Saturday, March 17, 2012

1000 SONGS - DAY 186 SONG # 217

DAY 186: A Song about a certain event that describes somebody

We will stay in the southern rural landscape for some time, moving from Tennessee to Mississippi, to another sleepy, dusty Delta day. The event this song is about is that Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallatchie Bridge. "Ode to Billy Joe" also describes somebody, but rather not Billy Joe. It describes the way a family reacts to the news about his death, everybody going on in their every day routine, with the exception of the first person narrator. She seems to have a more intimate relationship to the one who jumped of the bridge than the other persons would think. Wonder what she and Billy Joe were throwing off the Tallahatchie Bridge. Ode to Billy Joe was the one big hit for Bobby Gentry (in 1967) and it has been listed by Rolling Stone Magazine among the 500 "Greatest Songs of All Time". It is also among my favourite 1000 Songs. I think it is really poetic:

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 walked back to the house to eat
And Mama hollered out the back door "y'all remember to wipe your feet"
And then she said "I got some news this mornin' from Choctaw Ridge"
"Today Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

And 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"
And 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 Billie 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 Billie Joe's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

And 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
And 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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