We* celebrated #BobbieGentryDay for the first time last year. We figured, if you want to celebrate the music, the lyrics and the voice of Bobbie, what better day to do it than the third of June, the date imprinted on a collective subconscious thanks to the opening line of Ode to Billie Joe. On it's first week of release it sold 750,000 copies and has been covered more than 200 times. Although it was Ode that introduced me to Bobbie Gentry, her other songs  continue to impress. Her catalogue is incredibly rich, despite the condensed nature of her recording career. Her first album, Ode to Billie Joe came out in 1967. She released her final album, Patchwork, in 1971. In this short time, she wrote, sang, played in and produced some of the most memorable, genre-defying tracks of her era.

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.
 
My parents used to have a cassette called 'Best Friends'. It came out in the early 80s - it was one of those which had the "not available in record shops" stamp of quality. They couldn't even spell Bobbie Gentry's name correctly on the sleeve:
Credit where it's due, it was a decent enough country compilation. And it did introduce me to Bobbie Gentry, specifically Ode to Billy Joe. If we went out in the car, the cassette normally came with us. It told a story which drew you in and I learned the lyrics, the narrative, off by heart. Sitting in the back seat of the car, having listened to the song time and time again, I still couldn't work out what had happened up on Tallahatchie Bridge. What was thrown off the bridge? Why did Billy Joe MacAllister jump? For years I was convinced the narrator pushed him. Now? A tale of forbidden love. I think.

A couple of months ago I was listening to Bobbie Gentry on my way to work. I was absorbed in her sound - that voice, the tunes...Jesus, just the music. That occasional dread of the working day ahead disappeared. She practically reeled me in through those cold, grey doors of my workplace and it wasn't until I removed my headphones that the hard slap of reality struck and I realised where I was. Not many artists can do that. I declared that day to be Bobbie Gentry Day on Twitter. My Twitter feed went wild. Well, wild for mine. Two folk responded. But they got right behind the idea. Thanks to @kirstininnes and @Siege_Perilous we shared favourite tracks and the occasional link. A couple of hours in and @kirstininnes rightly pointed out we were celebrating the wrong date. Bobbie Gentry day had to be postponed. Of course. It made sense. It really should be the third of June. So here we are folks - today is Bobbie Gentry Day. She removed herself from the spotlight towards the end of the 70s. Usually if a music artist disappears from public view and later dies, there's a flurry of tributes and classic tracks are replayed, which is fine, but why wait until they are no longer with us? We really ought to celebrate the living more often. So here we are. Give it up for Bobbie Gentry.

The Girl From Cincinnati: Mournful, uplifting, fighting to make it, playing the game because she knew there was no other way. If you ever wanted a song to teach you that you never give up for your dream, this is it. Brutally honest.



Fancy: Genius. Another song with a driving narrative and a tune to match. The production values are immense. A damning indictment of what it takes to overcome poverty and be a woman in a patriarchal society


Touch 'Em With Love: Dance your ass off in two minutes. And check that restrained guitar solo.


Apartment 21: What. A. Voice.


You've Made Me So Very Happy:  The very essence of what Bobbie Gentry Day is about. Tell your loved one/s what they mean to you. Celebrate it. Shout it. Sing it.


I Wouldn't Be Surprised: The other side of love. S/he left you for another. You still love them.


Stormy: Could a track be any more intimate?

This is just a sample. The rest is up to you. Go and dig out some classic Bobbie Gentry and spread the word. It is the third of June after all.

#BobbieGentryDay



This originally appeared on Posterous.