"Yes, there is life after records," she says happily, "and I'm a perfect example." Her songwriting has earned her an Oscar nomination- for co-writing "Out Here on My Own" for the movie "Fame" with her brother Michael Gore---and covers by Dusty Springfield, Patti Austin, Bernadette Peters and others. In the late 90's, she wrote songs for two movies "Grace of My Heart" and "Superstar." She has appeared as an actress onstage in musicals and dramas, as well as playing herself on TV on the "Donna Reed Show," "Murphy Brown," and Catwoman's sidekick on "Batman."
Lesley maintains a first-class career as a concert attraction and cabaret star. In the 90's she put together a fabulous cabaret act for New York's prestigious "Rainbow and Stars" nightclub. She appeared there three times singing her hits as well as Gershwin, Cole Porter, Donna Summer, Michel Legrand and songs she composed herself.
Looking back, Lesley does joke that "I don't know if there was life before records." But Brooklyn-born Lesley had already worked as a professional singer before she was discovered by Quincy Jones and signed to Mercury Records. Making hits in the studio was no problem with the expert help of Jones and she wowed audiences in her appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show," the classic "TAMI" show as well as all the top rated musical shows of the time.
Unlike many young stars, Lesley the hit-maker decided to get her college education at Sarah Lawrence University, where she studied literature and drama. By her graduation "my recording career had started to taper off," but she was determined to continue her career and hone her confidence and skills as a performer. She did that "working five nights a week, month after month" in clubs and lounges, while also "learning how to work onstage with others" as an actress in summer stock productions of "Funny Girl," "South Pacific," "Finaian's Rainbow" and "There's a Girl in My Soup." She also started studying composition, harmony and music theory "because I knew that if I was going to expand my musical foundation and not be beholden to anyone, the only way was to be a writer."
Living in California and writing songs with her brother Michael and others, Lesley started building a new musical persona based on her own material-one that so impressed her early mentor Quincy Jones that in 1976 they reunited on her "Love Me By Name" LP on A&M Records.
"I've now learned the things I didn't know when I was 16," says Lesley. "I'm singing so well now and enjoying it so much because I'm coming at it from a joyous place." Living now in New York, "I work when I want and where I want," and when not on the road, "I'm constantly composing, which I love. Life is really good, and I have control over my destiny."
The teen trauma embodied in "It's My Party" is a thing of the past, though the song still creates "an instant bond" between Lesley and the millions who grew up with and maybe themselves lived the story of that song. "I thought the Sixties were great, but for us teens, they were also troublesome times. Since I was a teenager dealing with those problems, I chose those songs I sang from a gut reaction--'I can relate to that'."
Today, Lesley relates to people just as directly, and her life is exactly as she wants it. "It's wonderful to have my career from the Sixties, and it's wonderful to know that there's something else out there too."
Lesley recently fulfilled a life long dream. Ever since seeing her first musical ("My Fair Lady") as a child, she dreamed of starring on Broadway. In July, 1999 she starred in the Broadway hit "Smokey Joe's Cafe" to rave reviews. She continues to perform in concert several times a month and work on her songwriting every day. Recently (December, 2001) Lesley was the subject of an A&E Biography which validated her importance in musical history.
Lesley is currently involved in an ABC project with her brother Michael Gore: "Fame 2002." She is doing what she loves best--composing music with Michael. The story will be a continuation of the 1980 movie "Fame" 22 years later.
New recordings are also in the works. Lesley is working on a Christmas CD and a CD of songs she has composed. Thirty-nine years after "It's My Party," the party still continues!