May 19, 2006
It’s Friday and I haven’t finished my long tale from Tuesday night. Since I mentioned I’d be back with the ending, I’ll continue:
I walked to the front of the room, smiled at M.L. and started singing. Had to stop and start again since I was singing (well to be kind you might call it that) over the intro. Way to go Jali.
I won’t print all the lyrics, but I’ve gotta share just a portion.
“It was the third of June, another sleepy dusty Delta day. I was out chopping cotton and my brother was bailing hay.”
As I sang this first line for the second time, I glanced up to see a thirty-something professional give me the gas face. Was the chopping cotton line a little to hard to take? “Damn,” I thought, don’t misinterpret and judge me that way.
I looked around the room to gauge my reception – one or two people were singing along with me – The “Buppies” in their 30’s seemed to take offense. How dare I sing a country song that mentions cotton?
My history with this song was of a 45 RPM record being played repeatedly on a Saturday morning. My father, a fan of Jazz, the blues and Ole’ Blue Eyes was the house DJ. He heard this song on the radio while changing stations and had to have it. Once he had it, he had to play it.
I was a kid and didn’t realize how sad the song is. The music is moving – the lyrics and rhymes are simple but enhance the mood of the song. Bobbie Gentry’s ( the singer) voice was strong, clear and compelling. The song has stayed with me for 40 years and I’m glad to have sung it one more time.
I had the opportunity to speak to the thirty-something professional, my gas face giver and I asked if the lyrics of my song offended her.
“No. You just can’t sing for shit!”
info for Ode to Billy Joe can be found: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1623