Thursday, February 28, 2019

Eric Clapton (ft. Marcy Levy) – "The Core" (1977)

I can burn
Without fuel

“The Core” – which was released on Eric Clapton’s Slowhand album in 1977 – isn’t as well known as “I Shot the Sheriff,” or “Lay Down Sally,” or “Wonderful Tonight,” or “Cocaine.”

But I think it’s the best song on any of Clapton’s solo albums – thanks in large part to the saxophone playing of Mel Collins, the Hammond B3 work of Dick Sims, and especially Marcy Levy’s vocals.  

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It’s only fair that Marcy Levy shared lead vocal duties on “The Core,” since she and Eric Clapton co-wrote that song.  (She also co-wrote “Lay Down Sally.”)

Levy, who was born in Detroit in 1952, decided to move to Tulsa after meeting Leon Russell.  (Levy sang back-up vocals on Bob Seger’s Back in ’72 album, which was recorded at Russell’s Oklahoma recording studio.)  

Through Russell, she met Eric Clapton – who was smack dab in the middle of his “Tulsa Sound” period – and ended up touring and recording with him for four years.

Eric Clapton and Marcy Levy in 1975
Levy was a highly sought after back-up singer, and she had some success as a songwriter.  But she wanted a solo career.

Unfortunately, her debut solo album – which was released in 1982 – didn’t sell and her record company dropped her.

A few years later, Levy hooked up with Bananarama’s Siobhan Fahey to form Shakespears [sic] Sister.  Their second album, which was titled Hormonally Yours – both women were pregnant at the time it was recorded – spent over a year on the Billboard album charts and eventually went double platinum:  

Levy called herself Marcella Detroit while she was with Shakespears Sister.  She used that moniker on the first two solo albums that she recorded after Shakespears Sister broke up, but reverted to her birth name when she formed the Marcy Levy Band in 2002.  

But when the Marcy Levy Band split up several years later, she went back to calling herself Marcella Detroit.   (So confusing!)

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Have you figured out the theme of this year’s “28 Songs in 28 Days” yet?

It’s as plain as the nose on your face: all the songs featured on 2 or 3 lines this month were by artists who recorded under names other than those they were born with.

Except for Eric Clapton, that is.

Marcy Levy performing with
Eric Clapton in London in 2018
Like Bobby Darin, Clapton was born to an unmarried teenage mother whose family wanted to conceal her pregnancy.  Each man grew up thinking that his grandmother was his mother, and that his mother was his older sister.

Clapton was born a few months before the end of World War II.  His father was a married Canadian soldier who was shipped off to combat before young Eric was born, and who returned to Canada and his wife after the war was over.  

Clapton’s grandmother’s first husband was named Clapton – he was the biological father of Clapton’s mother.  But Eric grew up thinking his grandmother and her second husband – a man named Jack Clapp – were his parents.  His grandmother told him the truth when he was nine years old.  

A lot of people think Clapton’s real name is Eric Clapp – he himself would have thought that was his name when he was a young child – but his mother’s surname was Clapton, so that is presumably the name on his birth certificate.

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Click here to listen to “The Core.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Courtney Love – "Take Me to the River" (2015)

I don’t know why I love you like I do
All the troubles you put me through

Courtney Love – who was born Courtney Michelle Harrison in San Francisco in 1964 – is now, and seems to have always been, a hot mess.  But that may not be entirely her fault.

Courtney’s parents met in 1963 at a party for Dizzy Gillespie.  Her mother, Linda Carroll, is a well-known couples therapist.  Her father, Hank Harrison, was a Haight-Ashbury hippie who was buddies with the Grateful Dead’s bassist, Phil Lesh.

Carroll was pregnant when the couple got married later that year.  She later claimed that the pregnancy was the result of date rape.

She also alleged that Harrison gave Courtney LSD when she was a toddler.  He denies it, but I lean toward thinking that Carroll’s story might be true – it would explain a lot about how Courtney turned out.  (Of course, so would the fact that she spent a lot of time in Portland, Oregon.)

*     *     *     *     *

After the Carroll and Harrison got divorced, she took Courtney to Oregon and got remarried to a trash collector whom her friends nicknamed the “Garbage Adonis.”  She and Adonis had two daughters before they were subsequently divorced.  

Carroll then took Courtney and her two half-sisters to New Zealand, where they lived on a sheep farm.  Courtney was a difficult child, according to her mother, who says that she used to set a lot of fires, and told one of her half-sisters that she was retarded and adopted.  

Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love
When Courtney got expelled from school, her mother shipped her back to Oregon.  She promptly got herself arrested for shoplifting a T-shirt and was sent off to the Oregon reform school for girls.

Courtney was legally emancipated when she turned 16 and immediately started working as a topless dancer in Portland.  That’s when she changed her name to Courtney Love, which you have to agree is a pretty damned good stripper name.

*     *     *     *     *

In addition to topless dancing, Courtney picked berries, worked as a DJ at a gay disco, and attended Portland State.  While still a teenager, she moved to Dublin, where she studied at Trinity College for two semesters.  Her next stop was Liverpool, where she met musician Julian Cope and his Teardrop Explodes bandmates.

Courtney returned to Portland briefly, then headed off to Japan and Taiwan, once again supporting herself by stripping.  When the authorities shut down the club where she was working in Taiwan and deported her, she came back to Portland but then moved to San Francisco, where she started a band and enrolled in acting classes.

She was cast in a minor role in the 1986 Sid Vicious biopic, Sid and Nancy, which was filmed in New York City.  She decided to hang around the Big Apple for a while, squatting in the East Village and picking up a few bucks at a Times Square peep show.  

Director Alex Cox gave her a leading role in Straight to Hell, an unwatchable neo-spaghetti Western that starred Clash frontman Joe Strummer and singer/model Grace Jones, but her role in that flop didn’t lead to additional acting role, so she moved back to Oregon – McMinnville, not Portland – and went back to . . . you guessed it . . . stripping.

Courtney roasting Pam Anderson in 2005
When the locals recognized her, it creeped her out a little.  So she packed up and moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where she lived in a trailer with the other strippers at a club frequented by local fishermen.  

*     *     *     *     *

Courtney had enough of stripping in Alaska after a few months, so she relocated herself to Los Angeles and taught herself to play guitar.  

She placed an ad in a local music fanzine – “I want to start a band.  My influences are Big Black, Sonic Youth, and Fleetwood Mac” – which led to the formation of the band Hole.  

Courtney continued to dance at Hollywood strip clubs to help pay for amplifiers and a van for Hole to use.  After recording a couple of singles (“Retard Girl” and “Dicknail”), Hole released its first album, Pretty on the Inside, in 1991.  Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth co-produced it.

Hole toured with Smashing Pumpkins, and Love briefly dated that band’s frontman, Billy Corgan, before hooking up with Kurt Cobain.  

She and Cobain were married on Waikiki Beach in February 1992.

*     *     *     *     *

Courtney Love appeared on the TV series Empire as Elle Dallas, an aging, drug-addled rock singer.  (Gee, I wonder why they picked her for that role.)  One of the songs she is shown recording on that show is Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.”

“Courtney Love is so open, and available, and raw,” Empire star Taraji P. Henson said after shooting a particularly dramatic scene with Love.  “She’s not afraid to take it all off.”  (As she proved in Portland, Japan, Taiwan, McMinnville, and Anchorage.) 

Courtney Love on “Empire” in 2015
Click here to hear Love’s recording of “Take Me to the River.”  I think it’s a little overproduced – too many backup singers, for one thing – but it’s not bad.  (Of course, Al Green’s original version and the Talking Heads’ cover are better.)

Click on the link below to buy Love’s “Take Me to the River” from Amazon:

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Janis Ian – "Everybody Knows" (1968)

You’ve been a bad girl 
You’ve been had, girl
Your mama’s in the pantry with your other daddy 

Janis Ian was a precocious little thing. 

She started taking piano lessons when she was just two years old, and later learned to play the organ, harmonica, guitar, and French horn.

She wrote her first song (“Hair of Spun Gold”) when she was just 12, and performed at the famous Village Gate nightclub in Greenwich Village the following year.  (Others who performed at the Village Gate include Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, Woody Allen, and Aretha Franklin.)

In 1965, Ian wrote and recorded “Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking),” a song about an interracial teenage romance.  Some radio stations refused to play it, but the record sold 600,000 copies and reached #14 on the Billboard “Hot 100” nonetheless.

The 16-year-old Janis Ian in 1967
Ten years later Janis released her biggest hit, “At Seventeen,” an angsty song that struck a chord with unhappy teenaged girls everywhere.  It was a #3 hit in 1975, and the album it was released on (Between the Lines) went all the way to #1 on the Billboard album charts.

*     *     *     *     *

That same year, Janis Ian’s mother Pearl was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  

Janis and her brother persuaded her to pursue her dream of going to college, and she enrolled at Goddard College – a nontraditional “low residency” college that allows students to design their own curricula and study independently.  Pearl eventually earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Goddard.

