The 50+ Year Old Mystery Behind Bobby Gentry and Her Song “Ode to Bille Joe”

Feral Irishman: I stumbled across this interesting article about one of the most enigmatic country/pop performers in American culture and that is Bobby Gentry. Bobby was best known for her haunting 1967 ballad about a young McAllister boy jumping off the Tallahatchie River Bridge. The song was so popular it remained at the number one pop slot for over four weeks. It even knocked the Beatles song All you need is love from that position. She dabbled with music  and modeling. She worked with some huge names in entertainment, doing shows in Vegas, etc. She was friends with Bob Hope, Elvis, Bob Dylan, etc. and married comedian singer Jim Stafford. For most of her life she has lived as a recluse.  MORE

17 Comments on The 50+ Year Old Mystery Behind Bobby Gentry and Her Song “Ode to Bille Joe”

  1. When I listen to Bobbie Gentry I play the entire LP. She did many “covers” like Joe Cocker… and they were excellent. Find the LP “Southern Gothic”. It’s a masterpiece.

  2. After reading the links, the “Ode to Billie Joe” is still a mystery. What’s more of a mystery is the 5 minutes I lost reading through them.

  3. I’ve heard that song a hundred times over the years, and it never even entered my mind that they might be throwing an aborted baby off the bridge! Has everyone known this but me?

  4. @ Groucho

    Capitol moved ODE to the A-Side and MISSISSIPPI DELTA to the B-Side just prior to promo release to radio stations.

    Smart move.

    Plus, it was over 4 minutes long; enough time to take a pee and get back to the mike. Older DJ’s preferred MACARTHUR PARK a year later… 7 minutes.
    You could get a lot done in that time.

    BTW, Matty Singer (Philly record promoter) told us it was a fetus tossed off the bridge, but we weren’t to discuss it on the air.

  5. Pure Southern Gothic from back when ballads still told stories…

    Harper Valley PTA

    The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia

    Spiders and Snakes (by Jim Stafford, Bobbie G’s husband)

    Uneasy Rider

    It was a great era to listen to the radio.

  6. Good country music will cross over on its own merits, not because it’s melded into the rest of the pop formulaic mass produced noise.

    Someone should do a follow up on Bobby’s reclusive life since. It’d make a find Southern gothic.

  7. Heard Reba version of Bobbie Gentry’s “Fancy” one night. My wife asked, You know what this song is about?

    Yes.. Social Climbing

  8. It was Billy Joel, and he plummeted off the Tallahassee bridge. (He was pushed) Now you know the truth……………….

  9. There is no explanation of the song but I did learn that Karl Whitney, the writer of the article, despises Ayn Rand so that tells me he must be an anti-reason leftist asshole.


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