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BuzzCut: 'It's My Party' and 'You Don't Own Me' How Lesley Gore's Music is Making a Comeback

·5 min read

BuzzCut is News18’s new series where we break down a recent trend on the Internet and delve deep into Internet-culture to understand why it’s causing a stir on the Internet.

“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to,” goes to the lyrics of one of the Instagram Reels and TikTok’s recent viral soundtracks. While young people in 2021 are vibing to the lyrics, this isn’t the first time the exact line has gone ‘viral’ – even though much of the Internet existed. But it isn’t one lyric or even one song that has stood the test of time to make sense to impressionable young girls, even sixty years apart.

Who was Lesley Gore?

Lesley Sue Goldstein, known professionally as Lesley Gore, was an American singer-songwriter, and activist. At the age of 16, she recorded the pop hit “It’s My Party,” which charted as a US number one in 1963. Her version of the song hit number one on the pop and rhythm and blues charts in the United States – also making it the first hit single for producer Quincy Jones. Gore’s official website states that, “Born in New York on May 2, 1946, Lesley grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey in a very close-knit family. Lesley, per parents, Leo and Ronny, and her younger brother, Michael, shared rare respect and enjoyment of each other.”

At the time of her first single release, Lesley was a student at Dwight School for Girls in Englewood, New Jersey. She graduated with honors in June, 1964 and enrolled in Sarah Lawrence College. She turned down a Broadway play and a television series to go to college but felt that college was more important at the time. Lesley received her B.A. in English Literature from Sarah Lawrence College in 1968.

In the years following the 60’s she went on to create more iconic music, as well as activism, her website mentions “what she loved best: performing, writing, supporting worthy causes, being a spokesperson for many issues involving women’s rights, LGBT, homelessness, hunger.” Gore passed away in 2015.

The hit lyrics that transcend generational gap

In Gore’s version, on the night of her birthday bash, Gore’s sweetheart Johnny dumps her for her best friend, Judy. Seizing the moment, Gore breaks down sobbing — it is her big night, after all, and besides, “You would cry too, if it happened to you.” The story of a teenage girl at her birthday party when her boyfriend Johnny, only to return in the company of another girl, who is “wearing his ring”, to indicate he has replaced the birthday girl as his love interest struck a cord with audiences, with the song’s chorus, “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to… You would cry too if it happened to you!” became a part of American pop-cultural language as a phrase used to describe being utterly humiliated and miserable during an event that is supposed to be a happy occasion.

“It’s My Party” was credited to John Gluck, Wally Gold and Herb Weiner, staff writers at the Aaron Schroeder Music firm in 1962. The lyrics were actually written by Seymour Gottlieb, a freelance songwriter. He gave the lyrics to Herb Weiner, with whom he partnered in writing songs, to peddle. It was based on actual events relating to Gottlieb’s daughter Judy’s ‘Sweet 16’ party, before which she cried over the prospect of her grandparents being invited, according to an archival version of the Daily News, from the day after Gore’s death. According to family lore, he gave the lyrics to “It’s My Party”—where the mean girl is named Judy—to his songwriting partner, Herbie Wiener, who he had met in the famous Brill Building in Manhattan, where Tin Pan Alley songwriters peddled their wares.

Use in recent pop culture

‘It’s my party’ isn’t the only song of Gore that’s gotten its way into today’s generation. With the release of the much-hyped Suicide Squad in 2016, another of Gore’s hit singles, ‘You don’t own me’ made a comeback, with women relating to the lyrics: You don’t own me

I’m not just one of your many toys / You don’t own me / Don’t say I can’t go with other boys / And don’t tell me what to do / Don’t tell me what to say / And please, when I go out with you / Don’t put me on display ’cause / You don’t own me”.

In 2015, Melanie Martinez used ‘Its my party and I’ll cry if I want to,’ in her song ‘Pity Party’ as the chorus lines.

Why it’s back to being iconic in 2021

The current viral audio is a mix of Gore’s original song and Martinez’s version of the lines, but the theme of the use remains the same as the original song intended: realizing a situation where being told you’re doing something ‘wrong’ is actually okay. Used as the theme of several reels, they usually feature one person apologizing or acknowledging a problematic trait with someone, who points out you don’t have to be apologetic or feel any kind of way about it. Here are some of the highest-viewed examples.

The lyrics of adamantly being told ‘this is not okay’ when some behaviour is genuinely justified, like crying at your own party if something terrible happens, and realizing that life is also about unlearning more than just learning, is perhaps why a song from 1963 still remains popular to this day. Gore’s lyrics of a woman standing up for her place also still remain as valid in a feminist telling that very little has changed through the years.

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