Bobbie Gentry og Billy Joe

Dette er en af de sange, jeg husker fra år tilbage, men det er først nu jeg opdager at der findes gamle tv-klip med den derude. Og jeg har aldrig vidst hvordan sangerinden Bobbie Gentry så ud. Som man kan se,  er hun en mørkhåret kvinde,  og hun er smuk på den meget 1960’er-agtige måde med stort hår og ærmeløs kjole.

The Quietus har et langt interview med Bobbie Gentry, og her opdager jeg at hun faktisk var en af pionererne – hun ikke bare skrev sine egne sange, hun producerede dem også. I 1960’erne var dette usædvanligt. Bobbie Gentry var feminist i en tid hvor feminister blev opfattet som kvinder, der nedtonede eller forkastede en traditionel kvindelig fremtoning. I et interview fra 1974 sagde hun

I agree wholeheartedly with that movement and all the serious issues that they stand for – equality, equal pay, day care centers, and abortion rights.

Efter “Ode to Billy Joe” gik det ikke så godt. Bobbie Gentry var fra USA, men hendes popularitet var størst i Storbritannien, og en overgang havde hun sit eget tv-program på BBC. Siden optrådte hun i Las Vegas og til sidst trak hun sig helt tilbage.

Det er svært ikke at drage en sammenligning med Dolly Parton, der også har haft et image med højt hår mv., men samtidig har været en dygtig (og efter min mening stærkt underkendt) sangskriver med holdninger, der faktisk er feministiske.

Selve “Ode to Billy Joe” er en dyster og gådefuld sang. Hvorfor hoppede Billy Joe ud fra broen? Og hvad var det, han og fortælleren i sangen smed ud fra broen tidligere? Måske handler den om en familietragedie – et ungt ugift par, der myrder et barn født i dølgsmål (eller måske er barnet bare dødfødt), hvorefter faderen begår selvmord.

Her er teksten til “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 we walked back to the house to eat.
And mama hollered at the back door
“y’all remember to wipe your feet.”
And then she said she got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge
Today Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

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.”
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

And brother said he recollected when he and Tom and Billy Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show.
And wasn’t I talkin’ to him after church last Sunday night?
“I’ll have another piece of apple pie, you know it don’t seem right.
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge,
And now you tell me Billy Joe’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

Mama said to me “Child, what’s happened to your appetite?
I’ve been cookin’ all morning and you haven’t touched a single bite.
That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today,
Said he’d be pleased to have dinner on Sunday. Oh, by the way,
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

A year has come ‘n’ gone since we heard the news ’bout Billy Joe.
Brother married Becky Thompson, they bought a store in Tupelo.
There was a virus going ’round, papa caught it and he died last spring,
And now mama doesn’t seem to wanna do much of anything.
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin’ flowers up on Choctaw Ridge,
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

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