Lesley Sue Goldstein, as she was born, may have only had two UK hit singles, but she was a force to be reckoned with and popular, talented and much-loved singer.
She was born in Brooklyn, New York but raised in New Jersey, she was discovered at the age of 16 by producer Quincy Jones who signed her to Mercury Records. He also producer her first and biggest international hit, It’s My Party.
That song was first recorded as a demo by the Blossoms but Helen Shapiro cut the first proper version. Helen didn’t like her own version and didn’t want it released, so it was given to Lesley and she made number one in America and number nine in the UK in 1963.
Her follow-up in the UK was Maybe I Know which reached number 20, but in her homeland she had much more success with the sequel to It’s My Party, Judy’s Turn to Cry and then She’s a Fool, Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows and the wonderful woman’s point-of-view anthem, and million-selling, You Don’t Own Me.
Singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka paid tribute by saying, “She was a great person and a phenomenal talent, who had opened for me on many occasions. She recorded a few of my songs (Magic Colors and Summer Symphony) and was a great songwriter in her own right. I’m glad I had the chance of knowing her.”
She was openly gay but officially came out in the early noughties when she hosted several episodes of the series, In the Life, which dealt with gay and lesbian issues in America. Her partner of 33 years, Lois Sasson said, “She was a wonderful human being — caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian,”
She moved onto to writing music for films alongside her brother Michael and the pair penned the Academy Award-nominated Out Here On My Own from the film 1980 Fame, before co-penning My Secret Love for Allison Anders’ 1996 film Grace of My Heart. She then turned to acting and appeared as Catwoman’s sidekick in the cult TV comedy Batman. In 1998, she appeared in Smokey Joe’s Cafe on Broadway.
In 2012 she got a tad involved in politics when, during the presidential campaign, she turned her hit You Don’t Own Me into an online video public service announcement demanding reproductive rights which starred Girls writer Lena Dunham and Tavi blogger Gevinson, among others.
One of her last live appearances was in 2012 when she headlined the She’s Got the Power concert outdoors at Lincoln Center alongside Ronnie Spector and LaLa Brooks.
Lesley died of lung cancer on Monday February 16th in the same city where she was born. New York.