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Bobbie Gentry — Ode To Billy Joe
Album: Ode To Billy Joe
Avg rating:
7.6

Your rating:
Total ratings: 582









Released: 1967
Length: 4:11
Plays (last 30 days): 0
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 black-eyed 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 a 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
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 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."

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
Comments (64)add comment
"There was a virus going 'round, Papa caught it and he died last Spring"
 
Another coronavirus?
I remember this song in its original radio iteration. Not a lot of stuff I understood at that age, but I got the gist of it.  Still like it, solid 7.
Superb dark country crossover hit from the late 60's!
Absolutely brilliant. An achingly painful song, restrained production and a beautiful voice. Chilling. 10.
Those unable to hear the greatness and the subdued tragedy of this should grow a pair - of ears
 Highlowsel wrote:

Maybe now...but context is everything.  This thing was cutting edge stuff for the era.  No pun intended. 
 
 buddy wrote:
I lived through that era & have to respond with .... seriously? Pretty much a one-hit-wonder.  Forgettable except for when it pops up unexpectedly, as it did here.
 
Maybe "cutting edge" isn't the appropriate  term, but this  was certainly a controversial song when it was released, especially considering it came out of the traditionally "conservative" country genre.  You considering it "forgettable" doesn't mean it's forgettable to many other people - notably many female singers.  She was not really a one-hit wonder either; she had several Top 40 hits after this.
 Highlowsel wrote:
 
 
I lived through that era & have to respond with .... seriously? Pretty much a one-hit-wonder.  Forgettable except for when it pops up unexpectedly, as it did here.
 caramia2002 wrote:
This was an unfortunate, idiotic song when it came out.  It still is and not sure why RP would play such a novelty POS.
 

you have vaporized all your credibility
Always wondered what it was they threw off that bridge. A body, one assumes. But wouldn't that have spawned another cheesy story-song when it got found along the bank like stuck in old logs 'n branches and water moccasins? Neither here nor there, but I know some women who seem to have spent entire lives wandering around ridges 'n mountains picking flowers and zoning out of way drifty minds. I never call them lucky. Lost maybe. Whatever. 

Also neither here nor there, but Ms. Streeter-Gentry's first husband, gamer dude Bill Harrah's, Wikipedia entry is an interesting read. 

But wait! There's more. Much. Reading about Gentry et al on Wikipedia is kinda awesome, as there's this whole persona-myth surrounding Roberta Streeter-Bobbie Gentry as being this dirt poor Mississippi gal, which I suppose she was for a spell, but she ended up a graduate of a tony Palm Springs, CA prep school.  (Paris Hilton is a fellow alum.) 

So there is... that. 
 dwsneed wrote:
Lucinda Williams does Bobbie Gentry Justice with a recent tribute version of this song.
 

I was just thinking Steve Earle could do a fine job of it, too.
 Highlowsel wrote:

Maybe now...but context is everything.  This thing was cutting edge stuff for the era.  No pun intended. 
 

Cutting edge?  Are you serious?  In the counterculture 60s?
This was an unfortunate, idiotic song when it came out.  It still is and not sure why RP would play such a novelty POS.
haunting
Lucinda Williams does Bobbie Gentry Justice with a recent tribute version of this song.
Great song. I remember being fascinated by it as a child in the late 60's. No matter how many times I hear it in my adulthood, I always stop and just listen. 
Same with the song "Master Jack" by Four Jacks and a Jill. Something about them.
Lot of layers to this song. I always liked it, thought it was kind of different. But lately I've heard some stories on NPR about it, much deeper song than I ever realized.
Je vous conseille la version fran├žaise par Joe Dassin (I recommend the French version by Joe Dassin) :
Pass the biscuits AND the butter, indeed. What a voice; what a song. Could do without the cheese-ball strings in the backyard of it all. But whatcha gonna do about 60s production style. 
My mother used to sing this song when I was a  kid back in the 70s
Childhood memory, playing this record, which belonged to my dad, in the credenza
Jill Sobule wrote the next chapter of the story:  


www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Da3u5...
Takes me right back to my childhood.
Way cool song.  I don't know how RP got such a great recording of this.  You guys do wonders with song fidelity.  Thanks.
 jackie0 wrote:
Pandering, hitting all the southern clichés, the rhythm agonizingly slow.
I had hoped to never hear this song ever again. 
It ranked just under Lulu's "To Sir With Love" that year, if that tells you anything.  
It's just a disney version of the south.  Irritating at best.{#Sad}

 
Maybe now...but context is everything.  This thing was cutting edge stuff for the era.  No pun intended. 
 jackie0 wrote:
Pandering, hitting all the southern clichés, the rhythm agonizingly slow.
I had hoped to never hear this song ever again. 
It ranked just under Lulu's "To Sir With Love" that year, if that tells you anything.  
It's just a disney version of the south.  Irritating at best.{#Sad}

 
I don't think the theme is 'Disney' at all. That' was probably not a 'penny to make a wish on' that they were throwing off that bridge.
In its heyday this song was all the rage.
Good lord if that ain't a blast from the past. A little time capsule from my youth. Weird.
I tried to recommend this for RP and was delighted to find out it was already part of their playlists - shame it isn’t played more often, though... 
I haven't heard this in decades-but I knew what it was after the second chord. My jaw dropped....
a good one, imo  : )
Pandering, hitting all the southern clichés, the rhythm agonizingly slow.
I had hoped to never hear this song ever again. 
It ranked just under Lulu's "To Sir With Love" that year, if that tells you anything.  
It's just a disney version of the south.  Irritating at best.{#Sad}


Thanks!  Haven't heard this in a long time.

