “You Don’t Own Me.” At 16, she was discovered by Quincy Jones and signed to Mercury. The New York singer broke into the charts with songs like “It’s My Party” and “Judy’s Turn To Cry,” which captured the melodrama of teen romance and landed her a No.1 and Top Five finish on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively.

When she returned with her third single, though, things changed. “You Don’t Own Me” presented a very different attitude – one in which she told a lover they couldn’t tell her what to do or what to say. “Our original intent was to write a song with a woman telling a man off,” John Madara, who co-wrote the track with David White, told Forgotten Hits. “Though we didn’t realize at the time that it would become a woman’s anthem, it definitely was our intention to have a woman make a statement.”

Subscribe to Lesley Gore’s official artist channel on YouTube.

The message of “You Don’t Own Me” made an impact on Gore’s audience and earned her another hit on the Hot 100. It peaked at No.2, only held off from the top spot by The Beatles. The song’s legacy, of course, has centered around its strong, empowering attitude. Over the years, it has been covered by female artists like Dusty Springfield, Joan Jett, and Christina Aguilera, while its inclusion in the 1996 movie The First Wives Club – where it was sung by Bette Midler, Diane Keaton, and Goldie Hawn – introduced it to a whole new generation of fans. A 2015 version by Australian singer-songwriter Grace, featuring G-Eazy, gave the song another resurgence, expanding its influence into the 21st century.

Gore re-recorded the song in 2005 for her album Ever Since and repurposed it during the 2012 presidential campaign as part of a reproductive rights PSA with Girls creator Lena Dunham and Rookie’s Tavi Gevinson. Others have also used it to highlight issues relating to feminism – on the night of the 2018 Women’s March, female cast members of Saturday Night Live and Jessica Chastain sang the song together.

“After some 40 years, I still close my show with that song because I can’t find anything stronger, to be honest with you,” Gore once told Digital Interviews. “You Don’t Own Me”’s continuing impact reflects its still-relevant message for the world.

Subscribe to Lesley Gore’s official artist channel on YouTube.

Related Posts