Today in 1967, Bobbie Gentry released her only hit: "Ode to Billy ...

Billboard #1 Hits: #190: “Ode To Billie Joe”- Bobbie Gentry. August 26, 1967. #1 for 4 weeks.

  • Single: “Ode To Billie Joe”- Bobbie Gentry
  • Record Company-Capitol
  • Genre: Pop
  • Written by Bobbie Gentry
  • Time: 4:15
  • B-side:”Mississippi Delta”
  • Album- Ode To Billie Joe
  • Grade: A+
  • Peaked at #1 for 4 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100. #8 on the R&B singles chart and #17 on the Country singles chart.  #13 on UK Singles Chart. #1 in Canada.

In the late 1960’s-early 70’s at least once a month my grandparents would make a three hour trip ‘down the river” to where they came from to visit their family. They would take me with them. We would always have the radio on in the car during the trip. In the fall of 1967 I can clearly remember hearing this song for the first time. Usually on a trip that fall they’d play it a lot. “Ode To Billie Joe” had me with the opening line “It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day.” Every time I heard the song I’d be thinking about it. Why did Billie Joe jump off of that bridge? The girl singing the song was was seen with him? What was going on? What did they throw off the bridge? Why did the family treat this suicide of a young man so casually- “pass the biscuits please.?” The song put a lot of images in my head. It was like a movie. There was a novel and a screenplay written around the song in the mid 1970’s- a movie made but I have never had any interest in seeing or even knowing about the movie. I like the images I have in my head of this haunting song.

Bobbie Gentry had eight Grammy nominations and three Grammy wins with this song. This was Gentry’s big hit- although she did have an impressive but short career-she released seven albums from 1967-71. In the last forty-nine years- nothing. She’s lived a rather secluded life since. She did say what “Ode To Billie Joe” was about- “the basic indifference, the casualness of people in moments of tragedy.”


7 responses to “BILLBOARD #1 HITS: #190: ‘ODE TO BILLIE JOE”- BOBBIE GENTRY- AUGUST 26, 1967

    • There are those who believe he killed himself- after having a drunken homosexual encounter… I always thought it was as you stated. I like that the song doesn’t answer the question.

  1. I was 13 when this came out, and I loved it. It was such a mysterious and captivating song that never got old, despite the fact it was played endlessly on the radio for months. I’ve always liked songs that tell a story, many of which are Country, like “El Paso”, “Harper Valley, PTA”, etc.

    • Story songs are great- you get your own mental picture of it. Still not tired of the song I listen to it fairly often.

  2. I love both the narrative and the unanswered questions in this tune. Plus, Bobby Gentry’s voice was fabulous.

    On a side note, I drove a cross the new Tallahatchie Bridge on my way from Memphis to Tupelo in 2017. The old one, which was wood, had burned and the new one was made with modern construction. The minute I saw the bridge sign, the song was stuck in my head.

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