Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Lesley Gore wasn’t the first to record “It’s My Party” (that would be Helen Shapiro), but she definitely made the greatest impact with it. The tale of Judy and Johnny having to go and spoil everything sounded not like it once happened to Gore, but like she was a high school junior (which she was) going through it in the moment, a moment that was extended in her answer song “Judy’s Turn to Cry.” The song has maintained its hold on the cultural landscape; to this day, if someone says “It’s my party,” someone else is sure to respond “and I’ll cry if I want to.”
That hold has extended to artists as well as listeners; the entwining of happiness and misery is catnip to any singer who wants to make an impression. Here are five covers that certainly followed through on that score.
Jennifer Scott & Kristen Strom – It’s My Party (Lesley Gore cover)
Crossing Borders is a 2008 contemporary jazz album that features Jennifer Scott on piano and vocals and Kristen Strom on saxophone. They take “It’s My Party” to a whole other place musically, while making sure it still has plenty of opportunity to wallow in self-pity. But there is a bitter light at tunnel’s end, as Scott reminds us that “soon it will be Judy’s turn.”
Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin – It’s My Party (Lesley Gore cover)
If you thought a jazz version of “It’s My Party” sounded a little out there, prepare yourself for the shock of the cover by Dave Stewart (not half of Eurythmics Dave Stewart) and Barbara Gaskin. They give the song a factory junkyard sheen, lost and confused and alone with synth percussion. It didn’t get much play in America, only rising to #72 on the Billboard charts, but the song made it to number one in the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand.
Quincy Jones (featuring Amy Winehouse) – It’s My Party (Lesley Gore cover)
Little-known fact: “It’s My Party” was Quincy Jones’ first production, and he was responsible for a lot of the touches (the song beginning with two quick horn blasts before the chorus, for instance) that helped the song’s success. So when Jones released Q: Soul Bossa Nova, a collection of remakes of tracks he had been involved with, “It’s My Party” was a natural choice for inclusion. Amy Winehouse half-sings and half-slurs her way through it; as one critic said, “if there’s ever a song where you can let it all go a bit runny-mascara-and-10-Bacardi-Breezers then this is it.”
BØRNS – It’s My Party (Lesley Gore cover)
It’s next to impossible to listen to BØRNS’ cover of “It’s My Party” without thinking of Jeff Buckley. His fluttery falsetto and his singular guitar come together to transform the song into “Hallelujah”‘s sweet little brother. He drops the last verse and sings “’til Johnny’s back in my arms,” but you’ll be so caught up in his singing that you’ll never notice.
Howling Diablos – It’s My Party (Lesley Gore cover)
Detroit’s Howling Diablos bring “It’s My Party” a blues/funk/jam band sound that’s about as far away from ’60s suburban New Jersey as it’s possible to get. They mix the verses around, adding and subtracting to their stew, until they come up with a concoction that will have you shaking your groove thang and coming back for seconds.