Sunday Music – Ode To Billie Joe

Posted on Sun 11/21/2010 by

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Today’s music video is ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ from Bobbie Gentry.

This video was posted to You Tube by tackertony

Sometimes, a song has that certain something about it, and this song is a prime example of this. Over the years, the song has generated a novel, a movie, psychological theses, you name it, all wondering about the narrative of the song. All along Bobbie Gentry has steadfastly said that it was just a song and she (a) had no idea what they threw off the bridge, and (b) why Billie Joe jumped off the bridge.

It’s just a beautiful song.

It balances tragedy with the mundane things of everyday life, and in the same breath says so much, and never gives anything away.

Originally composed to be the B side of Bobbie Gentry’s first Single, it was around seven minutes long and had many more verses than this. Once the recording Company people heard the song, it became obvious this was going to be the bigger of the two songs. Too long for radio airplay, the main target in those days, the song was rearranged slightly and the length of the song chopped back considerably, thus losing a number of those original verses. Ironically, this chopping back is probably the main reason the song has its allure as a mystery, because those original verses probably told the whole story, but again, that’s something we will never know really, because why would Bobbie Gentry tell the story now after so many years when this one has such allure, just as it is.

The bridge mentioned in the song here, the Tallahatchie Bridge crosses the Tallahatchie River at Money, in Mississippi, and in fact collapsed in 1972, and has since been replaced with  a new bridge.

The song was a monster hit for Bobbie Gentry. It was released in mid 1967, and became a Worldwide smash hit for her. It generated 8 Grammy Award nominations, winning three for Bobbie Gentry, and one for the arrangement by Jimmie Haskell. Still selling to this day, it has sold more than three million copies around the World.

Gentry was noted as being one of the first female Country artists to write and produce her own material, and to also play backing for her own songs. In all she had around a dozen Studio albums, two of which are certified as Gold Records. She also made the Singles charts a few times, but after this song, success on that scale would have been almost impossible to repeat.

She did the rounds of the TV variety shows, and even had her own one in the UK with the BBC. She appeared often on The Glen Campbell Show, and had two Top Five hits on the Singles charts with Glen, one of them featured here, the French song from Gilbert Becaud, ‘Let It Be Me’, also recorded by numerous other artists over the years. Her other hit with Glen was the Felice and Boudleaux Bryant song ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’, made into a smash hit for Don and Phil Everly in 1958.

This video was posted to You Tube by kheisler08

Glen Campbell is one of the true icons of the Country Music genre. He started out as a session musician, mainly as an accomplished guitarist. He was in fact part of the legendary group of session musicians from the 60’s and 70’s, ‘The Wrecking Crew’, famed for appearing on so many albums of that era. Glen also was a touring member of the Beach Boys in 1964 and 1965, filling in on stage for Brian Wilson, and is one of the integral members on what is purported to be the greatest album of all time The Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’. Glen had a couple of solo albums but it was not until 1967 that he made it big in his own name, after having been in the business for nearly ten years. He had some major hits with the Jimmy Webb songs from 1968 and 1969, and the rest, as they say is history.

Credited with numerous hits over the years, one of my personal favourites however is this song of his that in fact was not a hit at all. It was also used as the theme for the John Wayne movie of the same name ‘True Grit’. In this song featured below, a hard to find video clip, he is introduced by John Cash from John’s TV variety series. The song was released in 1969 along with the movie, in which Glen also starred alongside the legend John Wayne.

Glen at one stage was contracted long term to guitar manufacturer Ovation, who made some of the most wonderful acoustic guitars, sought after for their beautiful tone. Unlike most other guitars, the Ovation acoustics had a rounded back, and that is probably where the wonderful tone came from. They also made quality solid guitars as well, and these days those guitars are almost collectors items, as unlike most other large scale guitar manufacturers, Ovation only made them in small amounts.

Glen is playing an Ovation 12 string acoustic in this clip.

This video was posted to You Tube by HotshotsKings