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Here’s the Boss (pic taken last June), making an appearance so he can supervise our efforts today!
Every 3rd of June I post this deftly worded mystery in song form, Ode to Billie Joe, written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry. In 1967 it was number one for four weeks and it even knocked the Beatles out of first place; it stayed on the charts for 20 weeks. It had eight Grammy nominations, with four wins.
This is the best version for vocals, IMO.
IMO the song is effective and lasting partly because it doesn’t provide an answer, but leaves the listener wondering and imagining.
I think this song endures because it has authenticity; Bobby Gentry grew up in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta and speaks with an accent and rhythm of the US Deep South, where I now live, and the lyrics are worded in ways I’ve actually heard used here. That makes it real; sometimes everyone everywhere can recognize the sound of real people talking even though they may not have heard the actual speakers. That’s how stories become implanted in minds and resonate, even across years. That’s also part of why the song was such a hit, in my opinion.
This version has IMO the best visuals, plus an explanation of how the rivers are positioned.
I was captivated by this song when I first heard it, though it was years later, after I’d learned more about how storytelling works, when I realized just how brilliant it is.
Summer photos from May/June last year:
When I wrote my MUSE Award winning cat book I tried to capture the daily aural ambiance of the place I live in, a university town surrounded by coal mines, agricultural lands, and industrial areas. I mixed scholarly language with occasional local sayings, and I also borrowed from many regions of the US, several other languages, old counter-cultural slang, and from the expanding terminology of cat people, as in “floofer”. Language and the way it forms and grows is a topic that fascinates me.
Links to get the book are at the upper right and on the page “Order the MUSE-Award-winning book.”
Her sweetness Moonpie is here to close. All our cats are thriving and we’ll get back soon with pictures of all those kitties! Still working through some computer issues.
Great picture of trees and sky! Very peaceful and pristine. Moonpie looks like proper sweetie! Best! Ashraf
Thank you Ashraf, I’m glad you enjoyed the sky pictures! I find summer scenes refreshing too, though not as exciting as fall. Moonpie thanks you too, she is indeed a sweet and cute little kitty. Cheers and Meows, Leah
“Twas the 3rd of June, another sleepy-dusty Delta day….’
And I lived in that same ‘Delta’ and still remember being in a ‘john boat’ and fishing with my sisters as those lyrics played on the battery-operated radio. (We were catfishing about a stone’s throw from the Mississippi River.
When back in the USA – and in NW Mississippi, I always want to ‘brake’ for photo ops when crossing a Tallahatchie River bridge!
Kathy Mattea has done a really nice cover of this, and she talks about how Bobbie Gentry ‘did it all; she wrote it, she played, she sang, she produced it…’ (It was in a talk she gave to some group.. via Youtube..)
I imagine being in the actual Delta and hearing the song was intense! I think I’ve ridden through the area though I’ve never been there. Those are vivid memories . . .
I will look for the Kathy Mattea cover of this!
I’ve always loved that song. And I’ve always wondered what they threw off the bridge and why Billy Joe jumped… or if he did.
So much to wonder about! What you are suggesting went through my mind, too.
The Human loves your reflection on the song. She has always wondered about the mystery behind the song’s story (I think it’s because you human writers have over active imaginations!)
Purrs & Head Bonks,
The kitties and I thank The Human, Alberto! We agree with you, the human imaginations work overtime! Meows and Purrs from us!
Great photos, and that song is wonderful. I have heard it before, but your musings about it made me listen more closely! Hi Boss and Moonpie. You two are beautiful!
Boss and Moonpie and I thank you so much, meowmeowmans! We are happy you like our post and photos. And I’m always happy when I find that others also enjoy some of the works of art I feel are significant.
Moonpie, our mom thinks your name is one of the best ever! And you are gorgeous.
Lola and Lexi, Moonpie and I thank you!
I remember when the song became popular. It stays with one. I will have it “running” in the back of my head most of the day during idle moments now. If I dare, I will play the video and then, I’ll be SINGING it all day! Katie Isabella will not be pleased. She is not a fan of my singing.
It’s been running in my head too, Carole. Hopefully Katie Isabella will learn to appreciate your singing! My cats may have to get used to mine, lol.
