Ode to Billy Joe by Bobbie Gentry

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Ode to Billy Joe by Bobbie Gentry

Bobby Gentry Ode to Billie Joe


The song “Ode to Billy Joe” by Bobbie Gentry was a big hit for many weeks in 1967. As to what “the girl that looked a lot like you” and Billy Joe McAllister were throwing off the Tallahatchie Bridge has remained one of the open questions of pop music. Whatever your guess is, Bobbie Gentry, who wrote and performed the song, says it doesn’t really matter. Her point was the indifference with which we sometimes receive tragic news of others. In 1967, the song went to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, #7 on the Easy Listening Chart, and #8 on the R&B Singles Chart. The great string arrangement by Jimmie Haskell adds to the drama of the song. Haskell used two cellos and four violins, which are especially cinematic at the end of the song as the music swirls downwards. The song won her Grammy awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1968.

Bobbie Gentry is a singer/songwriter and musician, who was born Roberta Lee Streeter in Chickasaw County, Mississippi. She chose her stage name from the 1952 movie Ruby Gentry, which starred Jennifer Jones, Charlton Heston, and Karl Malden. In the film, the heroine is born into a poor family but wants to be successful. Gentry has had 11 singles that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and four on the Top 40 in the U.K. She also had some singles with Glen Campbell, including “Let It Be Me” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream.”

Here are the lyrics to “Ode to Billy Joe” by Bobbie Gentry:

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton, and my brother was balin’ hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And mama hollered out the back door, “y’all, remember to wipe your feet!”
And then she said, “I got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge
Today, Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

And papa said to mama, as he passed around the blackeyed peas
“Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please
There’s five more acres in the lower forty I’ve got to plow”
And mama said it was a shame about Billy Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin’ ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billy Joe MacAllister’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And brother said he recollected when he, and Tom, and Billie Joe
He put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn’t I talkin’ to him after church last Sunday night?
“I’ll have another piece-a apple pie; you know, it don’t seem right
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge
And now ya tell me Billie Joe’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

And mama said to me, “Child, what’s happened to your appetite?
I’ve been cookin’ all morning, and you haven’t touched a single bite
That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today
Said he’d be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

A year has come and gone since we heard the news ’bout Billy Joe
And brother married Becky Thompson; they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going ’round; papa caught it, and he died last spring
And now mama doesn’t seem to want to do much of anything
And me – I spend a lot of time pickin’ flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Check Out The Groove Pad for More 1960s Music

The Pass the Paisley Groove Pad is a resting stop, a place to┬áchill out and listen to the featured song on the┬ástereo. If the mood strikes you, click on the juke box to access and listen to the 50+ commercial free online songs there. The TV has several channels, with selections updated twice a week. Every now and then, Pass the Paisley hosts an all-request of 1960s and 1970s songs for a Be-In at the juke box in the Groove Pad. Keep on truckin’. Hope you enjoyed “Ode to Billy Joe” by Bobbie Joe.

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Jane Minogue

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