Tag Archives: Lesley Gore

Girl Power! Forty Of The Best Girl Group Songs

The girl group sound was a genre of pop music that flourished on the charts between 1958 and 1966. Most records that fall into this category were made by all-female trios or quartets. However, some girl group hits were performed by solo women, and some by groups that featured a cisgender male. Per girl-groups.com, more than 750 girl groups cracked the US or UK charts between 1960 and 1966.

Tunes du Jour commemorates International Women’s Day with a playlist of forty of the best examples of the girl group sound.


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Throwback Thursday – 1963

The girl group sound was hugely popular on the US pop charts in the early 1960s. The Shirelles, The Crystals, The Chiffons, The Angels, Martha and the Vandellas, The Marvelettes, The Exciters, The Orlons, The Cookies, The Murmaids, The Dixie Cups, The Supremes, The Toys, The Shangri-Las, The Jaynetts and others filled the radio with tales of teenage romance, heartbreak and occasionally social commentary. Solo acts such as Lesley Gore and Darlene Love also exemplified the girl group sound.

Described in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry as “the quintessence of the ‘girl group’ aesthetic of the early 1960s,” the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” reached #2 in 1963. The record was produced by Phil Spector, who produced at least 15 top forty girl group songs between 1962 and 1964.

Lead vocals on “Be My Baby” were performed by Ronnie Spector. In fact, the other Ronettes aren’t even on the record. Backup singers included the girlfriend of Phil Spector’s promotion man. That man was Sonny Bono; his girlfriend was Cher. Sonny & Cher would have their first hit as a duo two years later.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist spotlights the hits of 1963. Here are twenty of that year’s best, kicking off with the record New Music Express named the second best song of the 1960s (their #1 was The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”), the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.”


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It’s Irene Cara’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Winston + Irene Cara

Fame! I’m gonna live forever! Baby, remember my name!

Though she hasn’t had a hit song in more than thirty years, people still remember Irene Cara’s name. Between 1980 and 1984, she had more hit songs than the two you can name off the top of your head.

First came the song “Fame,” taken from the movie Fame, in which Cara played Coco Hernandez. “Fame,” written by Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore and featuring backing vocals from Luther Vandross and Vicki Sue Robinson, hit #4, and won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. In addition, Cara’s performance in the film earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.

Also vying for the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year was “Out Here on My Own,” written by Michael Gore and his sister Lesley. Also performed by Cara in the film, it became her second consecutive top 40 single.

She didn’t appear in the movie Flashdance, but her theme song, “Flashdance…What a Feeling!,” was #1 in the US for six weeks, and won Cara, one of its writers, the Oscar for Best Original Song. “What a Feeling” also won Cara the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female and a nomination for Record of the Year, which she lost to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” (fair enough!). The single topped charts around the world.

Given the song’s massive success, Cara found it odd that per her record label, her royalties from sales of the record amounted to $183. In 1985, following a few more hit songs (“The Dream,” from the movie D.C. Cab, in which she played Irene Cara; “Why Me?,” and “”Breakdance”), she sued the head of that label (which had since gone under) for $10 million for breach of contract. Eight years later, a jury awarded her $1.5 million. By then, her time in the spotlight was long over. She never hit the charts again after filing her lawsuit.

Take your passion and make it happen, but make sure you have people you trust looking after your affairs.

Today, Irene Cara turns 57 years old. Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party kicks off with “Flashdance…What a Feeling!”


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Happy International Women’s Day!

