Leslie Gore on Owning Yourself

May 2, 2016 | 7556 Views | 4 Comments

Ladies, the next time you want to change your hairstyle or splurge on those Miu Miu pumps and your man gets bossy and tries to dissuade you, just say “you don’t own me.” Guys, the next time your lady tells you to turn down the car stereo or toss out those LPs that are hogging up space in the kettle cabinet, just say “you don’t own me.” People, the next time anyone tries to make you abandon your personal style or code of ethics to suit someone else, just heed some wise advice delivered in song by singer/songwriter/activist Leslie Gore.

Leslie Gore“You Don’t Own Me,” a statement of independence and self-respect, was recorded by 17-year-old Leslie Sue Goldstein in 1963. It went on to become a feminist anthem during the women’s rights movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. The song was written by John Madara and David White, but the young woman made it her own, with her powerful delivery.

And don’t tell me what to do
Don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display…

I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

Mixed media piece by artist/musician Karl Mullen, featuring Leslie Gore's "You Don't Own Me" sheet music.It turns out I have a rather personal connection to this seminal song. A while back I purchased this intriguing mixed media piece by Irish artist/singer/songwriter Karl Mullen. You’ll notice the work includes the sheet music of Leslie’s anthem. Karl said it belonged to Ms. Gore. That’s her actual handwriting on the sheet. And yes, that’s a non-so-subtle image of a penis emblazoned across the lyrics. This is one of my favorites pieces of art, and occupies a special place in my living room. It serves as a daily reminder that nobody owns me. (Click on the image for a larger view. The full piece is included in the banner.)

Ms. Gore was born on May 2, 1946, and passed away at the age of 68 on February 16, 2015. I thank her for her music and her activism on behalf of women’s rights and LGBT issues.

Click here to learn more about Karl Mullen. Rockers know and respect him as the founder of the pioneering Pittsburgh punk band Carsickness and its reincarnation, the Celtic folk-rock band Ploughman’s Lunch.

© Dana Spiardi, May 2, 2016


  1. Buster Maxwell says:

    May 2nd, 2016 at 6:35 pm (#)

    Long live Leslie! Good one, Ms Dana 😊

  2. Dave says:

    May 6th, 2016 at 2:41 pm (#)

    Times have changed.. We have evolved. If I have to tell someone they don’t own me, I won’t talk, I’ll walk, (and not look back). Thankful to the people who created when times weren’t so good.

  3. Kevin says:

    May 7th, 2016 at 11:51 am (#)

    So glad to see Dana’s blog again…. and references to Leslie Gore. Wow, that takes me back to attending Rock N Roll shows at the Brooklyn Fox when I grew up on Long Island. Leslie was among the many performers whose names you would recognize, all included in a single show at low prices in a theater that was relatively small like the Benedum. The shows were weekdays so they were probably school holidays and there was no internet so tickets were just sold at the door. One of my favorite lesser known groups was called the Vibrations. They were big crowd pleasers with their high energy dancing and splits but don’t think they ever achieved the same notoriety as the others.

  4. Bob Bracken says:

    December 13th, 2016 at 10:05 pm (#)

    I’ll never forget the first time I heard “You Don’t Own Me”. I was enjoying a fine pie at a little spot just to the east called Janine Furnary’s Parlor of Pizza. Her father had just sold me the ugliest goddamn pair of glasses you can imagine…
    Dana, if you haven’t heard the brilliant Klaus Nomi cover, you really owe it to yourself. Sure, it’s sort of a dumpster-fire set to music, but I dare you to look away! As a Freddie Mercury fan, I think you’ll appreciate:

Leave a Response