Brought a smile to my morning.  :-) 
Been a long time ... Thx for the fond childhood memory :)
Thanks, BillG!!

Seems like it should go into rotation like Alice's Restaurant.
This song was meant to be a mistery and misterious. I hate for this to be a spoiler, but this is my understanding. It doesn't matter what Billy Joe and whomever threw off the bridge. It seems that Ole' Billy premeditated his demise, and was testing the waters, er, testing the fall. The real mistery is whether the narator (Bobbie?) had known. Maybe not, as she later threw flowers to where he left this earth.
 randyblew wrote:
Nice tune, interesting choice - seems it hasn't been played in quite some time. I dig that once in a while you'll recycle something that has been dormant for many moons.

 
It goes with the date, June 3.
Nice tune, interesting choice - seems it hasn't been played in quite some time. I dig that once in a while you'll recycle something that has been dormant for many moons.
arrests my attention, good song 
steve wrote:
I'm not so sure BillyJoe jumped off that bridge. I think it is a real possibility that David Byrne might have PUSHED him off. Not sure, but I'm just sayin'... :lol: Honestly, Bill thanks for adding this to the playlist! :cheers: :clap:
must be a repeat playlist today... same segue
Eagan wrote:
Thanks for reminding me that I never could figure out what the hell her and Billy Joe was throwin" off the blinkin' bridge?
yeah, I don't get it.
thanks for the surpirse!! I can count on RP to bring those on quite often!!
Some songs are just too dated. You hear it come on and right away, you think of a certain time and place, and how the song belongs in that far-gone era. The song has no relevance, it's a relic from the past, a kind of archeologic find that causes you to stop, take notice for a bit, chuckle, and move on. Billy Jo is not one of those songs. It could just as easily been written and recorded yesterday, as 100 years ago. Its themes of family, revenge, betrayal, and murder come right out of the lore of the deep woods across much of the south. Its very simple delivery belongs to no time in particular, and all times in general. It is no more a 60's song than it is a modern screed. Despite its recording age, Billy Jo sounds as chilling and fresh as it did when it unspooled off of AM transistor radios in the 60s. Bobbie Gentry's wonderful voice breathes so much life into this you find yourself drifting freely, until suddenly you're passing those biscuits at the dinner table. This is a remarkable song. Earl Hamner, the great writer who mined much of southern and backwoods lore for his works, would certainly have appreciated this song.
Nicely rendered, always did give me the chills. Glad I never saw the flick; the song paints vivid pictures.
Beautiful song. Spooky and sad.
I just read on AMG, Bobbie Gentry Studied philosophy at UCLA before transferring to the Los Angeles Consevatory of Music. Interesting.
Good song I guess but it's ruined because I can't get the picture of Robbie Benson out of my head. :frustrated:
Extra spooky: I live very near a bridge over the Tallahatchie rumored to be the inspiration for this song. I heard about it for years before I ever heard the song. I've never heard it so clearly as I have today, where I could really get all the lyrics. Thank you! My mom's old 45 just doesn't do the song justice anymore.
Kingpepper wrote:
Only Robbie Benson knows... and he ain't talkin.
Dude...you watch waaay too much TV. Me, too, since I got the reference. I'm gonna go buy a book, right now.
Love how she comes in close to the mike for "yada yada yada Tallahatchee bridge."
Mmm, gives me chills. t h a n k y o u !
Way cool. Now how about some classic Dusty Springfield?
NO WAY! Wow. Awesome choice. I have always loved this song! :notworthy:
dmax wrote:
Segue into Psycho Killer? HAHAHAHAHA
I'm not so sure BillyJoe jumped off that bridge. I think it is a real possibility that David Byrne might have PUSHED him off. Not sure, but I'm just sayin'... :lol: Honestly, Bill thanks for adding this to the playlist! :cheers: :clap:
what a treat! Haven' heard this great song in a while. Dmax, you're the other(!) Crack the Sky fan here, aren't you?...
child what's happened to your appetite? i been cookin all day and you haven't touched a single bite... o by the way he said he saw a girl who looked a lot like up on choctaw ridge and her and billie joe were tossing something off the tallahachee bridge.
Still a little spooky. After all these years. Thanks. Segue into Psycho Killer? HAHAHAHAHA
This is the first time I've heard this in clear digital quality. Most of times I have heard this was on AM radio many moons ago. Bill you know how to make a listener happy.
kelli wrote:
oh gosh........i wonder when the original relase date on this was. musta been before i was born. haven't heard it in many many years.
1967. My mom had this album.
Wow, what a blast (?) from the past. The popular music version of "my dog done left me and my wife has rablies" song. Or something like that.
Eagan wrote:
Thanks for reminding me that I never could figure out what the hell her and Billy Joe was throwin" off the blinkin' bridge?
Only Robbie Benson knows... and he ain't talkin.
I don't know if this is good or not - but i love it and gave it a 9.
Thanks for reminding me that I never could figure out what the hell her and Billy Joe was throwin" off the blinkin' bridge?
oh gosh........i wonder when the original relase date on this was. musta been before i was born. haven't heard it in many many years.
LOL - I don't know how to rate this one. A "1" for the number of times I've heard it in the past, a "9" because it sounds surprisingly good today?