“Ode to Billie Joe”: a look back at 1967’s most mysterious hit


Guests: Tara Murtha

[From the Radio Times archive] Bobbie Gentry’s brooding 1967 country-tinged ballad “Ode to Billie Joe” captivated the nation with its tragic narrative of a teenager’s suicide combined with a swinging, swampy rhythm. Gentry became an international superstar, making numerous television appearances and concocting elaborate stage performances. The song “Ode to Billie Joe” managed to knock The Beatles off the top of the charts, and was subsequently covered by many artists, including Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, The Supremes, Rosanne Cash, and Sinead O’Connor. There was even a 1976 movie based on the song. Author and reporter TARA MURTHA joins us this hour to discuss Gentry and the humble origins of her biggest hit, which she has chronicled in a new book Ode to Billie Joe, part of the 33 1/3rd series. Marty spoke with her earlier this year.

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