Hi, Leah! My, when I clinked on the link from my email I got a whole new WP layout of your post! It’s beautiful, but I had to figure out how to navigate — guess I’d better get on WP more! Anyhoo, LOVE Bobbie Gentry!!! And LOVE this song (I had to play the first version before I could comment :)). I’ve used her song before when I taught creative writing, trying to get students to see how the narrative arc + mystery really works in this song. I could listen to it all day. Your photos are as lovely as ever — and your cats beautiful as ever, too. I’m in Michigan now, where it’s finally warm. I do so hope you all have gotten through the spring storms. Hope you’re well and enjoying this new greenery! Deb
That’s really interesting that you seeing a new layout of this site! The one I see hasn’t changed. I bet you are seeing the new wordpress Block Editor, but I don’t know how. All the computer devices and systems are constantly changing everything around, for the purpose, I sometimes think, of keeping those of us who don’t easily cope with tech changes, like me, really mixed up, LOL. WordPress is trying to force us all into using the Block Editor; everyone who has tried it hates it and calls it the Blockhead Editor. It doesn’t even look doable at all to me, and I have managed to keep their workaround thingie so I can keep using the Classic Editor – for now. If they eliminate that option I’ll be lost and may have to stop. I hear it makes some nice layouts but it’s very hard to work with, requiring 3 or 4 clicks for things that used to take one. It has no clear steps, that I can see.
That is really interesting that you’ve used the song in your creative writing classes, Deb! I’m so glad to know that as it makes me think that the song is really as great as I think it is!
Thank you for your kind words about the photos and kitties, the kitties thank you too for noticing how gorgeous they are, LOL. Glad you are in Michigan now enjoying the beauty of summer! I’m enjoying it too and the bad storms seem to be gone, it’s usually (though not always) just regular storms and oh yeah, the possibility a hurricane will come up this way, in the summer. Then in Nov.-Dec. there’s another tornado season here, oh joy. I know I sound grumpy about storms . . .
All good wishes to you and your family and friends and animals, Leah
I always was haunted by that song. Good choice. And I love Moonpie!
Haunting is a good way to put it! Moonpie and I thank you, I think she is a real little cutie pie too!
Moonpie is gorgeous and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the name!!
Thank you Hairballs and Hissy Fits, Moonpie and I appreciate it! I’m glad you like the name!
Love your name, Moonpie!!! Ode to Billie Joe is such an amazing song.
Moonpie and I thank you Mocha’s Mysteries and Meows, we are happy you like her name! I wasn’t quite sure about the name myself and am happy when people say they like it! The song is amazing indeed!
Moonpie and June you both steal the show with your overload of cuteness😸 We haven’t heard about this song ever, but it was a good story telling, Leah😸Pawkisses for a Happy Weekend🐾😽
The kitties and I thank you, Little Binky and Granny, we appreciate it! We are glad you liked the post! Many good wishes for a great weekend going out to you too!
Many thanks for the music video refreshers! And the adorable cat pics.I can visualize them listening to the ode and coming to their own conclusions about Billie Joe.
My pleasure Jazz! The kitties and I thank you and we are happy you enjoyed the post. Now that would certainly be fascinating if the kitties could give us their interpretation of the song!
Moonpie is such a cutie and I love the name. That is a good song. Beautiful photos too. XO
The kitties and I thank you Ellen, we appreciate it! XO
Perhaps the most haunting and memorable song of my lifetime. I had the 45, with “Mississippi Delta” on the B side. 🙂 Thanks for remembering it publicly each year!
My pleasure posting it Cate, and I think you are right in your description, nothing else I can think of at the moment comes close. I didn’t have the 45 and don’t recall the B side, though I’m sure it could be found on youtube somewhere. I might look it up one day . . .
Great shots of Boss and Moonpie! Ode to Billy Joe was on the radio this morning when I was driving to the mail. We are having early heat, and the River is high it took me back to that summer and working on a dude ranch. Now I read about it in your post! I have always wondered if it was based on a true story, but never done the research to find out as the the knowing might “ruin” the song! I love your posts. |Good luck with the computer. And have a marvellously happy week!
The kitties and I thank you for the kind words, we’re happy you like our posts! It looks like everyone everywhere is playing the song today! Thank you for the good wishes, we wish everyone at your place a happy week too!
That song really does tell quite the story. We were out n’ about today and I heard it on SiriusXM, it’s still a good one.
It really does, doesn’t it?! It grabs me every time!
Leah, did you know I used this song in my latest Cobble Cove cozy, NO GRAVESTONE UNTURNED? I wasn’t allowed to use the lyrics, but I mention the song (song titles aren’t copyrighted). Great post, and beautifully illustrated by your sweet black kitties.
