Why Lesley Gore Tunes Sound So Good

by Kevin Burton

    Do you know the connection between “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson and “It’s My Party” by Lesley Gore?

   I mean, beyond the fact that they were both number one hits.

    Believe it or not there is at least one. I just found out last week, and it explains some things.

   Both songs were produced by the legendary musician, songwriter, composer, arranger, film, television and music producer Quincy Jones. While “Billie Jean” is perhaps the biggest song Jones produced, “It’s My Party” was his first hit, according to www.newsounds.org.

    If you have read some of my Tuesday music posts, you know I like a lot of different music and don’t apologize for any of it. But even for me Leslie Gore’s music is kind of out there on a limb all its own. 

   And at least once, liking it left me on a limb by myself.

    One of my earlier jobs was at the minor league baseball stadium in Wichita selling concessions. Maybe six or seven of us would work the little stand. We had this game where if you were the first one to say who the artist was on the radio they always had going at the stadium you got a point.

   Anything to pass the pregame time.

   So this Leslie Gore song came on, don’t remember which one, and I blurted out her name. Everybody else just gaped at me. There was a pregnant pause worthy of television.

   Then the manager said “Well, somebody’s got to know that stuff.”

   Nobody else knew Lesley Gore and I have often wondered why I like her songs so much.  I am not in any of her demographics.

   It’s got to be that Quincy Jones touch.  I looked it up and my favorite Gore tune, “Maybe I Know,” was produced by Jones too. 

   It was on this day in 1963 that “It’s My Party” began its two-week stay at number one on the US singles chart.

   Gore was 16 when Jones, then working as a producer for Mercury Records, heard a demo of It’s My Party. He liked it, shortened the intro and otherwise fashioned it into the tune that hit the top.

   “I’m not suggesting that we would not know who this hugely influential man is today without her, he was already a hot topic in the jazz world by then,” writes John Schaefer on newsounds.com.

   “But his astonishing career in pop music, including the record-breaking albums he made with Michael Jackson, had to begin somewhere, and it began with the 16-year old high school student who took the name Lesley Gore,” Schaefer writes.

   Her real name was Lesley Sue Goldstein. Her mother’s maiden name, Gore, was a lot more pop friendly. So that became her stage name.

   Jones also produced “Judy’s Turn To Cry,” “You Don’t Own Me,” “That’s the Way Boys Are,” “She’s A Fool.” and “Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows,” among other songs for Gore. 

   “Maybe I Know” and (to a lesser extent) “She’s A Fool” have a tension and momentum to them that I have filed away as a songwriter for future reference.

   The Gore influence, which I now know to be part Quincy Jones influence, extends to one of my original songs. I have a song called “Dana’s Not Here” that sounds to me anyway enough like a Leslie Gore song that it could have been a long lost demo of hers that didn’t go anywhere.

   Dana’s Not Here wasn’t among the first group of songs I took to a producer last month. But it could be in the next batch.  If I do develop it, I’ll probably offer it to a female singer. 

   Jones talks about musical styles and genres cross-pollinating, saying “That’s the way it ought to be.” He’s been at the heart of a lot of that.

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