Monday, February 28, 2005

Ode To Billie Joe, by Bobbie Gentry



I have always loved songs that tell stories (even if I do not understand the story), and "Ode To Billie Joe" certainly fits this bill.

During 1967's Summer of Love rock revolution, there was a bit of a country music blip on the screen. "Jackson" by Johnny Cash and June Carter, "Harper Valley P.T.A." by Jeanne C. Reilly, "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," by Glen Campbell, and "Ode To Billie Joe" all seemed to be on the radio around the same time. I remember singing along to the lyrics I could discern, and inventing my own lyrics when I hadn't a clue what was being sung. (Which I am still guilty of doing.)

This weekend I received a gift certificate for an online music store and "Ode To Billie Joe" was the first song I planned to purchase. It isn't there! The original "Billie Joe," by Bobbie Gentry is not available for download. I am able to find a number of jazz instrumentals and a couple other country versions of the song, but Bobbie Gentry's original is absent. (I did find Harper Valley PTA!) None of Bobbie Gentry's songs are available! Not "Fancy," none of her duets with Glen Campbell. Nothing!

This, of course, got me surfing the web to find Bobbie Gentry.

I found the Ode To Bobbie Gentry Site at geocities.com and spent a bit of time perusing. The site hasn't been updated in a couple years, but since there has been no new news of Bobbie Gentry, an update isn't really needed.



Ode To Billie Joe
Sung by Bobbie Gentry
Words and Music by Bobbie Gentry
Billboard position #1 for 4 weeks (1967)

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 Billie Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

And Papa said to Mama as he passed around the blackeyed peas
"Well, Billie 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 shame about Billie Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billie Joe MacAllister's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And Brother said he recollected when he and Tom and Billie Joe
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 of apple pie, you know it don't seem right"
"I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge"
"And now you 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 Billie Joe was throwing somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

A year has come 'n' gone since we heard the news 'bout Billie 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 wanna 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




So . . . what is this song about? Why did Billie Joe MacAllister jump off the bridge? And what were he and this girl throwing off the bridge beforehand? What was Billie Joe's secret? What personal devil drove him to suicide? Is there a clue in the song I am missing?

I would like to have an MP3 of "Ode To Billie Joe," so if you can send it along, I would be most appreciative.




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