Debbie, the kitties and I thank you for all your kind words! I’m happy you enjoyed the post. I didn’t know you had noted the song in your mystery! Very cool! I definitely want to read it, and also more of your mysteries. I am going to get around to doing more reading when we work through a few extra things. I move more slowly than anyone else . . .
When I wrote my book Catwoods I had briefly quoted a bunch of song lyrics,thinking it was “fair use”. When I looked into publication I too found it’s entirely different. At the very best the songwriters want to be paid for use every time you sell x amount of copies. And of course that’s fine, I understand about copyright. But with about 15 songs in the book that would have been a paperwork nightmare I couldn’t handle and an expense I couldn’t afford. So, I just noted the titles as you did. Cheers and Meows, Leah
Wow, LOVE your Boss and Moonpie pictures, kitty-poetry in itself as they clearly SPEAK!
So happy that I’ve read some 53 pages from your book and found also the info about Isaac Newton’s dog Diamond that caused one of his works catch flame from a candle… The TRUTH eventually always comes out and you certainly did A MEGA TASK on researching all those important kitty facts! Kudos to you. Will continue reading but don’t laugh at me when I have to ‘blame’ our kitties (the five that got born at our home after we brought home the Mama cat from Acapulco) for having just continued on a very intricate cross stitch work with roses that I’d dropped on October 24, 2007… Kitties got born March 30, 2007! https://mariettesbacktobasics.blogspot.com/2010/09/telling-you-tale-of-our-4-feline-girls.html
Our household changed forever and at present we still have five, the four siblings, one got killed by a car and the look alike of Spicy that we brought home from North Carolina from the shelter where we went to in vain (6 hour drive) and Pieter said, shall we take her home, so we did not travel for nothing…
Slowly catching up on things, so happy that the book got done last year, a mega task and especially such a textbook with scientific information. It all has to be right! Did the typing and all the editing as Pieter’s first English book in 1978 got done by a lady that was not familiar with all the special words, used only for the mushroom industry. We got tired of seeing so much plagiarism; including all the wrong words being copied as well. So we managed this 448 page mega task. While at vacation in Tennessee, we also earned back all our $$$$ invested for doing this self publishing and sure I needed a graphic designer for inserting all the photos and making the cover etc. She did lots of academic work so we selected her. They earn more than we writers do… but it’s okay.
When we got home, our kitty welcome committee was great; they acted like magnets for about two days… But they’re back into their routine. The cat-sitter of course did not hand out lunch snackies nor cuddles and having conversation with them. Yes, they sure need that! All or ours are quite vocal too.
Sending you hugs,
By the way, left you a review yesterday on Amazon, even if I’m not yet done reading it entirely. Pieter did and he’s been raving about how thoroughly you did all your research. Quite educational to read.
Thank you for all your kind words, Mariette, the kitties and I appreciate it! Five of the kitties we have now came from one litter too, I am trying to write them into Volume 2 which was mostly complete, but may not be published this year as it’s turning out to be a busy one, with failing energy from me.
I’m glad you were able to get your book done last year, I know it is a challenge! I couldn’t do all that research now, I fear. It’s true that often those who help with publication make more, I’ve never come anywhere near breaking even myself. In my case copy editing was set up by the publisher, the young woman was very nice but also was somewhat unfamiliar with the world of cats and the southeastern vernacular and I had to change some things back. LOL, one I missed was in an old expression I quoted “grinning like a mule eating briars.” She inserted a hyphen and made it “mule-eating briars”, LOL shades of “Little Shop of Horrors”; and I failed to catch that at the last minute. I just have to laugh sometimes and not worry about stuff!
Glad you are back and settled in with your kitties!
I went to the link and your kitties are all gorgeous, thanks for the link! Left a little comment but not sure it got through. I always have some trouble with blogger.
Thank you dearest Leah, and yes, your comment came through!
Kitties just got their supper and Bandido, the skinniest of the boys, now wants to share some unsalted peanuts and cashews with me. He is crazy about them. We have green tea with mixed unsalted nuts and today a bit later because we biked before Pieter’s nap time. Missed the biking for all those days and it was supposed to rain in the afternoon bur once again, that forecast was wrong!
Some errors can indeed be hilarious and make you laugh.
I’ve always enjoyed songs that tell stories. The date mentioned in this song is usually forgotten. I’m glad you remembered. We could guess about this song. But you are right it is unfinished.
I could certainly identify with working the fields part of the song. We couldn’t afford the rent so we worked the fields to live in the house. Which is what I came in from the first time I heard this song. My mother wrote poems and sometimes the ending to the story wasn’t completely revealed just like this song.
