Eratosphere Forums - Metrical Poetry, Free Verse, Fiction, Art, Critique, Discussions Able Muse - a review of poetry, prose and art

Forum Left Top

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 07-29-2018, 03:25 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,184
Default Ode to Billie Joe

Bobbie Gentry called this song "a study in unconscious cruelty." It certainly is that. She was one of the first women in country to write her own material. She was born in Chickasaw County, Mississippi.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZt5Q-u4crc

Ode to Billie Joe
Bobbie Gentry

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin' cotton, and my brother was balin' hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And mama hollered out the back door, y'all, remember to wipe your feet
And then she said, I got some news this mornin' from Choctaw Ridge
Today, Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And papa said to mama, as he passed around the blackeyed peas
Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please
There's five more acres in the lower forty I've got to plow
And mama said it was a shame about Billy Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billy Joe MacAllister's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And brother said he recollected when he, and Tom, and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn't I talkin' to him after church last Sunday night?
I'll have another piece-a apple pie; you know, it don't seem right
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge
And now ya tell me Billie Joe's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And mama said to me, child, what's happened to your appetite?
I've been cookin' all morning, and you haven't touched a single bite
That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today
Said he'd be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge

A year has come and gone since we heard the news 'bout Billy Joe
And brother married Becky Thompson; they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going 'round; papa caught it, and he died last spring
And now mama doesn't seem to want to do much of anything
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin' flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Songwriters: Bobbie Gentry
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 07-29-2018, 07:04 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,561
Default

John, Thanks for posting this.

It's a brilliantly told story. Unconscious cruelty. The most insidious of all cruelties. After all these years I'm still uncertain what happened up there on Choctaw Ridge. Here’s what she had to say about the song and the questions about what happened up there at the bridge:

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.

If there is a more probing, deep pop/country lyric than this I’d like to hear it.

The sound of the sliding, descending strings in the video at the end of the last verse is chilling. This song has been described as “Southern Gothic”. The staging of the song with the life-sized wooden/clay figures of the family at the dinner table is macabre.

Btw, she is a beautiful woman. (Can someone still say that in today's world? Ahh, unconscious cruelty : )
x
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 07-29-2018, 09:18 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,184
Default

Hey Jim,

Yup, the staging with the family at the table is I think inspired. At the video (and the song's) end, she gets up, walks over and joins them at the table. Aargh.
I agree with pretty much everything you wrote. :-)

Cheers,
John
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 07-29-2018, 10:32 AM
Jayne Osborn's Avatar
Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
Administrator
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Middle England
Posts: 5,497
Default

Wow, John! I don't know how many times I've heard that song over the years... but, do you know, I've never listened properly to it till now! Thank you for posting both the link and the words; it made me really concentrate on the song when I watched the Youtube clip.

As Jim said, it's a brilliantly told story - and with such an intriguing ending. (And yes, Jim, Bobbie Gentry is a very beautiful woman; nothing wrong with saying so, as far as I'm concerned )

Thank you so much for posting this, John. I've watched a couple of versions of the song now, and keep thinking how simple - yet how good - it is.

Jayne
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 07-29-2018, 12:37 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,184
Default

Hi Jayne,

I first discovered this song covered by Tammy Wynette, but it's good to hear - and share - the Bobbie Gentry original. I like the video too, she's a gifted performer. I'm glad you found the song deepened by seeing it in this context!
Yup, the narrator and Billie Joe drop something off the Tallahatchee Bridge, and a couple of days later, he drowns himself. What did they drop? They made a film with this title in 1976, where his secret is a gay encounter. But Bobbie Gentry preferred to leave us hanging. I'll have another piece of apple pie, says the brother, as when in L'Etranger Meursault and Marie witness a guy beating his girlfriend, and Meursault shortly afterward remarks, "Marie wasn't hungry so I ate her dinner."

Cheers,
John
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 07-29-2018, 01:10 PM
Jayne Osborn's Avatar
Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
Administrator
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Middle England
Posts: 5,497
Default

Hi John,

I've just half-listened to the Tammy Wynette version... I couldn't make it to the end, simply because Bobbie owns it, and gives it so much more feeling...

I've also read a few suppositions on the internet about what Billie Joe and his girlfriend might have thrown off the bridge. (Hey, I'm telling you, John, you've REALLY fired me up with this one!) but I agree with the writer (BG) that it's not the most significant aspect of the song at all. It's the intrigue that makes it so successful!!!

Thanks again, John. This has made my day in a most unexpected way

Jayne
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 07-29-2018, 01:58 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,184
Default

Hi Jayne,

And you spurred me to google what Billie Joe threw off the bridge! Yes, lots of theories, but I like not knowing. Spielberg said one plus for Jaws was not having the money for a fancier shark, so they showed it as little as possible.
It was also interesting to learn a bit more of Gentry's biography. What made her disappear?

Cheers,
John

Last edited by John Isbell; 07-29-2018 at 04:01 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 07-30-2018, 09:43 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,561
Default

Now off on my favorite ride: The Tangent : )

I by chance heard an NPR program yesterday that mentioned the 150 best female albums of all time. It's an excellent source of great music. Here is the link to the list.
Bobbie Gentrie's Ode To Billie Joe was #83.

Another lyrical masterpiece of storytelling is Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" -- Here is the link to her live performance of the song along with the lyrics below.

In different ways both songs are seminal:

Woodstock
Joni Mitchell

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
When I asked him where are you going
This he told me.
I'm going down to Yasgurs farm
Think Ill join a rock and roll band
I'll camp out on the land
I'll try and set my soul free.
We are stardust, we are golden
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.


Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel just like a cog in something turning.
Well maybe its the time of year
Or maybe its the time of man
And I don't know who I am
But lifes for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.


By the time I got to Woodstock
They were half a million strong
Everywhere there were songs and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation.
We are stardust, we are golden
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.
We are stardust, we are golden
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.
We are stardust, we are golden
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.

x

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 07-30-2018 at 12:52 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 07-30-2018, 10:57 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,184
Default

Hi Jim,

I do think Joni Mitchell is tremendous. Will post a song lyric or two, but now sitting in the Boston Public Library waiting for my wife.

Cheers,
John

Update: I'll likely post The Circle Game.
Update II: If the street were time and he were at the end of the street.

Last edited by John Isbell; 07-30-2018 at 11:12 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 07-30-2018, 03:12 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,184
Default

So here is one of my favorite Joni Mitchell lyrics, inspired by Neil Young's Sugar Mountain, she said. A fellow Canadian.

Cheers,
John


The Circle Game
Joni Mitchell, L.A. Express

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when you're older, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town
And they tell him,
Take your time, it won't be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



Forum Right Top
Forum Left Bottom Forum Right Bottom
 
Right Left
Member Login
Forgot password?
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Statistics:
Forum Members: 7,908
Total Threads: 19,299
Total Posts: 249,056
There are 192 users
currently browsing forums.
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Sponsor:
Donate & Support Able Muse / Eratosphere
Forum LeftForum Right
Right Right
Right Bottom Left Right Bottom Right

Hosted by ApplauZ Online