Bobbie Gentrys Ode to Billie Joe by Tara MurthaJuly, 1967: It seems the entire country stopped to listen to a husky voice steeped in the simmering secrets of the South tell a tragic tale of teenage suicide. So much for the Summer of Love. Ode to Billie Joe knocked the Beatles All You Need is Love off the top of the charts, and Bobbie Gentry became an international star. Almost 50 years later, Gentry is as enigmatic and captivating as her signature song. Of course, fans still want to know why Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge. They also wonder: Why did Bobbie Gentry, who has not performed or made a public appearance since the early 1980s, leave it all behind?
Through extensive interviews and unprecedented access to career memorabilia, Murtha explores the real-life mysteries ensnarled within the much-disputed origin of Ode to Billie Joe. The result is an investigative pop history that reveals, for the first time, the full breadth of Bobbie Gentrys groundbreaking career-and just may help explain her long silence.
Foreword by musician Jill Sobule.
Ode To Billie Joe
This song still has a way of capturing you as soon as you hear the opening chords. Released in the Summer of Love, "Ode to Billie Joe" began its trip up the charts the first week of August , rising 50 spots by the following week, and reaching the top position on the charts by the end of that month.
The Secret Life of Bobbie Gentry, Pioneering Artist Behind ‘Ode to Billie Joe’
It was a smash hit. By August, the mysterious tale of Billie Joe McAllister jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge was ubiquitous, the inescapable sound of the darkening days of the so-called Summer of Love. And secondly, who the hell is Bobbie Gentry? Fifty years later, neither question has been answered. Most people guess it was a baby, a ring, or some other symbol of secret love that dropped into the dark water, though Gentry repeatedly said that question missed the point, which was indifference. Producing a hit record was only the beginning of her pioneering career.
The Mystery of Ode to Billy Joe. In the summer of country singer Bobbie Gentry b. Its breezy bluegrass melody and catchy chorus made for an instant hit, and Billie Joe leapt to the top of the charts. Today it remains one of the most popular country songs of all time. The love of Billie Joe goes beyond affinity for a catchy tune, however. The song's lyrics are haunting and mysterious, recounting a Gothic tale of a young man's tragic suicide in the deep south. The story told contains many noticeable omissions and gaps, however, leaving the listening with no shortage of irritating unanswered questions.
The single, released on July 10, , was a number-one hit in the US within three weeks of release and a big international seller. Billboard ranked the record as the No. It generated eight Grammy nominations, resulting in three wins for Gentry and one for arranger Jimmie Haskell. The song takes the form of a first-person narrative performed over sparse acoustic accompaniment, though with strings in the background. It tells of a rural Mississippi family's reaction to the news of the suicide of Billie Joe McAllister, a local boy to whom the daughter and narrator is connected.
She picked up her two Grammy Awards with an insouciant smile. Listen to Ode To Billie Joe right now. In many ways, she pioneered the female version of Muscle Shoals-style beats, and she provided a real badass guitar, whether playing electric or acoustic. Such was the demand for the album that Capitol pressed an unprecedented , copies the previous record was , for Meet The Beatles! The big hit was left until last on the album, which was produced by Kelly Gordon and orchestrated by Jimmy Haskell who also grabbed a Grammy for his arrangement on the single , but Ode To Billie Joe was far more than nine filler songs and the smash.
It went to No. Billboard also rated it the No. She was only 22 when she recorded it. Right about now you are probably expecting a quote from Bobbie Gentry about the success of the song, what inspired her to write it, and what was it the girl and Billie Joe threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge? And why did he jump to his death off that bridge?