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Whatever Happened To Bobbie Gentry

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If you were on the planet the summer of 1967, you could not get away from one song. It was everywhere, on the Rock charts, the Pop charts, the Country charts, the Easy Listening charts. You would turn from one radio to another, and then another. And there it was.

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“Ode to Billie Joe”. The artist was an unknown singer, born in 1944 in Chickasaw County Mississippi, near a river called the Tallahatchie. We all would come to know that river very well.

“Ode to Billie Joe” sold over 3 million copies. Bobbie Gentry won 3 Grammy awards that year, including Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Performance. The Academy of Country Music named her the Best New Female Country artist. Rolling Stone magazine named “Ode to Billie Joe”one of the 500 greatest songs of all time. “Ode to Billie Joe” was made into a successful Hollywood motion picture. But there were essentially 2 questions about the song: What did Billie Joe and his girlfriend throw off that bridge? And why did Billie Joe commit suicide?

Bobbie Gentry talked about that:

Those questions are of secondary importance in my mind. The story of Billie Joe has two more interesting underlying themes. First, the illustration of a group of people’s reactions to the life and death of Billie Joe, and its subsequent effect on their lives, is made. Second, the obvious gap between the girl and her mother is shown, when both women experience a common loss (first, Billie Joe and, later, Papa), and yet Mama and the girl are unable to recognize their mutual loss or share their grief.

So, whatever happened to Bobbie Gentry?

Bobbie’s subsequent albums and singles never approached the success enjoyed by “Ode To Billie Joe”. She recorded duet’s with Glen Campbell and headlined her own show in Las Vegas. Bobbie was married briefly to Las Vegas hotel magnate Bill Harrah and was also married to fellow entertainer Jim Stafford, which also ended in divorce.

Now remarried, Bobbie has settled in Los Angeles and has remained out of the public eye since the early 1980’s.

But who can ever forget that opening line…”It was the 3rd of June…” and the unforgettable story that followed.

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