In Ode To Billie Joe, a new contribution to Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series, journalist Tara Murtha puts Gentry’s feminism and efforts to control her own image at the center of the work, which re-introduces the world to Bobbie Gentry. After she disappeared from public life in the early 80s, the public memory of Gentry has lost most of her contributions, which included years as a Vegas show runner, a stint as the first women to host her own BBC show, and numerous collaborations. Today, it is unclear where she lives and remains in touch with only a few friends from her days in show business — leaving many questions unanswered. ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ is a “looking glass that cuts both ways,” Murtha writes. “The wild commercial success of ‘Ode’ transformed Gentry from an unknown working musician to an international star. But it also set a commercial precedent that proved almost impossible to repeat, and ultimately served to obscure a larger, richer body of work — and caged the artist into a persona she spent the rest of her career trying to transcend.”
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