Cousin Chris, Leslie Gore and Its my Party

I guess 1962 was the year I first started to notice and listen to “pop” radio. I was a bit too young to appreciate the music of the ’50s, but as my tastes developed I grew a great appreciation for it. As both Rob and I have mentioned, our Dad was a musician of the “Big Band Era”, so we were exposed to music from a very early age. However, it was the music of the ’60s that could really be called “mine”, and the early ’60s was my real introduction. I became a huge fan of The Four Seasons with the release of their first of many mega-hits, “Sherry”. “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like A Man” quickly followed.

Our cousin Chris, being a few years older had gotten into the music scene a few years before and introduced us to the “Surf” sound of The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, the Safaris, and others.

The early ’60s also saw the emergence of some epic “girl bands”: The Crystals, The  Marvelettes, The Shangri-Las, The Ronettes, The Shirelles, and others had mega hits of their own and I became a big fan.

Then, a 16-year-old from Brooklyn, New York released a song called “It’s My Party”. It was a huge hit. She quickly followed this up with another hit, “Judy’s Turn to Cry”.

Our Cousin Chris fell head over heels in love with this cute 16-year-old. Even though she was an “older woman “ at the advanced age of 16, Chris could not stop talking about her. He had photos of her, knew her songs by line and was convinced she was a goddess. Now, as Chris was the “elder statesman” of the kids in the family, Rob and I always looked up to him. He was Mr. Cool to us. Whatever he was “into “, Rob and I wanted to be “into” as well. Whether it was TV shows, movies, music, toys or clothes… If Chirs liked it… we liked it as well.

There is no question that I liked the song, “It’s my Party.”. I liked it a lot, but this whole thing about loving the singer, well, I didn’t quite know how to respond. I noticed her photos and record covers, and there was no doubt she was very, very pretty. However, two things were against me: one; she was older. 16! She was damned near a “grown-up”. Two: She was a girl. Remember, I was in a strict Catholic environment and I was convinced if I looked at a girl… I would have to go to Confession. But! Chris was in love with her, so what could be so bad? After all, we are speaking about Chris, and he did nothing wrong. So, I became enamored with Leslie Gore myself. When her songs came on the small transistor radio that I keep with me at all possible times, I would turn up the volume( or static by today’s standards), and picture Leslie Gore singing. I would talk to Chris about her Endlessly and very much appreciated the fact that he never was mad at me for liking the same girl he did. (seriously, I thought this way).

The Music scene was changing, just as we, as young boys were changing. 1964 saw the “British Invasion” with the Beatles, Stones, and a multitude of others dominating much of American music. It was also in 1964 that Leslie Gore released the very much ahead of its time: “You Don’t Own Me”. She nailed this one big time. So, while I listened and enjoyed the new sound coming from England… when this song came on my slightly more advanced radio, I would stop and listen to the voice, picture her singing, think about Chris and remember my first “love”.

Leslie Gore died in 2015 from lung cancer. She was 68. She recorded all her hits before turning 18. Her funeral was in our hometown.

From time to time I listen to an “Oldies” station on our big screen TV, a far cry from my little transistor radio. When one of her hits is played, a photo or two of her is displayed on the screen. As I listen to her voice and look at her photo, I am transported back to New York. Rob and I are following Chris wherever he wants to go. One of us has a radio and its tuned into WABC or WMCA. The DJ announces the new big hit by Brooklyn’s own; Leslie Gore!! “It’s My Party!”

Chris stops in his tracts to listen, we all do. As we are enjoying the song, Chris tells us how beautiful she is. I remind him that I love her too!
The song ends and we go on with our day’s adventure, but the tune lingers on…

I hope it always will, because, that my friends, is what a Cobblestone Dream looks like.

-Don

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