Monday, July 02, 2012

My Music Monday

I'd say this song isn't for everyone, but when are any of my choices?  When is that true of anyone's taste in music?

I think it is fair to say most of my readers know the song, whether they like it or not.

Bobbie Gentry is mostly known for this song, "Ode to Billy Joe", but she had a number of other hits, and a frickin' variety show - or was on one with Glenn Campbell.  While most would write her off as a one-hit wonder, that's not really the truth.  She wrote and sang "Fancy", which decades later would be covered by Reba McIntyre.

Say what you want, a song about suicide and then onto basically one about teen prostitution was heady stuff, especially since it was of an era that was hearing "Sugar Sugar" from the Archies.

Gentry had an undeniably unique voice for then or now. But for a woman in music, in the mid to late '60s, she was quite unique as well. Writing all, or most, of her own music, playing it and sometimes producing it - she was no one's fool or puppet.

I know many don't like country music, and I'm not sure this qualifies.  Delta blues meets country, perhaps (really, check out "Mississippi Delta"). And even growing up, I wrote this off as a hokey kind of tune and the made-for-tv-movie with Robbie Benson playing "homosexual" didn't give much to prove me differently.

But if you can separate time and tv, the actual construct of the song is pretty amazing: the back and forth of the lyrics for everyday events interspersed with the news of the day, he simplicity of  guitar (which she plays), the tumbling strings, the vocal arrangement and the actual control of Gentry's vocals - even if you don't like her accent. 

I wish it were still up and running, but a few weeks ago the BBC had a great special on 'Where is Bobbie Gentry?'.  Narrated by Rosanne Cash, it went through Gentry's accomplishments, which were many, but not really recognized. ....and who knew she married (though no longer) to Jim Stafford, from "Spiders and Snakes" fame (or am I the only person who remembers him?).

Well, until this special, I couldn't have told you if Gentry was dead or Canadian. But she is and has really dropped off the radar in almost every way.

Still, "Ode to Billy Joe" still stands up. Actually, it is better for me now than it was as it has clearly grown on me, as has Gentry's talents.

....and who doesn't like an intro from Andy Williams?  Well, except maybe Spider Sabich (extra points of you get the reference w out Gooooogling it)



Brettcajun said...

Whose version came out first? Hers or Dusty Springfields?

Wonder Man said...

it does stand the times

Erik Rubright said...

I always loved this song as a kid, but I don't know why I would have known it. And I never considered it country, because that was never listened to by my family. At least country "proper". This song was always more a slow swing/jazz to me. And still is--that's where it falls in my music collection.