“I still get a chill when I sing, ‘You Don’t Own Me.’ I find some new feeling in it every time.” –Lesley Gore

A re-post of what I wrote when Lesley Gore died in 2015 at the age of 68.

FILE - In this May 5, 1964, file photo, singer Lesley Gore hugs a flowered record at her 18th birthday party celebrated at the Delmonico Hotel in New York. Singer-songwriter Gore, who topped the charts in 1963 with her epic song of teenage angst, "It's My Party," and followed it up with the hits "Judy's Turn to Cry," and "You Don't Own Me," died of cancer, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. She was 68. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)

Below you will find a clip of Lesley Gore, performing “You Don’t Own Me”, on the now-mythical 1964 T.A.M.I. Show, directed by Steve Binder (who also would end up directing Elvis Presley’s phenomenal 1968 “comeback special”). There’s tons of commentary out there about what went down on the T.A.M.I. Show (and you can rent it on Netflix – worth it to see the whole thing, although many of the clips are on Youtube.) All of these bands gathered for a live audience and performed. No biggie, right? But what ended up happening was a Musical Rumble, a death-match. Each band competing with each other, white British bands competing with Black American performers, inspirations to the Brits, but … it’s all fun and games but it’s kind of not, too. The concert becomes stressful and you can SEE the stress. My pal Trav SD has a great post about Gore on that show.

For example:
James Brown was placed second to last in the lineup, and the show closed out with The Rolling Stones, who were, of course, initially inspired by people like James Brown (Mick Jagger was one of the producers of the recent Brown biopic, Get On Up.) Brown was furious that he was placed second to last (“NOBODY comes after James Brown!”). James Brown came onstage and performed so well (understatement – it is a performance For the Ages), that he brought the house down for 20 straight minutes. Brown said later, “I danced so hard that night my manager cried.” And the Stones, watching him tear it up from backstage, started feeling incredibly uneasy and anxious, watching Brown. How were they supposed to follow that? No one should have to follow that. When they finally take the stage, they actually look … anxious. Richards said later that the T.A.M.I. Show was one of the biggest mistakes of their career. They don’t flop or anything, and they are riveting in their young 1964-glitter. But … following James Brown was an impossibility. Brown makes the Stones look derivative, and they know it.

All that fascinating background aside, I love Lesley Gore (she was one of the few women in the lineup – she and The Supremes!). And it’s important to remember that of all of the Macho-Rumble guys on that stage, SHE sold more records (at the time anyway) than all of them. I mean, “It’s My Party,” you know what I’m saying? She was the #1 female recording artist of 1964. She sang 4 whole songs on The TAMI Show, evidence of her star-power, but “You Don’t Own Me” is the standout.

Do not mess with this woman.

She’s not just singing the lyrics. She MEANS it, all of it.

The song is a feminist anthem, 10 years before “women’s lib” went mainstream. The song is a declaration of independence. It is also a WARNING.

I cannot tell you how happy I was that Eminem sampled it so heavily in his untitled track off of Recovery. (In doing a little research for this post, I came across the following quote from Lesley Gore: “I’ve listened to Eminem rap. That’s not daily fare for me, but I can’t help but admire how vivid what he does is. My own taste goes a little more toward Norah Jones.”) I love that.

More Lesley Gore Clips

Happy birthday, Lesley Gore!

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45 Responses to “I still get a chill when I sing, ‘You Don’t Own Me.’ I find some new feeling in it every time.” –Lesley Gore

  1. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a chance to listen to the commentary track and extras on the DVD release (worthwhile if you haven’t). Binder relates a story that he checked into a hotel five or six years later and found out James Brown was staying there. He hadn’t actually seen him since the T.A.M.I. Show so he thought he’d drop by and pay his respects. Brown didn’t recognize him at first but when Binder reminded him who he was, James (who was a very small man) ran straight across the room and lifted him off the ground in a giant bear hug and basically told everyone present that Binder was the only man who had ever managed to capture the essence of his stage show for posterity. For which we can call thank God!

    I didn’t realize it the first couple of times I saw it–maybe because she looked so anachronistic (old Show Biz trying to compete with the Future) but I realized at some point that the quality of Lesley Gore’s SINGING in this was unmatched (that’s saying something considering the lineup, but even Smokey Robinson frayed a time or two–she didn’t)….and as Binder pointed out in his commentary, when the film was actually shot she was by far the biggest star on the roster, which is why they closed the first half with her and gave her what is probably the longest segment.

    Anyway the whole thing’s a miracle. Everyone should watch the whole thing if they have a chance.

    • sheila says:

      NJ – awesome stuff! It’s been a while since I’ve listened to Binder’s commentary track, but I agree with you – that it was awesome. I’m so glad a decision was made to release the TAMI Show with some special features like that. A really important moment in time.