Janis Ian and her mother, Pearl Fink
After Pearl died in 1997, Janis created a foundation to raise money for scholarships for older students who wanted to attend Goddard.  Her initial fundraising effort – an online auction of some of her memorabilia – brought in $70,000.  Since then, the Pearl Foundation has raised and given away almost a million dollars.

*     *     *     *     *

Janis will do just about anything to raise money for her mother’s foundation.  

If you’d like to send a Janis Ian fan a personalized card with a handwritten message from Janis, it will cost you only $29.95.

A 15-minute phone call with Janis will set you back $249, while the opportunity to work as a roadie at one of her concerts costs $695.

If you’re a really, really, really big Janis Ian, she will come to your house and perform in your living room.  You can invite up to 40 friends and family to attend, and you can videotape the whole shebang for your personal use.

The current price for a Janis Ian living-room concert is $15,000 – plus airfare, hotel, taxi and/or rental car, and a $500 fee for the artist’s manager.  

The 60-year-old Janis Ian in 2011
Don’t forget to provide some bottles of unopened spring water and Perrier, and a deli tray – which “should be heavy on protein (salmon,  chicken, cheese), with vegetables and dip (onion or blue cheese preferred).”

Since Janis Ian is very allergic to feathers and cats, the living-room concert contract includes the following provisions:

The room where the concert is to take place, as well as the “dressing room”, must contain no feathers, not even on a high shelf in a closet.  Please check your pillows, comforters, couches and chairs carefully, we do not want to provoke an asthma attack!

If you have cats, or have had them in your home in the past 3 months, you will have to choose another space for the concert.  Even if you remove the cats days before, and clean like mad, the dander will still be present and Artist cannot tolerate it.  Artist will not be able to breathe if cats have been present, and your concert will be jeopardized.

Sorry, kitty, but you need to get the hell out of Dodge!

*     *     *     *     *

Today’s featured song, “Everybody Knows,” was released in 1968 on The Secret Life of J. Eddy Fink, which was Janis Ian’s third studio album:

The album title refers to Janis Ian’s birth name, which was Janis Eddy Fink.  She changed her name legally to Janis Ian – Ian was her brother’s middle name – when she was 13 years old.  (Can you blame her?)

Click here to listen to “Everybody Knows,” which includes the following lines: “Don’t mind the words of my song/They’re not strong.”

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Monday, February 25, 2019

Freddie Mercury – "Living on My Own" (1985)

I get lonely
So lonely
Living on my own

There’s no doubt that Freddie Mercury was an extraordinarily gifted singer.

Montserrat Caballé, an operatic soprano who recorded an album with him in 1988, has this to say about his talents:

His technique was astonishing. . . . [H]e sang with an incisive sense of rhythm, his vocal placement was very good and he was able to glide effortlessly from a register to another.  He also had a great musicality.  His phrasing was subtle, delicate and sweet or energetic and slamming.  He was able to find the right colouring or expressive nuance for each word.

Roger Daltrey of the Who said that Mercury was “the best virtuoso rock 'n' roll singer of all time.  He could sing anything in any style. He could change his style from line to line and, God, that’s an art.”

Freddie Mercury
The most noteworthy aspect of Mercury’s voice was its range, which was over three octaves.  The singer attributed that range to the fact that he was born with four extra teeth – supernumerary incisors that resulted in a noticeable overbite.

Mercury never had the extra teeth removed because he was afraid his voice wouldn’t sound the same if he did.

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Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in 1946 in the old part of Zanzibar City, the largest city in the Zanzibar archipelago, which was once part of the British Empire but is now a semi-autonomous region within the East African country of Tanzania.

Mercury’s parents were Parsis – practitioners of the Zoroastrian religion whose ancestors had migrated from Persia to western India in the 7th century A.D.  Mercury’s father moved his family from India to Zanzibar to take a job with the British Colonial Office.

In 1954, young Freddie was sent back to India to attend a British-style boarding school.  When he was only 12, he formed a rock and roll band called the Heretics, which performed at school events.  According to a schoolmate, Mercury listened constantly to Western pop music and had an uncanny ability to replicate the records he heard on the radio on the piano.  

Boarding school days
Mercury moved back to Zanzibar when he was 17, but he and his family had to flee to London to escape a  revolution that overthrew the regime of the Sultan of Zanzibar.  Thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed in that revolution.

