It was the 3rd of June another sleepy, dusty, Delta day....
"Ode to Billy Joe" is a song written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry, a singer-songwriter from Chickasaw County, Mississippi. The single, released on July 10, 1967, was a number-one hit in the US within three weeks of release and a big international seller.
It generated eight Grammy nominations, resulting in three wins for Gentry and one for arranger Jimmie Haskell. "Ode to Billy Joe" has since made Rolling Stone's lists of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" and the "100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time" and Pitchfork's 200 Best Songs of the 1960s random chat platform
The song takes the form of a first-person narrative performed over the sparse acoustic accompaniment, though with strings in the background. It tells of a rural Mississippi family's reaction to the news of the suicide of Billy Joe McAllister, a local boy to whom the daughter (and narrator) is connected.
Hearsay around the "Tallahatchie Bridge" forms the narrative and musical hook. The song concludes with the demise of the father and the lingering, singular effects of the two deaths on the family. According to Gentry, the song is about "basic indifference, the casualness of people in moments of tragedy"
The only person affected is the narrator; one reviewer commented on "the narrator's family's emotional distance, impassive and unmoved by Billy Joe's death". Her mother notices her change of mood following the news ("Child, what's happened to your appetite? I've been cookin' all mornin' and you haven't touched a single bite").
The mother shares the news that a local preacher visited earlier and, as an aside, adds that he mentioned seeing someone looking much like the narrator and Billy Joe "throwin' somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge". In the song's final verse, a year has passed. The narrator's brother has married Becky Thompson and has moved to another town ("bought a store in Tupelo").
The father died from a viral infection and the mother is despondent ("Mama doesn't seem to want to do much of anything"). The narrator likewise remains privately affected: she often visits Choctaw Ridge collecting flowers to "drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge. Read More
Lyrics Ode to Billy Joe
It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin' cotton, and my brother was balin' hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And mama hollered out the back door, y'all, remember to wipe your feet
And then she said, I got some news this mornin' from Choctaw Ridge
Today, Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge
And papa said to mama, as he passed around the blackeyed peas
Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please
There's five more acres in the lower forty I've got to plow
And mama said it was shame about Billy Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billy Joe MacAllister's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge