Interview with Lesley Gore


AE: I heard that it got rushed out. And you always hope for it, but you couldn’t have known that it would be as incredibly successful as it was.

LG: I’ll tell you the truth: When we left the studio, everyone was pleased, but even the president of the company, a wonderful father-like figure, Irving Green, said “Now, sweetheart, if this never gets released, I don’t want you to be disappointed.” And I said, “It’s OK, This has been a great experience. I enjoyed it and I thank you for that, and it’s okay if you never release it.” I never thought it would see the light of day.

AE: Really?

LG: Truly. I was 16 years old—what did I know? I went into a studio, that was an amazing experience, the whole band was there. Ellie Greewich and 12 singers were there—I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that. So if it was going to be released, I couldn’t even envision that. That was too far away to even think about.

AE: When did you transition from performing other people’s material to writing your own?

LG: You know there was a period of time in the ‘70s when I was living in California and there was not exactly a lot of work pouring in, a lot of these records, Party, You Don’t Own Me, there wasn’t enough perspective on them, there were no club dates, and I think I turned to writing really just to wake up in the morning and be a musician and to have something to do, and feel like a musician every day even if I wasn’t working.

And that’s what got me to the piano, that’s what got me up in the morning: a blank piece of paper and a hope to have something by the end of the day.

AE: Was it a struggle at first?

: Absolutely. It always is trying to self-motivate. I think it’s the hardest thing a person can do.

AE: Is it still a struggle?

LG: I’m sort of used to it now. I don’t know any other lifestyle. I get up in the morning and I really do feel that the world is my oyster, and I start that way, the same as I would if I were preparing to write a song: put a blank piece of paper up on the piano and you go for it. That’s what you’re there to do.

AE: You said that it was a double-edged sword, your rapid fame. Can you tell me what was rewarding, what were the good parts of it?

LG: Well, people pay a lot of attention to you, and that’s kind of wonderful, and at the same time, after a while you go, Oh my God, enough’s enough. I’m only a little 16-year-old person. So I tried to keep my head through things. Doing Hullabaloo and doing Ed Sullivan were frightening but wondrous experiences, doing the T.A.M.I. show, performing in front of 50,000 people at Lake Ponchartrain &#8212 these are memories that are amazing.

The Tonight Shows the Merv Griffin Shows, Batman, Smokey Joe’s Café on Broadway—I’ve had some wonderful opportunities and I’ve tried to take advantage of as much as I possibly could whenever something came along.

AE: It seems like it would’ve been difficult at such a young age to maintain friendships; it must have shocked your friends as much as it shocked you when things took off.

LG: Absolutely. But you find a level. After two years, I had my hit when I was a junior in high school, “It’s My Party,” and I matriculated into college a year and a half later. So I arrived as a sort of celebrity. Never a good idea in college. And it took a while but eventually I found my friends, on my level. I found people that I adored and felt that they adored me for all the right reasons. It’s like all things in life. You work it through and find people you can share things with.

AE: Was that in New York that you went to college?

LG: I went to Sarah Lawrence in Bronxville, which is only 30 minutes outside of New York. And I think that the reason I went there is I wanted to stay close to the music scene in New York &#8212 Quincy was still here &#8212 and also be able to do some TV. It was my first choice.

AE: How did you manage to keep up with the work and with your music?

LG: Well, I basically did not go on tour unless it was a holiday or summer. I pretty much tried to maintain as normal an educational schedule as possible. So there were times I would work on the weekends but maybe I would have to skip a Friday class to get there. But I stayed in school most of the week.

AE: That must’ve been difficult.

LG: Yeah, it was OK. I was a good student and I enjoyed school. It was good to get away from the attention. It was a good place to go, and if I didn’t have to travel on the weekend I enjoyed staying on campus and just sitting in the library all weekend. The school was a beautiful school and the campus was kind of like a haven for me. A beautiful school and an excellent philosophy. They treat women like human beings, and they were doing that back then. It felt really good to…to feel good being a woman, and Sarah Lawrence had a lot to do with helping me feel that way.

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