(July 8, 1922 – January 7, 2015) If one were to describe my mother, it would no doubt center on her love of music, only to be superseded by the birth of her twins; as she would often mention. Her roots for that love began in her childhood; as a member of the family orchestra led by her father Gerald Santangelo, a violinist.
He had instructed four of his children, Marie – piano, Virginia – drums, Yolanda – accordion, and Edward – trumpet. The baby sister Lillian was either not born yet or a toddler, I can’t recall.
Their father’s intent was to play for local events in and around their North Denver neighborhood. Don’t know if that ever happened, but I’m told when they practiced in their house, the neighborhood would gather outside to listen; that may have been the totality of their listening audience.
Yolanda was most proud, as were other family members, of the musicianship of her brother “Eddie”; a member of the Denver Musicians Union Local 20-623. He was quite a fixture on the Denver music scene as a trumpeter playing with his small groups on weekends; a highlight feature of the now gone Aviation Club for several years.
And reciprocally, Eddie was amazed at his sister’s ability to sight read and transpose (for those in the know of these musical terms).
Yolanda was a graduate of North High School, and later in life took a few music and writing classes at Colorado University Extension in Denver. She was interested in many subjects and enjoyed indulging in conversations on a plethora of topics.
However, foremost was her pursuit of music. Her natural ability to sit at a piano or stroll with her accordion provided much pleasure for family get-togethers as well.
She was a member of the Denver Musicians Union Local 20-623 and first joined as an accordionist. She played for many socialite parties around the Denver scene (50’s-60’s). She always talked about her strolling engagements at the Rickets residence where she found herself in the company at times of notable stars as Ethyl Merman, Phil Harris and Phil Silvers (if my memory serves me correct).
She became a fixture in the cello section of the Antonia Brico Symphony for several years as well as other local Denver area community orchestras over the decades; and did a few fill-ins with the Denver Symphony. She was also fond of playing for Midnight Mass here at Mt. Carmel for several years as well.
Yolanda was most proud of her performances and participation in the Central City Opera, and (as she would say… her crowning achievement and her last performance -West Side Story.
She would always recall a scene where one of the actors throws his knife that unfortunately flies into the orchestra pit, and bounces off of Yolanda’s head. Being the trooper that she was, she recovered quickly and the show went on.
Her professional career subsiding… at home, she would still play her cello, piano and on occasion, her accordion until her strength became an issue. However, the memory of her cello performances and venues were always a focal point in her conversations.
She loved to travel when opportunity afforded and was elated to have made it to Italy in her 50’s and walk the sites.
Those who know Yolanda will remember, her kindness, her generosity and love. It will continue in spirit in the hearts of those who are so dear to her.
Biographical Sketch by Lew Sanza
[From the Denver Musicians Association newsletter]
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LESLEY SUE GORE DIES AT THE AGE OF 68
Lesley Sue Gore (born Lesley Sue Goldstein; May 2, 1946 – February 16, 2015) was an American singer, songwriter, actress, and activist. At the age of 16, in 1963, she recorded the pop hit “It’s My Party”, and followed it up with other hits including “Judy’s Turn to Cry” and “You Don’t Own Me”.
Gore also worked as an actress and composed songs with her brother Michael Gore for the 1980 film Fame, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. She was active until 2014, and hosted an LGBT-oriented public television show, In the Life, on American TV in the 2000s.
Gore was born Lesley Sue Goldstein in Brooklyn, New York City. She was raised in Tenafly, New Jersey. She was the daughter of Ronny and Leo Gore. Leo was a wealthy manufacturer of children’s clothes and swimwear. Her family was Jewish. Gore was a junior at the Dwight School for Girls in nearby Englewood when “It’s My Party” (produced by Quincy Jones) became a No. 1 hit. It was later nominated for a Grammy Award for rock and roll recording. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc.
“It’s My Party” was followed by many other hits, including the sequel “Judy’s Turn to Cry” (US No. 5); “She’s a Fool” (US No. 5); the protofeminist million-selling “You Don’t Own Me”, which held at No. 2 for three weeks behind the Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand”; “That’s the Way Boys Are” (US No. 12); “Maybe I Know” (US No. 14/UK No. 20); “Look of Love” (US No. 27); and Grammy-nominated “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” (US No. 13), from the 1965 movie Ski Party. In 1965 she appeared in the beach party film The Girls on the Beach in which she performed three songs: “Leave Me Alone”, “It’s Gotta Be You”, and “I Don’t Want to Be a Loser”.
