Lesley Gore

You Don't Own Me

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Aside from "It's My Party," "You Don't Own Me" was Lesley Gore's biggest single, reaching number two in early 1964, only kept out of the number one spot by the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand." It's also the song that presents the strongest argument for taking Gore seriously as an artist, as the song, unlike most of her hits, was about serious adult matters, not about girlish romantic whims. For a big hit single, it was pretty adventurous, too, both in arrangement and structure. There aren't many pop songs with a more ominous introduction than the descending, quasi-classical burst of piano notes that open "You Don't Own Me," setting the stage for a melodramatically orchestrated Quincy Jones production. Gore slices through the declarative, doggedly minor-keyed lyric with a seething restraint and even a hint of venom. The second part of the verse -- not a chorus or a bridge, really, though it's totally different from the initial verse -- goes into a far sunnier, though not exactly sunny per se, chord progression, as the choral backup vocals rise in fervor. So does the assertiveness of Gore's vocal, especially when the melody tortuously changes keys before swooping downwards to its original key. The instrumental break is pure cinematic angst, its sweeping strings evoking the crashing seas of a romance on the rocks. The most revolutionary aspect of "You Don't Own Me" are its lyrics, a defiant, almost angry, yet reasoned, statement of independence from her boyfriend, exclaiming -- even celebrating -- that he doesn't own her, can't tell her what to do, that she's free to do as she pleases (even to the point of seeing other boys), and not just one of his many toys. If that seems like no big deal several decades after woman's liberation has been in force, it was nearly revolutionary in the climate of early 1964, when women, and girls in pop/rock songs, were expected to be docile and clinging creatures. Dusty Springfield quickly did a good cover version of "You Don't Know Me" on her first album that followed the original arrangement fairly closely, and while Springfield was undoubtedly a better singer than Gore and did a good job with this tune, it couldn't quite match the intensity and suppressed rage of the original. Joan Jett exposed the song to a subsequent generation of listeners when it became one of the more popular tracks on her debut solo album in the early '80s.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Boys, Boys, Boys 1964 Ace 2:31
The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore 1965 Mercury 2:29
The Big Chill [Original Soundtrack] 1983
Original Soundtrack
Motown 0:00
No Image 1986 Rhino
No Image 1986
Various Artists
Billboard Top Pop Hits: 1964 1995
Various Artists
Rhino 2:31
It's My Party: The Mercury Anthology 1996 Mercury 2:31
Start the Party Again 1997 Raven 2:30
Early Girls, Vol. 2 1997
Various Artists
Ace 2:32
100 Jukebox Hits: 50's & 60's 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:36
Best of Lesley Gore [PSM] 1998 Universal Special Products / PSM 2:31
45's on CD, Vol. 2 (1964-1965) 1998
Various Artists
Universal Special Products / PSM 2:31
60's Greatest Rock & Roll Hits 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:37
Sunshine, Lollipops & Rainbows: The Best of Lesley Gore 1998 Rhino 2:33
The Sixties Collection 1999
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:33
I'll Cry If I Want To/Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts 2000 Edsel 2:32
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best of Lesley Gore 2000 Mercury 2:31
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution 2:34
Rock N' Roll Reunion: 1960 to 1969 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution 2:36
Rock N' Roll of the 60's 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution 2:36
More Girl Group Greats [Rhino] 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 2:31
Dancing Queens [Medalist] 2001
Various Artists
Medalist Entertainment 2:30
Jammin' Oldies: Women's Lib 2001
Various Artists
Masters / Intercontinental Records 2:35
Party Tyme Karaoke: Billboard Top 40 Karaoke, Vol. 6
Sybersound Records 2:49