A re-post of what I wrote when Lesley Gore died in 2015 at the age of 68.
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 competing with black, and it’s all fun and games but it’s … kind of not, too. It becomes stressful and you can SEE the stress. My pal Trav SD has a great post about Gore on that show.
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. Eminem is sampling freaking Lesley Gore? In his tantrum-y hands, her song sounds psychotic, like, “NOBODY fucking owns me!” And there she is, eerie and pissed and slightly scary in the background. Love it. (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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