I hear car horns behind the voice of Lesley Gore on the phone, which makes sense, since the woman who sang "It's My Party" and "You Don't Own Me" is in New York. The Big Apple is also where Gore first learned how to hit the charts, with no less a tutor than producer and arranger Quincy Jones. "It's extraordinary that a man of his distinction could put himself in the shoes of a 16-year-old kid," Gore says. "That was his art, in a way. There may have been a 14-year difference between us, but he never talked down to me."
Anecdotes about Q figure in Gore's current live performances, which also makes sense, since the girl who sang "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" and "Judy's Turn to Cry" in the key of A — "If Quincy didn't see the veins popping in my neck, he wouldn't be happy" — is now a smoky-voiced woman working in jazzier, Jones-ier realms on the new CD Ever Since (Engine Company). "Quincy would often call me on a Friday and say, "Lil' Bits, meet me at Basin Street at 8"," Gore remembers. "We'd go see Peggy [Lee] or Ella [Fitzgerald] or Dinah Washington. He'd say, "Listen to this opening number — this is what an opening number should do." He took mentoring seriously. He wanted me to understand."
To understand Lesley Gore, you could check out Susan J. Douglas's excellent Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media, a rumination on pop culture that makes it easy to place ’'60s girl- pop records by Gore and others on a continuum that led to the feminist revolution. Or you could just check out the music. Far from a crybaby, Gore paved the way for the rebellious likes of Joan Jett. "I rather liked Joan's interpretation [of "'You Don't Own Me"]," ']," Gore says. "Dusty [Springfield] also covered that record almost minutes after it came out."
Ah, Dusty. Gore and Springfield had things besides talent in common, even if it's taken decades for the news to come out in print. "I did actually come to know Dusty when I was living in LA during the ’'70s," Gore recalls. "They are doing a musical [Dusty] of Dusty's life. Dusty's manager, Vicki Wickham, is a dear friend of mine, and they consulted her."