Freddie studied art and design at Ealing Art College in London.  He lived briefly in Liverpool, but moved back to London to become the lead singer of the band Smile – which changed its name to Queen in 1971.

He became Freddie Mercury about the same time.  He was interested in astrology – the logo he designed for Queen was based on the zodiac signs of the band members – and the planet Mercury is the ruling planet for Virgo, which was Mercury’s sign.

Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, and died four and a half years later, when he was only 45.

*     *     *     *     *

Queen albums have collectively spent more weeks on the UK album charts than anyone else’s, including the Beatles.  No fewer than 14 of the group’s 15 studio albums made it to the top ten on the British album charts, and seven of them went all the way to #1, including Queen’s Greatest Hits, which is the best-selling album of all time in the UK.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” was number one for nine weeks in the UK, and was a top forty hit on three separate occasions in the U.S. – when it was originally released in 1975, after it was featured in Wayne’s World in 1992, and once more last year after the release of the Freddie Mercury Bohemian Rhapsody biopic (which is the highest-grossing musical biopic of all time).

Queen’s over-the-top music is sui genesis – especially “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which is probably the most one-of-a-kind rock song ever recorded.  (There’s never been another song even remotely like it, and I doubt that there ever will be.)

But when I hear a Queen song come on my radio – especially “Bohemian Rhapsody” – I can’t change the station fast enough.  (I think “Bohemian Rhapsody” is ten times more unbearable than “Stairway to Heaven.”)

*     *     *     *     *

“Living on My Own” was released in 1985 on Freddie Mercury’s only solo album, Mr. Bad Guy.

Two years after Mercury’s death, a remix of the song was released as a single and was a #1 hit in the UK, France, Italy, and a number of other European countries.

Click here to listen to the original version of “Living on My Own.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Bill Wyman – "(Si Si) Je Suis un Rock Star" (1981)

They’ll think I’m your dad
And you’re my daughter

Former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman – who is only five feet, seven inches tall – estimates that he’s slept with a thousand women.

Bill Wyman in 2009
Wyman admitted he was “girl mad’ in a 1987 interview:

This life is incredibly destructive. [You] need a crutch sometimes to get you through. . . . I suppose [my crutch has] been women.  There are so many famous people who turned to drugs and alcohol, but I suppose I became totally girl mad as my crutch.  All of us need to compensate somehow.  You’re not normal anyhow.  Look at any member of this band.  They’re not normal people.  We’re all completely nuts in a certain way, aren’t we?

*     *     *     *     *

Fun fact about Bill Wyman:  in 1989, the 52-year-old Rolling Stones bass player married the 18-year-old Mandy Smith, whom he started “dating” when he was 47 and she was only 13.  (He said he had the blessing of Mandy’s mother.)

Bill Wyman and Mandy Smith
Fun fact about Bill Wyman’s son, Stephen: not long after his dad and Mandy Smith split up, the 30-year-old Stephen married Mandy’s 46-year-old mother.

So Mandy was briefly Stephen’s stepmother.  But later he became her stepfather.  

If Bill and Mandy had remained married, Stephen would have been his father’s father-in-law and his own grandpa.  Bill would have been his son’s son-in-law and his own grandson.  

*     *     *     *     *

From an 1877 article in the Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel:

A man at Titusville, Pa., recently committed suicide in his horror at finding that he was his own grandfather.  The way it was thus told in his dying statement:  “I married a widow who had a grown-up daughter.  My father visited our house very often, fell in love with my step-daughter and married her.  So my father became my son-in-law, and my step-daughter my mother, because she was my father’s wife.  Sometime afterward my wife had a son; he was my father’s brother-in-law, and my uncle for he was the brother of my stepmother.  My father’s wife – i.e., my stepmother – also a son; he was, of course, my brother, and in the meantime my grandchild, for he was the son of my daughter.  My wife was my grandmother, because she was my mother’s mother.  I was my wife’s husband and grandchild at the same time.  And as the husband of a person’s grandmother is his grandfather, I am my own grandfather.”

Click here to listen to Lonzo and Oscar’s 1947 recording of “I’m My Own Grandpa.”

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Bill Wyman was born William George Perks Jr. in South London.  He describes his childhood as “scarred by poverty.”

When he joined a local band called the Cliftons in 1961, he called himself Lee Wyman at first, then Bill Wyman.  (Wyman was the surname of a friend he had served with in the Royal Air Force a few years earlier.)

*     *     *     *     *

Click here to watch the official music video for “(Si Si) Je Suis un Rock Star,” which may be the biggest solo hit any of the Rolling Stones ever had.  (The record didn’t chart in the U.S. when it was released in 1981 but was a top twenty hit in the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands and a top ten hit in Australia and New Zealand.)

