Bobbie Gentry - Ode to Billy Joe - 1967

Bobbie Gentry and "Ode to Billie Joe"

Bobbie Gentry is an American singer-songwriter who rose to international fame with her intriguing Southern Gothic narrative song, "Ode to Billie Joe," released in 1967. This song, characterized by its haunting melody and mysterious storyline, quickly became a cultural phenomenon and remains a significant piece in the history of popular music.

Background of "Ode to Billie Joe"

"Ode to Billie Joe" was written and performed by Bobbie Gentry and was released as a single in July 1967. The song's narrative style, combined with Gentry's soulful vocals, creates a vivid picture of life in the rural South. It tells the story of a family's reaction to the news of Billie Joe McAllister's suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

  1. Bobbie Gentry: Learn more about the artist's life and career.
  2. Southern Gothic: Explore this genre's characteristics and its influence on the song.
  3. 1960s Music: Discover the musical landscape in which "Ode to Billie Joe" was released.

Composition and Style

The song is notable for its sparse instrumentation, primarily featuring Gentry's guitar playing and atmospheric string arrangements. The choice of a first-person narrative and the song's ambiguous lyrics have led to much speculation and debate about the story's true meaning and the events leading up to Billie Joe's suicide.

  1. Songwriting: Understand the art of storytelling in songwriting.
  2. Narrative Song: Explore the use of narrative in music.
  3. Guitar in Music: Learn about the role of guitar in various music genres.

Interactive Tasks

Quiz: Questions on the song

What is unique about the instrumentation in "Ode to Billie Joe"? (Sparse, featuring mainly guitar and strings) (!Full orchestral arrangement) (!Heavy use of electronic instruments) (!Prominent drum solos)

In what year was "Ode to Billie Joe" released? (1967) (!1970) (!1965) (!1972)

What narrative technique is prominently used in "Ode to Billie Joe"? (First-person narrative) (!Third-person omniscient) (!Non-linear storytelling) (!Second-person perspective)

What genre best describes "Ode to Billie Joe"? (Southern Gothic) (!Hard Rock) (!Electronic Dance Music) (!Classical)

What significant event in the song happens at the Tallahatchie Bridge? (Billie Joe McAllister's suicide) (!A festival) (!A wedding) (!Construction of the bridge)

Quiz: Questions on the Performer

What is Bobbie Gentry primarily known for? (Being a singer-songwriter) (!Being a dancer) (!Being a film director) (!Being a painter)

Which of these is a characteristic of Bobbie Gentry's music style? (Narrative songwriting) (!Electronic music) (!Operatic singing) (!Rap)

Besides "Ode to Billie Joe," what is another famous song by Bobbie Gentry? ("Fancy") (!"Hotel California") (!"Like a Rolling Stone") (!"Purple Rain")

What instrument is Bobbie Gentry known for playing in her songs? (Guitar) (!Piano) (!Drums) (!Violin)

In which part of the United States did Bobbie Gentry's music primarily draw its influences from? (The Southern United States) (!The Northeastern United States) (!The West Coast) (!The Midwest)

Quiz: Questions on the lyrics

What item do the narrator and Billie Joe throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge? (A flower) (!A ring) (!A letter) (!A photograph)

What is the reaction of the narrator's family to the news of Billie Joe's death? (They show little emotion) (!They are deeply distraught) (!They celebrate) (!They are confused)

The song takes place over the course of how many days? (Three days) (!One day) (!A week) (!A month)

What meal is the family having when they discuss Billie Joe's death? (Dinner) (!Breakfast) (!Lunch) (!Brunch)

Which of these themes is NOT present in "Ode to Billie Joe"? (Urban life) (!Rural life) (!Mystery) (!Family dynamics)


Bobbie Gentry "Ode to Billie Joe" composer and singer
1967 Year "Ode to Billie Joe" was released
Tallahatchie Bridge Location of Billie Joe's suicide in the song
Southern Gothic Genre of "Ode to Billie Joe"
Guitar Primary instrument used in "Ode to Billie Joe"

Open Tasks


  1. Create a Playlist: Create a playlist of songs similar in style to "Ode to Billie Joe."
  2. Draw the Bridge: Draw your interpretation of the Tallahatchie Bridge as described in the song.
  3. Write a Poem: Write a poem about a mysterious event in your town or community.


  1. Analyze the Lyrics: Write an analysis of the lyrics of "Ode to Billie Joe," discussing its themes and narrative style.
  2. Explore Southern Gothic: Research the Southern Gothic genre and identify other songs or artists that fit this style.
  3. Cover the Song: Record your own cover of "Ode to Billie Joe," using an instrument of your choice.


  1. Write a Short Story: Write a short story that expands on the events mentioned in "Ode to Billie Joe."
  2. Investigate 1960s Music: Research the music scene of the 1960s and how "Ode to Billie Joe" fit into it.
  3. Compose a Similar Song: Compose a song with a similar narrative style and instrumentation as "Ode to Billie Joe."

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Oral Exam

  1. Discuss the Impact: Discuss the impact of "Ode to Billie Joe" on popular music and why it remains significant today.
  2. Compare and Contrast: Compare and contrast "Ode to Billie Joe" with another Southern Gothic song.
  3. Interpret the Lyrics: Offer your interpretation of the song's lyrics and the story it tells.
  4. Examine the Style: Examine Bobbie Gentry's musical style and its influence on later artists.
  5. Narrative in Music: Discuss the role of narrative in music and its effectiveness in engaging listeners.

OERs on the Topic


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