Singer Lesley Gore, best known for the 1963 smash hit “It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To),” died Monday following a battle with lung cancer. The singer was reportedly a non-smoker.
She was only 16 and still in high school when “Party” topped the pop charts. It established a signature sound for the singer, largely thanks to producer Quincy Jones, which continued with follow ups such as “Judy’s Turn To Cry” and “She’s A Fool.”
A dramatic departure from this formula, “You Don’t Own Me” made it to No. 2 later in the year, kept out of the top spot by the Beatles “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” The song appeared in the film “The First Wives Club” in 1996 and in later years became a feminist anthem. For the 2012 presidential election, a public service announcement was made of the song with various female celebrities lip synching to it.
“It’s hard for me to believe but we’re still fighting for the same things we were then,” Gore wrote on her Facebook page in 2012. “Yes, ladies, we’ve got to come together and get out there and vote and protect our bodies. They’re ours. Please vote.”
In 1980, Gore was nominated for an Academy Award for writing the song “Out Here On My Own” from the movie “Fame.” In 2005, she released “Ever Since,” her first album in 30 years. That same year, she came out as a lesbian in an interview with the website After Ellen.
“Well, I didn’t know until I was in my 20s, so if (anyone) knew it, they knew it before I did,” Gore told the site. “You know, maybe someone did think that. I don’t know, but I certainly didn’t know it until I was in my 20s… I just kind of lived my life naturally and did what I wanted to do. I didn’t avoid anything. I didn’t put it in anybody’s face. Times were very different then, so, you know, I just tried to live as normally as humanly possible. But as truthfully as humanly possible.”
Gore’s music went on to appear in the television series “The L Word” and she appeared several times as host of the PBS LGBT series “In The Life.”
“I meet a lot of young people in the Midwest, and I saw what a difference a show like ‘In the Life’ can make to their lives in some of these small towns where, you know, there are probably two gay people in the whole damn town,” Gore told After Ellen. “It’s made a real inroads for them. They come and they talk to me about this stuff. So I know how important it is.”
Gore is survived by her partner of 33 years, Lois Sasson.
“She was a wonderful human being– caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian,” Sasson, a jewelry designer, told The Associated Press.