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Tammy Wynette – "Stand By Your Man" (1968)

‘Cause after all
He’s just a man 

[NOTE: Much of today’s 2 or 3 lines was adapted from a February 2013 post that featured “Stand By Your Man.”]

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I hate to pick a fight with the fairer sex (which is and always has been my personal numero uno favorite among all the sexes), but a lot of purportedly intelligent women got this song exactly backwards.  

And yes, I'm talking about Hillary Clinton in particular, who famously told a 60 Minutes interviewer in 1992 that “I’m not some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.”  (Of course, that’s exactly what Mrs. Clinton did do a few years later when we learned that her husband was being ministered to by Monica Lewinsky.)

Hillary Clinton sitting by her man in 1992
Like so many other things, Hillary and those of her ilk have this song 100% wrong.  (Let the hate mail begin.)  

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If anyone should take exception to Ms. Wynette’s song, it’s men.  That’s because the essential message of this song is that men are undisciplined and selfish creatures – on about the same level as infants and   dogs when it comes to morality and controlling their bodily functions.

When a baby boy spews strained peas all over the kitchen, that doesn’t surprise his mother – after all, he’s just a baby.  

And when a puppy poops on the rug, the lady of the house just cleans it up without getting angry – after all, he’s just a dog.

The message of “Stand By Your Man” is that a woman should be equally tolerant of her man’s bad behavior – after all, he’s just a man.   

*     *     *     *     *

Perhaps cheating husbands deserve to have their asses kicked out of the house by their long-suffering wives.  But where would society be then?  

Men already watch too much football on TV, eat a lot of crap that will eventually kill them, and spend every available moment surfing the ’net for porn.

(By the way, when someone watches porn, what is it that first captures their attention?  A 2007 study found that women on oral contraceptives focus on the actors’ clothing, background imagery, and other contextual aspects of the porn – not the genitals.  Women who were not on the pill looked first at genitals, then turned their attention to the female body or bodies – but didn’t look at anyone’s face.  Men looked at genitals, but spent more time looking at female faces.  Go figure.)

Without the civilizing influence that comes from their living under the same roof as wives, men would do that bad stuff 24 HOURS A DAY and the world would go to hell in a handbasket.

*     *     *     *     *

Or at least we men like to think so.  In reality, women could do very well without men – other than providing a needed Y chromosome on occasion, we are much more trouble than we are worth.  Ants and bees and other social insects have figured out how to minimize the role of males and still survive quite nicely, and it would serve us men right if women did the same to us.  

Fortunately, most of them are like Tammy Wynette.  We treat them badly and are more trouble than we are worth, but they are as tolerant of us as they are of their children (who can also be a gigantic pain in the tuchus, but are inconveniently necessary for the survival of the species) – they look the other way and turn the other cheek, all in the interest of promoting the greater good.

Tammy Wynette didn’t necessarily walk the walk when it came to putting up with the men she was married to.  Fellow country music superstar George Jones was her third husband (she had five altogether), and she put up with his drinking and other nonsense for only six years before filing for divorce.  Standing by her man George was all well and good, but enough was enough.

“Stand By Your Man” was supposedly written by Wynette and her producer, Billy Sherrill, in fifteen minutes.  The song reached #1 on the country and western charts late in 1968, and also cracked the top 20 on the pop charts.  The country-music cable network, CMT, named it the greatest country music song of all time, and I can’t disagree.

*     *     *     *     *

“Stand By Your Man” is featured in the opening credits of one if my all-time favorite movies, Five Easy Pieces (1970).  In that movie, Karen Black’s character – who has a room-temperature IQ but a heart of gold – gets knocked up by her boyfriend (portrayed by Jack Nicholson), a child prodigy on the piano who had run away from his wealthy, cultured family to slum it as a roughneck in the California oil fields.

Mr. Jack and Ms. Black in “Five Easy Pieces” 
Nicholson’s character proves he is all man by cheating on and abusing her verbally and physically before he learns she is pregnant  . . . then cheating on and abusing her verbally and physically her after he learns she is pregnant. . . and eventually deserting her at a gas station out in the middle of nowhere.  

Five Easy Pieces was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and both Nicholson and Black were nominated for acting Oscars as well. 

*     *     *     *     *

Tammy Wynette, whose 1998 death was caused by a pulmonary blood clot, had quite a few things in common with Bobbie Gentry, whose song “Fancy” was featured in yesterday’s 2 or 3 lines.

