Popular opinion says that she was born Roberta Lee Streeter on 27 July 1944, in Chickasaw County, but not everyone agrees on her birthdate. Her parents divorced soon after her birth and she was brought up in poverty on her grandparent's farm, without electricity. There are other more detailed biographical pieces out there (such as Bob Stanley's blog and Peter Bellamy's website) but most agree on the two most pivotal moments of her life. The first came when her grandmother traded her neighbour a cow for a piano. At the age of seven, Bobbie Lee wrote her first song. The second came at around the age of 14 when she watched the film Vida Gentry. A story about a woman born into poverty, struggling to make a living in a patriarchal society. The parallels with her own life were obvious and shortly afterwards her stage persona was created.
Bobbie Gentry began to play in clubs,whilst working office jobs. In 1967 Capitol Records heard a demo of Ode and she secured a record contract. Worried the content of Ode would be too controversial, it was released as the B-side to Mississippi Delta but this didn't stop the radio stations from picking up on it. Ode spent four weeks at number one, knocking All You Need is Love off the top spot and was the fastest selling single of its time. By 1969 Bobbie Gentry was playing Vegas, the same year she released Fancy with its all-too-familiar line 'Just be nice to the gentlemen Fancy and they'll be nice to you.' She received little credit for much of her work stating "I originally produced 'Ode To Billie Joe' and most of my other records, but a woman doesn't stand much chance in a recording studio. A staff producer's name was nearly always put on the records."
So last year we paid tribute to Bobbie Gentry . Her music is as vital today as it was 46 years ago.
*We (@kirstininnes, @Siege_Perilous and myself @MrEastcoasting) used Twitter to spread the love and a whole heap of people joined in. Special thanks to @grownups_, @kinghorror, @hellointhere, @RodgerEvans, @LPGrp,@tiftmerrit, (TIFT MERRIT!!) @DuglasTStewart (DOUGIE BANDIT!!), @kirstyallison, @Nicola_Meighan, @JaniceForsyth (JANICE FORSYTH!!), @BestDrWho, @bookyvikki, @JRSDavies, @Timothy_Waldrop, @dialoguewriter, @theboyhimself, @lindsay1up and @beoliu for all joining in last year. This time around, to celebrate, we got the t-shirt. If people continue to get behind the cause for a worldwide #BobbieGentryDay who knows how we'll be celebrating next year. Spread the love.