A Very Special Ode to Billie Joe

It was the 3rd of June, another sleepy dusty delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton and my brother was balin’ hay …

So begins “Ode to Billie Joe,” the classic track by singer/songwriter Bobbie Gentry. Released in 1967 to critical acclaim—and selling 750,000 copies in its first week—”Ode” captivated the nation with its story of the mysterious suicide of Billie Joe McAllister.

Last year, music writer Tara Murtha wrote a fascinating and feminist analysis of Ode to Billie Joe the album, its most infamous track and the fame and sudden disappearance of songbird Gentry, who fled the limelight more than 30 years ago.

On the heels of the book, several artists including Allison Polans, Sarah Larsen, Jim Boggia and Phil D’Agostino, recorded a cover of “Ode” to celebrate the third of June—the date at the opening of the song. The result is haunting and enduring, not unlike Gentry’s original version. Take a look below and read more about the mysterious life of Bobbie Gentry here.

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