Both were born in 1942 in rural Mississippi.

Both spent their early childhoods on farms without electricity or indoor plumbing under the care of their grandparents.  (The mothers of both had moved away in search of economic opportunity.)

And both took Hollywood-inspired stage names.  Bobbie Gentry’s name came from the 1952 movie, Ruby Gentry.  Tammy Wynette’s name – she was born Virginia Wynette Pugh – came from the 1957 film, Tammy and the Bachelor.  (Record producer Billy Sherrill – who suggested that Wynette change her name after she signed a record deal in 1966 – said that the long, blonde ponytail she was wearing when they met reminded him of the one Debbie Reynolds wore as the character Tammy Tyree in that movie.)

But while the teenaged Gentry had moved to posh Palm Springs, California, to live with her mother, Wynette stayed in Mississippi and married a local boy named Euple Byrd when she was just 17.  

Wynette left Byrd shortly before the birth of their third daughter.  She had gone to beauty college and gotten a cosmetology license, and she supported herself and her children by working as a hairdresser until she got that recording contract.

*     *     *     *     * 

Click here to hear Tammy Wynette sing “Stand By Your Man.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, February 22, 2019

Bobbie Gentry – "Fancy" (1969)

Just be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy
They'll be nice to you

I’m a doting grandparent.  So I totally get why Bobbie Gentry’s grandmother – who lived on a Mississippi farm that didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing – traded the family milk cow for a piano for her seven-year-old granddaughter.

Bobbie used that piano to compose her first song, which was titled “My Dog Sergeant Is a Good Dog.”  (I bet he was a good dog, too.)

*     *     *     *     *

Bobbie Gentry – who was born Roberta Lee Streeter in Chickasaw County, Mississippi, in 1942 – was raised on her grandparents’ farm because her parents got divorced shortly after she was born and her mother moved to California.

Gentry took her stage name from a 1952 movie, Ruby Gentry, which starred Jennifer Jones as a poor-white-trash Southern girl who dreamed of becoming rich: 

Bobbie’s life resembled the movie heroine’s up to a point, but she left Mississippi and moved to the Palm Springs, California area to join her mother when she was 13.

Bobbie attended a private high school in posh Rancho Mirage, which may have the most golf courses per capita of any burg in the whole damn U. S. of A.  (Many famous entertainers – including Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra – and powerful political figures – including Gerald Ford, Spiro Agnew, Barbara Boxer, and Barack Obama – have either owned homes there or visited frequently.)  

Gentry then moved to Los Angeles, where she attended UCLA and then the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. 

*     *     *     *     *

The heroine of Ruby Gentry didn’t get rich by moving to California and becoming a world-famous singer-songwriter.  She pulled herself out of poverty the old-fashioned way – by marrying a rich older man.

Bobbie Gentry followed her namesake’s example by marrying casino magnate Bill Harrah (who owned properties in Las Vegas, Reno, and Tahoe, and once possessed the finest collection of rare and exotic cars in the world) when she was 27 and he was 58.  

Bill Harrah and Bobbie Gentry
Five months later, they were divorced.  (Gentry wasn’t a success when it came to being a wife.  Her second marriage lasted not quite two years.  Her third marriage – to singer-comedian Jim Stafford of “Spiders & Snakes” fame – also lasted less than two years.  She’s remained single since divorcing Stafford in 1980.)

*     *     *     *     *

Gentry never came close to replicating the success she had with her 1967 mega-hit, “Ode to Billie Joe.”  

Like that song, her second-biggest single – “Fancy” – tells a Southern Gothic-style story.  It made it to the top forty on both the pop and country charts in 1969.  

Reba McEntire’s remake of “Fancy” was a #8 country-western hit in 1991.  

*     *     *     *     *

Between 1967 and 1981, Bobbie Gentry was a very busy woman.

She recorded seven studio albums, produced and choreographed a popular Las Vegas revue, and frequently appeared on American, Canadian, and British television.

Bobbie Gentry in a recording studio
But that all came to a sudden end in 1981.  Bobbie Gentry hasn’t recorded, performed, or given interviews since then.

A couple of years ago, a Washington Post reporter tracked her down – she lives in a very nice gated community near Memphis – and called her on the phone, hoping that Gentry would grant her an interview.

But Gentry – who is currently 76 years old – hung up on her.

*     *     *     *     * 

Click here to listen to “Fancy,” which Bobbie Gentry called “my strongest statement for women’s lib.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon: