What Pop Song is Considered to Be the First “Women’s Lib” Song?
Q: Everyone thinks that Helen Reddy's I AM WOMAN was the first real “women's lib” song but I tell them no, it was Lesley Gore's YOU DON'T OWN ME. Right?
A: Right – I'll buy that. Even though Lesley Gore went on to have 15 more chart singles after YOU DON'T OWN ME (#2, 1963), it was her last Top 10 hit. This song of “girl power” was written by John Madara & David White specifically for Maureen Gray (who only had one chart single, “Dancin' The Strand,” #91 in 1962). Madara is quoted as saying "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 at the time that it would become a woman's anthem, it definitely was our intention to have a woman make a statement." It was Lesley's producer, Quincy Jones, who had the two songwriters play it for her, hoping she'd agree to record it. According to Lesley, "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 seventeen-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." Helen Reddy's I AM WOMAN wouldn't come along until the summer of 1972, when it went to #1 for one week.