Along with Betty Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique (which was published shortly before this song's release), this song can be considered one of the many artistic works that helped begin the Women's Liberation Movement, despite the fact that the movement did not really take off until a decade later (Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" was released in 1971). "You Don't Own Me" is one of the very first in which a woman demands her independence from her man.
This was Gore's last US Top 10 hit. It was written by the Philadelphia songwriters John Madara and David White, whose hits include "1-2-3" and "At The Hop." Madara said of the song in the Forgotten Hits newsletter: "Our original intent was to write a song with a woman telling a man off: 'Don't tell me what to do, don't tell me what to say.' Though we didn't realize it at the time that it would become a woman's anthem, it definitely was our intention to have a woman make a statement."
This was written for a singer named Maureen Gray, but when Quincy Jones (who was Lesley Gore's producer) heard the song, he had the songwriters Madara and White play it for Gore. In the boxed set of her Mercury Records recordings, Gore explained: "I met John Madara and Dave White up at the Catskills (New York) hotel Grossinger's. I was up there doing a record hop, gratis, for a disc jockey by the name of Gene Kay at WAAB in Allentown. I was sitting at the pool on, I think it was Saturday - the day I was going to perform - and John and Dave came up to me with a guitar, took me into a cabana by the pool, and played me 'You Don't Own Me.' I told them they had to meet me in New York on Monday, to see Quincy and play him the song, and we were in the studio probably a week and a half later. It is much to Quincy's credit that he could see what was really involved in that song, because his edict, as far as I know, was to keep me in 'It's My Party' territory - keep it light, keep it frothy, keep it young. You can't hold back a 17-year-old woman... she has got to find a way to spread her wings - and this was a song that allowed me a little bit more freedom vocally. The beauty of that song is that the verses start in a minor key, and then, when you go into the chorus, it goes into the major, and there's such a sense of lift and exhilaration. After seeing how powerful that is, it became a method I've used on a number of occasions."
Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, and Bette Midler sang this together in the 1996 film The First Wives Club. The song also appeared in the movies Dirty Dancing and Hairspray.
Suggestion credit: Jerro - New Alexandria, PA
Joan Jett released a popular version on her 1981 album Bad Reputation. Jett certainly had the credentials to record this rebellious anthem: She was part of the all-female punk rock group The Runaways before moving on to solo success.
Other artists to record the song include The Blow Monkeys (who recorded the version used in Dirty Dancing), Percy Faith, Bette Midler, Dusty Springfield and Ann Wilson of Heart. "The idea of self possession has grown to be more universal," Wilson, who released her version in 2018, explained. "This song is about refusing to be objectified and owned. By anyone."
The 17-year-old Australian singer Grace released a modern version of this song in 2015, shortly after the death of Lesley Gore. This version features rapper G-Eazy, who spits verses about how he likes this independent woman who "could never ever be a broke ho."
Quincy Jones spearheaded this production, putting Grace together with the producer Parker Ighile; Jones and Ighile are both listed as producers on the track. This version was a huge hit in Australia, where it went to #1. It also made #4 in the UK and #95 in the US.
This was used in a commercial for the 2017 Toyota Corolla, and also in a spot for the NFL promoting their line of women's teamwear. That one starred Alyssa Milano.
Stephen W from Spring Hill, FloridaI'm partial to Pamela Smith's version on Pamela - I Love You . I am a bit prejudiced - she's my daughter 1
Rotunda from Tulsa, OkI still love this song & Lesley Gore after all these years. When it was #2 in Dec. '63, I was in high school & having difficulties with a boyfriend who was trying to be domineering with me. Well, anyone who knew me back then knew I was NOT the type of gal to be toyed with!! In short, he tried to dominate me so I just set him straight and left him with two black eyes & bruised ribs! Back then, I was 200 lbs. at 6' 3" tall and not a girl to be trifled with. Haaa! Go Lesley Gore, Go!!!
Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 22nd 1963 "You Don't Own Me" by Lesley Gore entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on January 26th, 1964 it peaked at #2 (for 3 weeks) and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100... Talk about bad timing; the three weeks she was at #2 some new group named the Beatles were at #1 for their first time with "I Want To Hold Hand" ("You Don't Own Me" had jumped from #13 to #2, the Beatles moved from #3 to #1)... Between 1963 and 1967 she had nineteen records make the Top 100; with four reaching the Top 10 and one peaking at #1 ("It's My Party" for two weeks in 1963, and it was also her debut record on the Top 100)... Ms. Gore, born Lesley Sue Goldstein, will celebrate her 68th birthday come next May 2nd.
Elmer H from Westville, OkBack in 1963, I was a pre-teen when this hit was in the Top Ten, but I knew that the lyrics message was unusual for the chart hits of the times. Back then, I recall that some of my buddies thought that it took guts for a girl to take such a stand with her boyfriend. You Don't Own Me!! The song was so catchy----how could you not like it! I still love to hear it on the oldies stations. Since Lesley Gore still tours from time to time, I want to go see her show. Solid hit. Fabulous star!!!
Sal from Greasefalls, IdFrom a guys POV. I saw the TAMI show when Lesley Gore sang this song live. I was 13 then and, although a kid, her 'performance' stuck in my head. It both scared the hell out of me and made me think. She was just so, how do you say it, sweet yet to the point. Sort of telling you where to go but in a polite way. Guys back then were still in controlling women mode, so this song probably had more influence on girls and women than us guys. A personal note. Six years later I was in the Army, in Vietnam, and heard this song in a local off post club. It made me homesick. Great song, and message.
Joan Cole from Lima, OhI grew up listening to WAEB (not WAAB) in Allentown, PA...remember Gene Kaye and the dances he would show up at in the sixties. Joan, Lima,OH
Farrah from Elon, NcVery feminist indeed!!!
Andrew from Birmingham, United StatesHeh, Fyodor from Denver, maybe visa-versa: the Beatles' "You Can't Do That!" as a response to Leslie Gore's "You Don't Own Me!". I don't know, though. I do know, however, that the tension in those two couples - or same couple, whatever it is - is quite extreme. A coming breakup? Probably.
Jerry from Brooklyn, NyThis is a striking contrast to the "meek little girl trying to accept her man even though he is a jerk" mentality of "It's my Party" and "Judy's Turn to Cry". Leslie also recorded "That's the Boys Are", again defending macho idiocy. This may be to first "feminist" rock hit. And a damn good song it is!
Fyodor from Denver, CoFunny, I was just reading up on The Beatles' "You Can't Do That," and this would have worked perfectly as an answer song, although it couldn't have cause it came first! Ah, the war between the sexes...
Billy from Atlanta, GaThe Klaus Nomi version has been used on Rush Limbaugh's radio show.
Pete from Nowra, Australiaalso a family group by the name of the Ormsby Brothers covered it , here in Australia, think it got to number 1 ..good version
Frank from Westminster, ScThere was a cover version of this song by a very strange German fellow named Klaus Nomi. It has to be heard to be disbelieved.