Sunday, March 09, 2008


Not a canary in a coal mine, but a parakeet in an echo chamber, Lesley Gore hasn't been given enough credit for one fact: she's distinctive. When you hear Lesley's slightly husky voice, you know it's not a solo Shangri-La, or another Daughter of Sappho, Dusty Springfield. Gore's particular brand of toughness and vulnerability was all her own, made famous on the ominous, bitchy "You Don't Own Me" and the masochistic then sadistic two-part story, "It's My Party" and "Judy's Turn to Cry."

"Back in the day," nobody knew that Gore and Springfield were lesbians, but today it seems pretty obvious, since both were rather aloof to doing sweet (Petula Clark) or sour (Nancy Sinatra) poses intended for boys to pin up and stare at. Nope, if you stared at Dusty's hooker-esque make-up on an album cover, or Lesley's slightly distant mug shots, any erotic interest was from the beholder, not the babe.
The illfolks download offers Lesley doing what many stars of the day did...phonetically singing songs in foreign languages to increase sales. While the always snotty French will probably complain about her accent, the Germans might just sob into their saurkraut, and the Italians will gesticulate with their sausages, this stuff will sound pretty authentic to English-speakers. Whatever the language, you instantly know it's Lesley Gore, and that's the sign of a very, very distinctive vocalist.
Lesley still takes to the road, singing a varied selection of numbers (as opposed to being strictly an oldies tour item) and she's sometimes sought out for interviews by alternative newspapers and magazines that want to focus on her sexuality. And here, we zero in on Lesley's ability to satisfy our ears even when we don't know what the hell she's singing...and that's the mark of a fine singer, not just a pop star.
"You Don't Own Me" in German and French, "Maybe I Know" in French, and lots more. You get 8 German numbers, 8 French numbers, and 2 songs in Italian...Gore's brand of global warming.
the French, German and Italian LESLEY GORE


Anonymous said...

In an article where you give implied (and in my opinion, deserved) kudos to Gore and Springfield, as lesbians, for not being up to posing for glam shots, it's odd that you go on to state that such shots would be for "boys" to hang on their walls, as opposed to saying "straight boys" ("boys" implies all boys, which leaves out us gay boys, not to mention the gay gays, who should also have been included). I'm not a troll. I just go around the Internet pointing out this kind of heteronormative stuff. Anyway, that's all. Nice blog. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, I made a lot of mistakes in that, and I thought I had proofread it. I meant that "boys" implies all boys, and gay boys would obviously not fall into the group who wanted such glam shots, and that gay gals should have been included. Nothing like trying to make a point and then totally ... well, you get the point. :)

Ill Folks said...

Thanks, thanks. Most writing involves "generalization." It can get very trying when people read a bit of criticism you've written and complain, "that's just your opinion." Well, yeah. Do I have to say "In my opinion" in every paragraph?

So sometimes a writer forgets to remind readers that an article may not completely jibe with their experiences, ethnicity or sexual persuasion. But on a good day, it does. Or should. The most striking thing about George Foreman's autobiography, was his preface in which he said he was not going to identify anyone by race. "Ask yourself why that's important to you," he wrote.

So there you go. He was going for a universal theme. I do understand the opposite can be important, too, and that giving props to someone gay, Jewish, black, whatever, can show empathy and give someone in that group a needed boost in pride or confidence.

What am I saying? Thanks for reading, and agreeing that Gore and Springfield were, and are, memorable stars.