View Full Version : Original Ode to Billie Joe lyrics?

12-23-2000, 01:10 AM
Most people are familiar with the 60s tune "Ode to Billie Joe," by Bobbie Gentry. But I recently read that the song as originally recorded was over 7 minutes long (!!!), and was totally acoustic. The part that was cut supposedly explains the mystery of "the bridge" a little more. Does anyone know anything about the original--like where I could find the original, uncut lyrics (or even better, know of a bootleg or something with the uncut version)?

12-23-2000, 02:00 AM
There may be an acoustic version that runs seven minutes.

However, an exasperated Bobby Gentry has noted on numerous occasions that the point of the song was the complacent (almost callous) treatment, by the narrator's family, of the news of Billy Joe's suicide and that she never developed any idea of what the couple might have thrown off the bridge.

In other words, the author doesn't know (or care) what was thrown, so it is unlikely that she "expalined" what it was anywhere.

12-23-2000, 02:23 AM
I remember it as tomndebb said. The song was about Billy Joe, hence the title. It was not about throwin' somethin' off a bridge.
Bobby Gentry was (is?) a wonderful songwriter, IMO.
Search "Bobby Gentry", there's quite a lot of stuff.
Oh, you don't have "Sherlock"? :)

12-23-2000, 02:30 AM
Just FYI, here's the info I got regarding the original version from [nsfw link]

: In the spring of '67 unheralded newcomer Bobbie Gentry got signed by Capitol Records in L.A. to see what kind of records she could make and what kind of reception they'd get; within a few days she recorded a standard blues song, "Mississippi Delta," with her own unknown "Ode to Billie Joe" as the B-side. "Ode" was originally seven minutes long and explained a lot more about what was thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge. It also had only her own guitar accompaniment, no lush orchestrations. Quickly Capitol execs noticed the strength of the B-side, so they re-recorded it with strings, cut the length almost in half to give the song an air of mystery and make it more suitable for AM radio airplay, and re-released it as Bobbie's first single.

Dr. Rieux
12-23-2000, 03:18 AM
Eerie coincidence--this song has been running through my head for the past two days.
This song is great because of all that it doesn't say--but what it hints at.
But yes, the point is that the parents and brother don't realize how the girl is taking the news--and she doesn't dare tell them. Which brings to mind some unsettling possibilities as to what they were throwing off the bridge and why Billy Joe jumped. (Or maybe I have too much imagination?)
BTW, do yourself a favor and don't see the movie based on this song--it's terrible! The acting and writing are atrocious, the bridge itself is disappointing, and the reason given for Billy Joe's suicide is--well, it comes from out of nowhere and leads back there.

Ukulele Ike
12-23-2000, 05:46 PM
What, you guys don't own a copy of that great bootleg, The Unexpurgated Bobbie Gentry?

And Momma said, Did I tell you I heard from your second cousin Cletus?
He was a-fishin' in the river and he pulled out an aborted fetus

12-23-2000, 06:33 PM
What is it with this 'Ode to Billie Joe' revival??


As for the seven-minute long version, the account given inThe Billboard Book of Number One Hits (a reliable source, in my opinion) would seem to contradict the OP.

It took less than an hour to record the track, with Bobbie accompanying herself on the guitar. Later, (Kellie) Gordon [who worked for Capitol] asked arranger Jimmie Haskell to add violins and cellos. The result was a song that ran more than seven minutes long.

"Those involved felt it had a number of drawbacks," Gentry has said. "They said it was too long, that it couldn't be categorized and aimed at a specific audience, that I was a female vocalist and soloist and this was the day of group singers."

01-09-2011, 05:31 PM
How do you spell his name? I see it referred to as Billie Joe and Billy Joe.
Now normally Billie is a female name, Billy or Bill is a male nickname for William.
However I was going through my old 45 RPMs and ripping them to I-Tunes. I had a copy of the Ode on Capital Records No. S-57529 (ODE TO BILLE JOE) with MISSISSIPPI DELTA (S-57421) on the flip side. Ode was 4:13 long. Bobbie was strumming her acoustic but there were big violins in the background.
Was Bille misspelled on this label? I never noticed the spelling error when I bought the record, not in 1967, but several years later.
Just another mystery about this song.

01-09-2011, 07:20 PM
Moving to Cafe Society from GQ.

Before commenting on individual posts, please note that this is a very old thread.

General Questions Moderator

01-10-2011, 08:46 PM
I had a copy of the Ode on Capital Records No. S-57529 (ODE TO BILLE JOE)Sorry, but I think your memory may be in error. That 45 is currently for auction on EBay here (http://cgi.ebay.com/Bobbie-Gentry-45-Record-Ode-Billy-Joe-Capitol-5950-/130472925540). Check the photo; the spelling is clearly "BILLIE".

01-10-2011, 08:53 PM
In other words, the author doesn't know (or care) what was thrown, so it is unlikely that she "expalined" what it was anywhere.No, she's just pinin' for the Kenai Fjords.

Harmonious Discord
01-10-2011, 09:39 PM
This thread is 9 years old.

01-10-2011, 11:17 PM
As I somewhat routinely note in threads about this song, the whole notion of committing suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie River Bridge is laughable. In most places, maybe Billie Joe would have sprained an ankle in the mud or something, but the bridge just isn't high enough to kill anybody leaping off it.

Evil Captor
01-10-2011, 11:52 PM
This thread is 9 years old.

Um ... happy ... birthday?

don't ask
01-11-2011, 03:13 AM
The actual original draft lyrics by Gentry are on 2 sheets of yellow legal pad and are held at Archives and Special Collections, John Davis Williams Library, University of Mississippi along with other Gentry papers. Someone want to check them out for the missing lyrics?

01-14-2011, 06:11 PM
Sinead O'Connor did a cover of this song and if you listen closely, you hear a baby crying after the lyric.

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