4 Things to Know About Reid Wilson, the 14-Year-Old Boy Who Belted Out Lesley Gore’s Women’s Lib Anthem “You Don’t Own Me” on ‘America’s Got Talent’

When 14-year-old Montgomery, Alabama native Reid Wilson stepped on stage, he charmed the America’s Got Talent judges with his sweet southern charm then quickly showed them another side of himself, belting out Lesley Gore‘s 1963 classic “You Don’t Own Me.”

Singing through the lyrics—You don’t own me, I’m not just one of your many toys. You don’t own me, don’t say I can’t go with other boys—the young singer held the attention of all four judges. “We weren’t expecting that,” said Simon Cowell, who said he closed his eyes during the performance to listen to Wilson’s voice. “I opened them again,” he said, “and there’s a sweet, young kid.”

Heidi Klum added, “I think you’re absolutely incredible. I loved it when you took the mic off [the stand] and gave a little more stage presence. Well done.”

Before performing, Wilson said it was his dream to perform on a bigger stage, but he was nervous. “I’m definitely nervous,” shared Wilson, “but I’m going to put my all into those two minutes to sing my heart out and just try not to miss a note.” Sofia Vergara admitted that she thought Wilson’s nerves at the beginning would affect his performance.

“You were so nervous at the beginning,” said Vergara. I was [like] ‘He’s not going to be able to put his stuff together,’ but you did, and you did amazingly. It sounded spectacular from here.”

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[RELATED: Lesley Gore’s Feminist, Civil Rights Anthem “You Don’t Own Me”]

Judge Howie Mandell was so impressed by Wilson’s rendition that he rewarded the singer with the Golden Buzzer. “I was bowled over because I was surprised,” said Howie. “I got surprised, first of all, because you’re a 14-year-old kid from Alabama, so I put myself in your position. You were very nervous, and you came off incredibly nervous. That was a surprise. You know what? That stage is where dreams come true.”

Mandell added “Do you believe in dreams? Reid responded “Yes.” Mandell said, “Well, one of them is about to come true” before hitting the buzzer.

Written by two men, David White and John Madara, and recorded and released by Gore in 1963 when she was just 17, “You Don’t Own Me,” started as another song about “boys,” like her previous hits “It’s My Party” and “Judy’s Turn To Cry,” that transformed into an anthem of female empowerment and racial equality.

Reid Wilson Competing on ‘America’s Got Talent’ on July 9, 2024 (Photo: Trae Patton / NBC)

“At the time, I know I chose it because I liked the strength in the lyric,” said Gore in 1991. “But, for me, it was not a song about being a woman. It was about being a person, and what was involved with that. Of course, it got picked up as an anthem for women, which makes me very proud.”

In 2005, Gore re-recorded “You Don’t Own Me” one last time for her 11th and final album Ever More. That same year, Gore came out as gay and revealed her partner of more than 30 years. Before her death, Gore also used the song in a PSA asking women to vote in 2012. Several years after Gore died in 2015 from lung cancer at age 68, the anthemic hit had a resurgence as the rallying cry during the women’s marches in 2018 around the MeToo movement.

In honor of Wilson’s Golden Buzzer for revisiting the Gore classic, here are four things to know about the young AGT contestant.

1. He’s Self-Taught

In his prerecorded interview before his performance, Wilson revealed that he just started singing when he was younger and began learning to sing from there.

“When I was little, I would just run around the house screaming at the top of my lungs,” said Wilson. “I was not good at all. I just kind of started teaching myself from there.”

2. His Older Brother Ryley Tate Was in the Top 8 on ‘The Voice’

While Wilson started singing at a younger age, he was able to develop his craft with the help of his older brother and musician and singer Ryley Tate, who had his own brush with a singing competition. After making his way onto the show with his Blind Audition performance of Robyn’s 2010 hit “Dancing on My Own,” Tate made it into the top 8 on season 23 of The Voice in 2023 before being eliminated.

3.. He Recorded His First Song

On June 26, Wilson revealed on Instagram that he recorded his first single in Los Angeles. “Big news,” he wrote. “In LA recording my first song ever—can’t wait to share it with you all.”

4. He Performed with Jennifer Hudson

In 2023, Wilson fulfilled a big dream and sang with Jennifer Hudson, who invited him to the Jennifer Hudson Show. “I’m your biggest fan probably in the world,” Wilson told Hudson. “I listen to your music like every single day when I make my bed [or] when I’m on a walk. I’m singing your music all the time.”

With his brother Ryley on the piano, Wilson sang with Hudson on Aretha Franklin‘s 1968 hit “Ain’t No Way.” Hudson recorded the song on her 2021 album Respect.

Photo: Trae Patton / NBC

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