Gentry, Bobbie – “Ode to Billie Joe” – [Capitol Records]
The commercial success and subsequent mystery over Billie Joe and his death caught the imagination of listeners worldwide when the song “Ode to Billie Joe” was recorded in 1967. Almost taking on mythic status, it often outshines the other nine tracks on Bobbie Gentry’s first album of the same name. Bobbie Gentry’s disappearance from the entertainment industry in the mid 1970’s had the same sort of effect at the time. Though now fairly obscure to listeners, Gentry is still viable for a book written about “Ode” on the 33 1/3 series and commented by people in the know as highly influential.
-Born Roberta Lee Streeter in Chickasaw County, Mississippi.
-Initially self taught multi-instrumentalist.
-Philosophy major at UCLA.
-One of the first females to write and produce her own music.
– Release of “Ode” knocked The Beatles out of number one place for four weeks.
– First female country artist to be awarded a Grammy for best new artist.
– Designed, produced, choreographed, etc. her stage shows including her major stays in Vegas.
– Left performing and whereabouts is basically unknown.
The album is usually a quietly produced series of songs with Gentry playing acoustic guitar, finger picking each track in the familiar plunk plunka plunka beat. Background strings arranged by Jimmie Haskell and Shorty Rodgers fill out the sounds that accompany the tales of young country women and their exploits and desires while dealing with life in the backwoods and deltas of the deep south. The instrumentation mixed with her singing often gives you the feeling of that slowed down southern life. Gentry’s rich voice, which really takes on a solid level of quality in the song “Hurry, Tuesday Child”, moves throughout the compositions and never feels forced. Sonorous is the word to describe it. The songs are so enjoyable you just want to eat some poke salad annie with her while shooting the breeze, sitting on the porch. And then there is “Mississippi Delta” which may be one of the top underground club dance LOOSE IT songs from my twenties. It is one of the true definitive examples of country swamp rock. You’ll pull some muscles dancing to it. BOBBIE GENTRY RULES!!!!!!!!