      Oh, and Teri Garr being one of the dancers on the scaffolds! Taking time out from, you know, dancing in Viva Las Vegas to THIS. What an interesting career.

      And yes, if I recall – Lesley Gore sang four songs. All alone on that big stage. And she’s awesome in each one. You’re so right: her singing is impeccable. It’s as polished and good as the recordings. She’s amazing live.

      I love that anecdote about Brown embracing Binder!!

  2. Saint Russell says:

    So many 60s pop artists can be seen on YouTube with clips from old TV shows, where maybe it was totally lip-synched, or a live vocal with a backing track. It’s great to see the real thing! T.A.M.I. Show had the Wrecking Crew on hand, so for the acts that weren’t there with a touring band, they had Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell and the rest to provide first-class support. Singers singing, and players playing.. what will they think of next!

    • sheila says:

      Right – awesome musicians, awesome dancers gyrating across the stage … and then James Brown coming on and showing everyone else up. The whole “I must reject my own cape” bit is showmanship of the highest order.

  3. mutecypher says:

    Sheila, I’ve watched this YouTube many times without knowing anything about the T.A.M.I. show. So I poked around on Wikipedia and from what I’ve read, Steve Binder used a very high quality video system. Do you know why it’s blurry around the top and bottom? I had assumed it was due to some poor quality kinescope off a grainy TV image. Is the DVD clearer?

    NDJ, great James Brown story.

    • sheila says:

      The DVD is much clearer. Highly recommend watching the whole thing, chronologically!! Because what you see happen is you see people standing-off against one another. Chuck Berry making Gerry and the Pacemakers SWEAT – as they went back and forth – you can feel the (somewhat) friendly competition going on between the black artists and the British invasion folks.

      Then we have awesome footage of the Beach Boys.

      And the pinnacle is James Brown. You can’t believe what you are seeing.

      The poor Rolling Stones basically slunk onstage apologetically after that.

      It’s a helluva broadcast – I think the idea just was to “celebrate” the music all the teens were listening to in 1964. Who knew that it would become a veritable rap battle?

  4. MC…Glad you enjoyed….And yes, the DVD is MUCH better than the old kinescopes that were available for years (and had to be ordered from bootleggers)…The DVD also restores footage from the Beach Boys which is the best live footage I’ve seen from them. Can’t recommend it too highly.

    • sheila says:

      Yes! Dennis Wilson going NUTS on drums – their striped shirts – great great stuff.

      Lots of great shots of the integrated audience too, blacks, whites, all teenagers, going CRAZY together. Pretty wild.

  5. mutecypher says:

    Nondisposable Johnny –

    Thanks for the recommendation. I did find a longer YouTube clip of Lesley Gore at TAMI and it appears that this was an effect used only on “You Don’t Own Me.”

    I love how she shakes her hand at about 1:04 and just completely owns “Don’t tell me what to do, don’t tell me what to say.” I think it’s shy I prefer this version to the single. Gotta check out the Beach Boys and James Brown now.

    • sheila says:

      // I love how she shakes her hand at about 1:04 and just completely owns “Don’t tell me what to do, don’t tell me what to say.” //


  6. I mention the Beach Boys because they were cut out of even the bootleg versions for many years due to licensing issues, but the whole show is beyond the pale (especially Smokey Robinson and the Miracles)…and it builds, and builds, and builds. Can’t recommend it highly enough and really hope you can get hold of it.

  7. sheila says:

    For those who are interested – here’s an interesting post on Open Culture about James Brown’s performance – and there are some good links to, one to a New Yorker article, with more background.


    I would say that definitely a high watermark was reached, in terms of performance, with what James Brown did on the TATI Show.

  8. sheila says:

    Oh and Marvin Gaye too! Wonderful performance from him as well.

    Now I want to watch the whole thing right now!!

  9. Jessie says:

    ” The whole “I must reject my own cape” bit is showmanship of the highest order.”
    Oh my god, THAT’s what Whoopi is referencing in Sister Act!

  10. sheila says:

    Here is James Brown’s full performance on the TAMI Show. Imagine being Mick Jagger and Keith Richards backstage, watching this go down, realizing they were going to be forced to follow that. It’s 18 minutes. It’s one of the most incredible performances I have ever seen!


  11. Jessie says:

    I feel kind of dumb that I never got it! lol. I had no idea the “cape act” was a thing.

    That performance is astounding. The athleticism — the passion! The showmanship! I followed the other link and the Stones just sound like The Thamesmen in its wake.

    • sheila says:

      James Brown is from another PLANET. I mean …. what?? You think he can’t possibly have more to give … and then, oh shit, HE DOES.

      and hahaha in re The Stones. Totally!