March 8 is International Women’s Day. Here is your soundtrack:


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It’s Lesley Gore’s Birthday And I’ll Party If I Want To

Ten facts about Lesley Gore:
1. Today is her birthday. Like me, she was born in Brooklyn, New York. Back then she was Lesley Sue Goldstein. Like me, she was raised in Bergen County, New Jersey – she in Tenafly, me in Englewood Cliffs. Like me, she went to high school in Englewood, New Jersey – she at the Dwight School for Girls, me at Dwight Morrow High, which was not a school for girls.
2. Quincy Jones produced all of Gore’s charted singles between 1963 and 1965, including the top ten hits “It’s My Party,” “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” “She’s a Fool” and “You Don’t Own Me.”
3. Jones recorded Gore performing a song written by his dentist’s nephew. The song is “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows;” the nephew is Marvin Hamlisch. The record reached #13 on the pop charts, becoming the first hit for songwriter Hamlisch, who also composed Gore’s “California Nights,” a top twenty single in 1967.
4. “California Nights” is one of the songs Gore performed in 1967 on the television series Batman, on which she portrayed Pussycat, one of Catwoman’s minions.
5. She was given first dibs at recording “A Groovy Kind of Love,” but an executive at her record company turned it down, as he didn’t want Gore to sing the word “groovy.” The song became a #2 smash for The Mindbenders in 1966 and a #1 for Phil Collins in 1988.
6. While having hit records, Lesley stayed in school. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in American Literature from Sarah Lawrence College.
7. In a conversation with k.d. lang published in Ms. magazine, Gore said she never received a gold record for “You Don’t Own Me,” though the song’s two male writers, John Madara and Dave White, did. That shit ain’t right.
8. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song for “Out Here on My Own,” which she wrote with her brother Michael. She considered the song a sequel to “You Don’t Own Me.” “Out Here on My Own” was written for the movie Fame, whose theme song won the Oscar. “Fame” was written by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford.
9. Lesley co-wrote a song for the 1996 film Grace of My Heart. In the movie, the song, “My Secret Love,” is performed a closeted young lesbian singer character with a flip, portrayed by Bridget Fonda. Gore was not invited to the film’s premiere. That shit ain’t right.
10. Gore came out as a lesbian in 2005, the year she released Ever Since, her first album in thirty years and her final album release. She was with her partner, Lois Sasson, from 1982 until Gore’s death in February of this year.

Here are Lesley Gore’s nineteen charted singles, plus her rendition of her Oscar-nominated tune.


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Twenty Facts About And Thirty Songs Produced By Quincy Jones

Ringo + Quincy 001

1) He’s had a record 79 Grammy Award nominations. He’s won 27.
2) He arranged the Frank Sinatra/Count Basie version of “Fly Me to the Moon,” which astronaut Neil Armstrong played when he first landed on the moon.
3) Jones produced the soundtrack of the motion picture The Wiz. He later said he hated working on it, as he didn’t like most of the songs nor did he like the film’s script. However, on the set on The Wiz he got to know the singer who played the scarecrow, Michael Jackson. Jackson asked him to recommend a producer for his next album. Jones threw out a few names and also offered to produce it himself. Jackson took him up on his offer, though his record label thought it was a bad idea. The album, 1979’s Off the Wall, went on to sell 20 million copies and won Jackson his first Grammy Award.
4) While widely known as the producer of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Bad and Off the Wall albums, Jones is also the producer of the hit records “We Are the World” by USA for Africa; “It’s My Party,” “You Don’t Own Me” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” by Lesley Gore; “Angel” by Aretha Franklin; “I’ll By Good to You,” “Stomp” and “Strawberry Letter 23” by The Brothers Johnson; “One Mint Julep” by Ray Charles; and “Love is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)” by Donna Summer, among others. He also worked with Bono, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Little Richard, Paul Simon, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Herbie Hancock, Billie Holiday, B.B. King, Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Diana Ross, Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee, Chaka Khan, Tony Bennett, George Benson, Luther Vandross, Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Mathis, James Ingram and Patti Austin, plus plenty more.
5) “Quincy Jones is one of the most versatile and potent figures of popular culture….When you listen to his impressive and monumental body of work, it’s easy to understand how and why he’s touched such a broad audience of music lovers. He’s done it all.” – Michael Jackson
6) Time magazine named him one of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century.
7) In the early 1960s he became the Vice President of Mercury Records, the first African-American at a major record company to reach that executive level.
8) His middle name is Delight.
9) Along with Bob Russell, he became the first African-American to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song for “The Eyes of Love” from Banning.
10) With seven Oscar nominations, he is tied with sound designer Willie Burton as the African-American with the most Oscar nominations.
11) Jones produced the film The Color Purple, his first foray into film production. He asked Steven Spielberg to direct it, which he did. It was nominated for eleven Academy Awards.
12) Among his 33 movie scores are the ones for The Color Purple, In the Heat of the Night, In Cold Blood, and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.
13) He has a daughter with actress Nastassja Kinski as well as six other children.
14) He’s the father of actress Rashida Jones. She’s pretty.
15) In 1988 he formed Quincy Jones Entertainment, who produced the television program The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
16) He never learned how to drive.
17) Among the charities Jones supports are American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmfAR), Global Down Syndrome Foundation, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), MusiCares, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Rape Foundation, UNICEF, NAACP, Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, and Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes.
18) In 1974 Jones suffered a brain aneurysm. He was given a 1 in 100 chance of surviving. Family and friends, including Richard Pryor, Marvin Gaye and Sidney Poitier, planned a memorial service for him, which he got to attend.
19) Today he turns 82 years old.
20) “The thing is to find your lightning – and ride your lightning.” – Quincy Jones

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The Song Retains The Name

Winston + Bobby Brown
Today is Bobby Brown’s 46th birthday. A former member of New Edition, Brown had his first solo hit in 1988 with “Don’t Be Cruel,” which reached #8 on the Hot 100. Though it shares its title with an Elvis Presley #1 hit from 1956, Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” is not a remake.

That brings us to today’s playlist, which I call The Song Retains the Name. It consists of different songs with the same title. I initially planned to include twenty such songs, but more kept springing to mind. Before I knew it, I passed 100 entries. There are plenty more, so I decided to open this up to my reader(s). If you have songs that share titles you’d like to add, feel free to do so.

(NOTES: I included The Jacksons’ “This Place Hotel” because when it was released in 1980 its title was “Heartbreak Hotel.” Thought he didn’t have to, Michael Jackson, the song’s writer, later changed its name to “This Place Hotel” to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley song “Heartbreak Hotel.” Whitney Houston didn’t feel the need to make the same Hotel accommodation.

Also, though it is listed on Spotify as “The Best of My Love,” the Eagles track does not have a “The” on the 45 or the band’s On the Border album.)

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The Ronettes – “Be My Baby”

Ringo + Ronnie 2014-08-10 12.19

Ronnie Spector turns 71 years old today. Along with her sister Estelle and cousin Nedra, Ronnie, then Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett, formed The Ronettes, one of the classic girl groups of the sixties.

The trio was signed to Colpix Records, but none of their singles performed well. Then they met Phil Spector, who signed them to his label, Philles.

The first track Spector recorded with the trio was “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall in Love?,” which, though the girls liked it, Spector held from release.

With Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector wrote “Be My Baby,” with the intention of having Ronnie Bennett, the woman he wanted to be his baby, record it.

The resulting record had a classic Spector wall of sound production and Phil recorded more than 40 takes. It took Ronnie three days to get the lead vocal down.

The other Ronettes don’t sing on “Be My Baby.” Background vocals were provided by Darlene Love, Nino Tempo, Sonny Bono, who did promotion for Phil Spector, and Bono’s girlfriend, Cher.

In 1963, The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” rose to #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Since that time it has made many lists of the greatest recordings. Among its biggest fans is Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, who named it is favorite single of all-time, saying “This is a special one for me. What a great sound, the Wall of Sound. Boy, first heard this on the car radio and I had to pull off the road, I couldn’t believe it. The choruses blew me away; the strings are the melody of love. It has the promise to make the world better.”

Ronnie Bennett married Phil Spector in 1968. They divorced in 1974.

Today’s playlist consists of twenty tracks embodying the classic girl groups sound, with an emphasis on The Ronettes.

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