Song of the Day: Bobbie Gentry, “Ode To Billie Joe”

This song caused a bit of a stir when Bobbie Gentry released it in July 1967. What did Billie Joe and his girlfriend throw off the Tallahatchee Bridge, and why did Billie Joe commit suicide? Ms. Gentry won’t say about the former, telling a journalist to "suppose it was a wedding ring." She has said that why Billie Joe committed suicide isn’t important, that the song was about the indifference her family showed toward the death of someone all of them knew. The song reached #1 on the Hot 100, keeping The Supremes’ "Reflections" out of the #1 spot, and went to #7 on the Easy Listening chart, #8 on the R&B chart, and #17 on the Country chart. It also went to #1 in Canada and #17 in the UK.

18 thoughts on “Song of the Day: Bobbie Gentry, “Ode To Billie Joe”

  1. Hi John – love the song … despite the haunting sadness … have a peaceful Christmas season – Hilary

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  2. Lotta deep thinking goin’ on here. I never gave it a thoight what the words meant, but I always liked the song.

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  3. John,

    At the time of the song release I was only 6 years old. I remember the older girls playing it at lunch time when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. I didn’t have any idea what the song was about but it always made me sad to hear it. Bobby Gentry had a fabulous voice!

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  4. I think the implication of the song is that the narrator murdered Billie Joe McAllister. She is not hungry as they talk about Billie Joe; she was seen on Choctaw Ridge; now she throws flowers off the bridge, presumably as tribute to Billie Joe.

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  5. I was fourteen when this song came out and it broke my heart. I had already met my husband (and we are still together). The something they threw off the bridge to my mind was a dead baby. I then decided Billie Joe commited suicide because of guilt…it’s always haunted me. But I was young and impressionable .πŸ’œ

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