Here’s another song that just popped up when I was doing research the other day and darned if I watched it and was mesmerized by Bobby Gentry’s live performance of this classic hit on the BBC back in 1968.
“Ode to Billy Joe” was released on July 10, 1967, and catapulted to the number-one spot in the US within three weeks of release and a big international seller. Billboard ranked the record as the No. 3 song of the year. But, like a lot of great songs back then, it was played non-stop on the radio and TV until everyone got sick of it and to make matter worse, eight years later made a bad movie based on the song starring then teen-heartthrob Robbie Benson. At that point Bobby Gentry quit the entertainment business at the ripe old age of 35 and hasn’t been heard from since.
Here’s more on how “Ode to Billy Joe” came to be from PerformingSongwriter.com:
“Ode” was recorded on July 10, 1967 at Studio C in the Capitol tower. Accompanying herself on guitar, Bobbie nailed a keeper take in 40 minutes. Arranger Jimmie Haskell told MOJO, “I asked Kelly, ‘What do you want me to do?’ He said, ‘Just put some strings on it so we won’t be embarrassed. No one will ever hear it anyway.’ The song sounded to me like a movie—those wonderful lyrics. I had a small group of strings—two cellos and four violins to fit her guitar-playing. I was branching out in my own head for the first time, creating something that I liked because we thought no one was ever gonna hear it.”