EASY ED’S BROADSIDE: I’ll Cry If I Want To
I had a recollection this week from when I was 12 or 13 years old. Some details, such as it being a cool night on a dark street in the Oxford Circle neighborhood of Philadelphia, are crisp, clear, and sharply in focus. Who accompanied me is unknown, although I believe it was either two or three other boys. I don’t know how or why we were miles from home, but I know who and what we were looking for.
Psychology Today describes memory as “the faculty by which the brain encodes, stores, and retrieves information. It is a record of experience for guiding future action.” They divide it into three types: sensory, short-term, and long-term, which is also known as episodic or semantic memory. They also note that “memory is notoriously untrustworthy,” and that “people can be easily persuaded to conjure false memories.”
On this particular night we were walking the streets looking for Lesley Gore’s house.
I don’t why we thought we were walking through Lesley’s neighborhood, because she lived in Tenafly, New Jersey, about 60 miles north. It was a rumor, I suspect, some sort of story in the pre-internet days that was likely manufactured and distorted before being passed around to young boys with nothing more to do than try to meet a pretty recording star. Although I don’t recall hearing it myself, I’ve read that disc jockeys often called her “the sweetie pie from Tenafly.” I wish I had known.
All week I’ve been thinking about Lesley Gore and figured that maybe there was a story there, and that I’d write about her. A young Jewish girl, born in Brooklyn, only 16 when she recorded “It’s My Party” with producer Quincy Jones and it reached number one on the charts. And then she followed it up with what’s known as an answer record.
When her boyfriend Johnny kissed Judy at her own party she was humiliated. But at the next party when she danced and kissed another boy, Johnny jumped up and hit him. Why? Because he was jealous and still loved her. Johnny came back to her, and now it was Judy’s turn to cry. This was serious subject matter in the early ’60s to young boys and girls. It had deep meaning of love, pain, and betrayal, and it stirred up strong emotions. People actually argued during lunch at school about whether or not she should have taken Johnny back.
The morning after John Prine died I woke up and laid in bed. I felt sad and scared. It could have easily been me. And still might be. And in a moment of absolute clarity I sat up and suddenly remembered something extremely important. It wasn’t Lesley Gore we were looking for that night. It was Diane Renay. Thanks, John.
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed here at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard and Facebook as The Real Easy Ed: Americana and Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.