Gore was given first shot at recording “A Groovy Kind of Love” by songwriters Carole Bayer and Toni Wine, with a melody from a sonatina by Muzio Clementi, but Shelby Singleton, a producer for Mercury subsidiary Smash Records, refused to let Gore record a song with the word “groovy” in its lyrics. The Mindbenders went on to record it, and it reached No. 2 on the Billboard charts.
Gore recorded composer Marvin Hamlisch’s first hit composition, “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows”, on May 21, 1963 while “It’s My Party” was climbing the charts. Her record producer from 1963 to 1965 was Quincy Jones. Jones’ dentist was Marvin Hamlisch’s uncle, and Hamlisch asked his uncle to convey several songs to Jones. “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” was released on the LP Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts but did not surface as a single until June 1965. Hamlisch wrote three other Gore associated songs: “California Nights”, “That’s the Way the Ball Bounces”, and “One by One”. “That’s the Way the Ball Bounces” was recorded September 21, 1963 at A&R Studios in New York; it was released as the B-side of “That’s the Way Boys Are” and appeared on the LP Boys Boys Boys. “One by One” was an unreleased track recorded on July 31, 1969 in New York and produced by Paul Leka; it first appeared on the Bear Family five-CD anthology of Gore’s Mercury work entitled It’s My Party (1994).
Gore performed on two consecutive episodes of the Batman television series (January 19 and 25, 1967), in which she guest-starred as Pussycat, one of Catwoman’s minions. In the January 19 episode “That Darn Catwoman”, she lip-synched to the Bob Crewe-produced “California Nights”, and in the January 25 episode “Scat! Darn Catwoman” she lip-synched to “Maybe Now”. “California Nights”, which Gore recorded for her 1967 album of the same name, returned her to the upper reaches of the Hot 100. The single peaked at number 16 in March 1967 (14 weeks on the chart). It was her first top 40 hit since “My Town, My Guy and Me” in late 1965 and her first top 20 since “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows”.
Gore also performed the single “We Know We’re in Love” ten months earlier on the final episode of The Donna Reed Show, which aired on March 19, 1966.
After high school, while continuing to make appearances as a singer, Gore attended Sarah Lawrence College, studying British and American English literature. At college, folk music was popularly lauded as ‘chic’ whereas pop music was often derided as ‘uncool.’ “Had I been tall with blonde hair, had I been Mary Travers, I would have gotten along fine.” She graduated in 1968.
Gore composed songs for the soundtrack of the 1980 film Fame, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for “Out Here on My Own”, written with her brother Michael. Michael won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the theme song of the same film. Gore played concerts and appeared on television throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Gore died of lung cancer on February 16, 2015, at the NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, New York City; she was 68 years old. Her New York Times obituary described her as a teenage and feminist anthemist. Following her death, Neil Sedaka commented that she was “a phenomenal talent” and “a great songwriter in her own right”.
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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths…
16: Lesley Gore, 68, American singer (“It’s My Party”, “Judy’s Turn to Cry”, “You Don’t Own Me”), lung cancer; Lorena Rojas, 44, Mexican actress (Como En El Cine, El Cuerpo del Deseo), singer and songwriter, breast cancer.
15: Sergio Blanco, 66, Spanish singer (Sergio y Estíbaliz).
14: Hulon Crayton, 58, American jazz saxophonist and physician; Louis Jourdan, 93, French actor (Letter from an Unknown Woman, Gigi, Octopussy); Ammouri Mbarek, 63, Moroccan musician, cancer.
13: Paul “Bomber” Jackson, British tour manager (Judas Priest); John McCabe, 75, British composer and pianist.
12: Sam Andrew, 73, American musician (Big Brother and the Holding Company), complication after open heart surgery; Désiré Dondeyne, 93, French composer; Mosie Lister, 93, American gospel music singer-songwriter (The Statesmen Quartet); Richie Pratt, 71, American jazz drummer; Steve Strange, 55, British musician (Visage), heart attack.