You Don't Own Me: The Life and Times of Lesley Gore

by Jeff Penczak Rating: Release Date:

Tolliver is a self-confessed gushing fanboy who cried when he first met Gore in 2003, so his critical analysis (or lack thereof) should be taken with a grain of salt. But he also interviewed key personnel in Gore’s musical career, and his project was blessed by Lesley’s mum and brother Michael, and her lifelong partner Lois Sasson, and includes the fruits of five years of meticulous research.

You’ll find the stories behind her hit recording sessions, her embarrassment at Mercury’s marketing strategy, the uproar surrounding ‘You Don’t Own Me’, etc. Unfortunately, the British Invasion, changing 60s musical landscape, her college education (BA, Sarah Lawrence, 1968), and dearth of marketable material in her twilight years (eg, a subsequent producer refused to record ‘A Groovy Kind of Love’, deeming it “too corny”, and Gamble-Huff tried to turn her into a blue-eyed soul singer) led even Tolliver to admit her career was over when Mercury dropped her in ’68.

The second half of the book relates her unsuccessful comeback attempts (disco diva, rap artist, soap opera star, cabaret singer, et.al.) Despite four Top 5 hits in 1963, Gore’s releases over the ensuing 50 years failed to duplicate that success, resulting in contributions to obscure novelty albums and film soundtracks, a dreaded “covers album”, and what Tolliver himself confesses were “forgettable cameos on smarmy compilation records”.

Nevertheless, the book does uncover details on Gore’s influence on The Beatles, her priceless reaction to appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show, her acting career, opening The TAMI Show, her stage fright, the stalker incidents, and her critically popular, but commercially disastrous comeback albums. Keeping the facts up front and avoiding sensationalistic gossip, Tolliver tells Gore’s story with passion, excitement, and love. It’s a long-overdue assessment, whetting the appetite for the posthumous autobiography she was preparing when she died from cancer last February.

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