My pleasure! Several years ago some friends started posting this song on June 3rd. So I started posting it too.
That is very interesting, Penny. The scene at the dinner table felt very familiar to me. I hope you were able to save your mother’s poems and can revisit them. A record of some history for sure. My mom had started to write down some family history, but after the tornado hit her house we lost track of things as they were quickly packed and going through all that will be difficult. Cheers and Meows!
Charlee: “Moonpie! What are you looking at? Is it a moth? I bet it’s a moth …”
Charlee it could very well be a moth as they do invade us! Or, any one of a number of little no see’em type bugs who also come in during warm weather. Cheers and Meows!
Love the dappled light on Moonpie – you choose such lovely names for your kitty cats!
Thanks Kerry, the kitties and I appreciate it! Moonpie is actually a somewhat popular name for a pet here. You may already know this but it’s a sort of confection made of graham cookies, marshmallow, and a chocolate coating or another kind sort of coating. They get tossed to crowds from floats during Mardi Gras a lot.
I have never tasted a Moonpie – something for the bucket list!
I haven’t had one for a long time. I remember them as pretty good, but awfully sweet. They went with an RC Cola, but I never liked RC Cola.
I find most of the southern cuisine a little too sweet and/or heavy. Sweet potatoes are wonderful but not with marshmallows! To be fair, I eat a very restricted gluten free diet to combat some of the family diseases. A bowl of carrots with butter, pepper and salt sounds like heaven! I am a cheap date…🥕
That sounds much healthier! Yeah, lots of the traditional food ways are too sweet!
Such a great song, Leah. I heard this song this morning on an Instagram account I follow in the UK, does this mean something? Your cats are so gorgeous!
The kitties and I thank you, John, we appreciate it! I was reminded in a further comment that the song was also a hit in the UK. Something I probably should have recalled myself but didn’t until I was reminded, lol.
You’re right about this song. It’s very mysterious and compelling. It’s not usual for a song such as this to become a big hit.
Glad you like the song and found it moving too, Neil! You are certainly right, I can’t think of another song quite like it from the same time frame. There must be some somewhere but my recall is foggy at this time.
Excellent post Leah. I love to see your kitties. It’s been a long time since I listened to Ode to Billie Joe. I think the song really struck a nerve at the height of Vietnam and a lot of cultural unrest.
Thanks Tim, the kitties and I appreciate it and we’re glad you enjoyed the post. I think at the time the song came out I was mostly listening to other types of music and was unaware of broader impacts of the song at the time. I just recall it got my attention in a “haunting” sort of way.
I loved this song and still do! Thanks for sharing.
My pleasure -Eugenia! I’m glad you enjoyed the song!
I enjoyed the music and your lovely photos.
Correne, thank you so much, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! The kitties thank you too!
Ode to Billie Joe was a big hit in the UK too. My father bought a copy in ’67 (I was 9 at the time) and I still enjoy listening to it on CD today. It’s a haunting song, intriguing, mysterious, a story song with enough space for listeners to interpret the words in the context of their own interests and experiences. And the atmosphere of the Deep South that pervades the lyrics adds to its appeal. What a classic!
I’m glad you liked the post, Platypus Man, and that’s interesting that it was a hit in the UK too. I probably knew that at one time but I’m a bit older than you and some memories have faded, lol! And wow, great description of the song! Cheers and Meows!
Wonderful music. And Moonpie and Boss are looking good as ever in their photos. Have a good weekend!
Polly, Moonpie and Boss and I thank you, we are glad you enjoyed the pics and the music. You have a wonderful weekend too!
I sure do remember those songs!! And that IS amazing, because I don’t much enjoy other than classical music. Go figure. I think it was the kind of song that you can carry with you for a long time, maybe forever!
Boos and Moonpie sure look nice as do your summery trees!
Ingrid, Boss and Moonpie and all the kitties and I thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the song and the pictures! I adore classical music too but also many other kinds, the blues, jazz, “popular”, rock, old style traditional country- not the newer flashier stuff. This wasn’t much like anything else I was listening to in 1967 but it stuck with me too!
Beautiful post dear Leah, Song too, you reminded us… Have a wonderful Summer, Thank you, Love, nia
Nia thank you, I’m happy you enjoyed the song and the pictures! Wishing you and your family and friends and kitties a good Summer too! With love, Leah
Thanks for posting that song – I had forgotten how good it is. I agree with your explanation of why it has endured. Great kitty photos. 🙂
The kitties and I thank you, Lynette! I’m glad you enjoyed the posts and kitty pics!