This tune was a blockbuster hit for Bobbie Gentry, a singer-songwriter from Mississippi., back in 1967. It was a favorite of female singers, and I played back up on it a lot of times. It made the top of the charts in the States and scored well internationally, too. Bobby’s recording of it got a bunch of Grammy nominations , and she took a couple home with her.
Like many country/folk type songs, Ode to Billy Joe is simple in structure. The story is the priority.
Here’s Bobby’s original version. I think her husky voice and the sparse arrangement are perfect.
On the other hand, one of my favorite singers, Nancy Wilson, tears it up with angst in her version, wailing like only she can. Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis sizzles on tenor sax.
I dig Bobby, but my heart belongs to Nancy.
What do you think?