Whatever Happened to Bobbie Gentry?

This is a wonderful documentray about the wonderful singer Bobbie Gentry, narrated by the equally wonderful Rosanne Cash.

Spoiler alert. I hadn’t realised that Bobbie Gentry had ‘retired’ in the early 1980s, and that nobody seems to know where she is now. Which is sad. But her most famous song, Ode to Billie Joe, still gives me goose-bumps.

PS I saw Rosanne Cash in concert recently, and she was brilliant. But she didn’t perform Ode to Billie Joe on this occasion.

You can catch the programme on BBC iPlayer until next Monday 21st May.

BBC iPlayer – Whatever Happened to Bobbie Gentry?

But if you missed it, here is their description. And of course, it will be repeated some time…

Rosanne Cash presents a profile of one of the most gifted, and enigmatic, of all American singer-songwriters.

Best remembered these days – if at all – for one hit record, there was a lot more to the now rather neglected talent of Bobbie Gentry than the mysterious Ode To Billie Joe. At her peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she was a million-selling artist who topped the charts in both the US and the UK, headlined in Las Vegas where she befriended Elvis Presley & Tom Jones, and fronted her own television show for BBC 2.

Alongside this she wrote and produced much of her own work and, across a series of albums, developed an idiosyncratic style of her own which owed as much to the tradition of the American short story as it did to country and folk music.

Whatever Happened To Bobbie Gentry examines her rise to fame and career trajectory from the international success of her debut release, Ode To Billie Joe, through to her subsequent decision to withdraw from both the music industry and public life.

The programme includes the recollections of those who worked alongside her, including arranger Jimmie Haskell, who recalls how the pristine detail of her lyrics inspired his sweepingly cinematic treatment for Ode To Billie Joe. Producer Rick Hall and musicians Jesse Boyce and Mickey Buckins reflect on her trip to Muscle Shoals to record her Fancy LP, and contemporary artists Shelby Lynne and Lucinda Williams comment on, and acknowledge, her on-going influence.

The documentary also features contributions from John Cameron (the musical director of her BBC 2 TV series) and music writer Holly George Warren.


1 thought on “Whatever Happened to Bobbie Gentry?

  1. This was a wonderful documentary but it contained a couple errors. The first glaring error was that Bobbies third album ‘Local Gentry was listed as recorded in Nashville. Wrong( and the bbc of all people) should have known it was recorded in London in 1968 while she was taping her bbc series. This leads to another major error that she started taping her bbc specials because of the popularity of her #1 U.K hit, I’ll Never fall In Love Again. Wrong: that song came out in 1970 and Bobbie was already two years into the series. Holly George Warren also lists Bobbie’s marriage to Jim Stafford as 1975 and the birth of son Tyler, in 1978. Wrong again: she was married to Stafford in 1978 and Tyler was born in 1979 the same year her short marriage ended. The best part of the documentary, for me, was listening to Rick Hall talk about Bobbie’s sessions at the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals Alabama. He states, like Ode to Billie Joe, Fancy was originally over ten minutes long and had to be edited down for radio airplay.

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