  12. Katy says:

    Very cool story and clip! I love 1960s music artists, and the cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” in The First Wives Club is one of my favorite scenes. It’s nice to put a face to one of my favorite songs. :)

  13. Judy says:

    I saw this in the theater when I was about 14 and over the years, the only things that remain of my memory of it are James Brown and then the Stones. It’s funny — at the time we couldn’t wait to see the Stones and being ignorant kids, we were impatient for this James Brown person (and everyone else, come to think of it) to hurry it up. And then when the Stones came on, everyone in the theater lost their shit — screaming, carrying on. But I couldn’t get James Brown out of my mind and after all these years, I can still picture his performance. I always loved Lesley Gore too — “don’t tell me what to do, don’t tell me what to say” was almost a mantra for my life.

    Thanks so much for jogging old memories — I’m definitely going to watch it again.

    • sheila says:

      Judy – thank you SO much for the real-time perspective!! I love it!

      I can’t imagine what that must have felt like to have that be your introduction to James Brown – when you were waiting for The Stones – unbelievable. Thank you so much for sharing.

  14. For one more really nice story about Lesley and “You Don’t Own Me” you can go to the link below and go to item #7…I saw the show at the time. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be readily available anywhere but I’m almost certain it’s the same one where she said she knew the song was going to be a hit because she read her fan mail.


  15. mutecypher says:

    Nondisposable Johnny – Ol’ Greil makes it sound like she’s a sad or unhappy person, at least I think that’s what he’s implying. That’s not the sense I get from this bio. What’s your take?

    • sheila says:

      Speaking of Griel – went to a QA of him talking about his new book two nights ago. My friend Charlie was the questioner. When I have a moment to breathe, I’ll write it up – it was fascinating.

  16. sheila says:

    You can probably imagine my excitement when Eminem sampled this song.


  17. Mutecypher…Actually, my memory was that she was pretty darn happy about the whole thing…but it’s been a while since I saw it and he may have been talking more about the overall tone of the entire show than that particular bit…so I’ll give him a pass. Which I don’t always…as I sort of mention here! (lol)


  18. mutecypher says:

    Nondisposable Johnny –

    Sounds like you have a similar feeling to mine with respect to Mr. Marcus. I enjoy reading him, but I’m often left unconvinced by his point. I like that he’s so far out of the mainstream in the things that interest him. I hadn’t come across any reasons to suspect his veracity before, though.

    Sheila –

    Having said that, I’m looking forward to your write-up.

  19. And just to be clear, I am too!

  20. sheila says:

    Ha! I’ll transcribe it up tomorrow or Saturday. His new book looks eclectic and interesting. He sure can tell a good yarn. And I’ll tell you one thing – on my way home, I searched out all the songs he spoke about on my iPod (the ones I already have, anyway), and listened to them again.

  21. Regina Bartkoff says:


    So wonderful! I love how she means it! And it’s oddly understated too in a weird way, you can see it in her flashing eyes, she doesn’t have to push it because it’s so true for her and there’s a softness to it, and humor, but do not mess with her that’s for sure! I always loved her, great, great talent.

    • sheila says:

      Regina – you’re so right about the softness, the humor that is there too. Beautiful performer!

      But boy, yes, you do not want to fuck this woman over.

      I love her stuff so much!

  22. Sheila, have you ever seen Grace of My Heart? I’ve never been a huge pop music fan, but every time I stumble upon it on TV I end up sticking with it. Anyway, there’s a Lesley Gore-based character in it, along with lots of others obviously based on real people. Plus Bruce Davison! And Illeana Douglas is terrific.

  23. A truly great lady. I tried to do justice to her place in history here


    And I strongly second Jincy’s emotion on Grace of My Heart.

  24. Kent says:

    Lesley Gore STOLE the T.A.M.I. show! Something she is rarely given credit for, but just listen to those kids scream for her. WHAT A VOICE! WHAT A LOSS!

    • sheila says:

      And if I recall correctly – she sang FOUR songs. Nobody else sang four songs. She was HUGE and yes, listen to those kids scream!!

  25. Kent says:

    WHAT A VOICE! WHAT ENERGY! She was a huge star at the time, and the biggest selling recording artist on the bill in 1963/64. Not a stats kinda guy, but it looks like she sang a whopping six songs, all in a row! Here’s the complete set (with subtitles – translating English into… English!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7LdgPKO1AY

    • sheila says:

      Six – wow!! Definitely more than anyone else on the bill. They closed the first half with her, I believe, which speaks to her stature at the time.

      Thanks for the link!

      I also love her white eyeliner.

  26. Bill Wolfe says:

    I don’t think you can read this article unless you’re a subscriber, but on the off chance that you are, I thought you’d enjoy reading about this.


    • sheila says:

      Bill – yes!! I saw the announcement on Instagram through the New York Public Library account – very exciting!! Thanks for dropping the link here!

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