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Old 06-06-2019, 09:39 AM   #41
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Wow! The memories...that smoky voice! When I was in 5th (or was 6th?) grade our teacher Mr. Auslander (RIP) told us what they threw off the bridge. The class was stunned!
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Old 06-06-2019, 10:11 AM   #42
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Frank2009 you are such a tease! What was it??
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Old 06-06-2019, 10:13 AM   #43
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As I recall, there was a movie made about that song (with Robbie Benson and I don’t know the girls actor’s name). The movie was about how the two young kids got in trouble and the girl had an abortion. Don’t know what they were throwing off the bridge.
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Old 06-06-2019, 10:18 AM   #44
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...their baby...
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Old 06-06-2019, 10:24 AM   #45
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Frank2009 you are such a tease! What was it??
It's obvious from this thread - black eyed peas!

More seriously, the composer says she left that open to interpretation, and it isn't important - as I mentioned earlier, the focus is the interaction and responses of the family, especially that they don't seem to realize the impact this has on the (nameless) girl's narration ("Child, what's happened to your appetite?").

Could be flowers, love notes, rings, (the idea that their love would not be approved? But why, they seem to of the same 'class' - went to the 'picture show together'. Probably not too young, she seemed to be close in age to her brother who got married, and it seems Momma was trying to set her up with a "nice, young preacher"?) and of course the speculation of an aborted or stillborn fetus. I think that is too obvious.

Maybe she broke up with Billy Joe, that is why he killed himself? That's why this song is so great, IMO, so many ways to look at it.

BTW, "Billie Joe" was a mistake, that's a female name. And it is Billy Joe in her draft. The one place we must allow for some poetic license, based on the info I've found (see Ronstar's post), any bridge over the river there would not be one you'd jump off of to commit suicide, it was pretty shallow there.

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Old 06-06-2019, 10:24 AM   #46
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Did a little digging and the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, recapped the movie. The plot thickens... seams Billy Joe had a homosexual encounter with his boss after some heavy drinking. Billy Joe ultimately kills himself because of it.
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Old 06-06-2019, 10:25 AM   #47
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As I recall, there was a movie made about that song (with Robbie Benson and I donít know the girls actorís name). The movie was about how the two young kids got in trouble and the girl had an abortion. Donít know what they were throwing off the bridge.
And Bobbie Gentry rejects that. That was the movie director's choice.

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Old 06-06-2019, 11:00 AM   #48
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The genius of the song is it doesn't matter what was thrown off the bridge. As others have mentioned, it is all about the rest of the song.

There's talk today about a lot of kids being outcasts and sadly committing suicide over that. It was no different back then.
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Old 06-06-2019, 12:39 PM   #49
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Actually, she didn't get pregnant, didn't have an abortion and they didn't throw a baby off the bridge. They never had sex. They threw her childhood rag doll off the bridge (according to the novel). It represented the loss of her childhood.
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Old 06-06-2019, 04:45 PM   #50
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Actually, she didn't get pregnant, didn't have an abortion and they didn't throw a baby off the bridge. They never had sex. They threw her childhood rag doll off the bridge (according to the novel). It represented the loss of her childhood.
But that's from the movie, ~ 10 years after the song came out, and not the view of the composer.

I mentioned I became obsessed with this song a few years back (and always was mesmerized by it, I was a young teen when it was released). I came across a site I read at the time, I like this one, he starts out with a "just the fact's ma'am" approach, what we know, what we don't know from the song - which helps keep the interpretation in check. And then he goes on to some interpretations, and some from seemingly knowledgeable people (southern roots, songwriters, historians) add their views.

The Mystery of Ode to Billie Joe (note, even he uses 'billy' in the url ( billyjoe.htm ), the more typical male spelling, but not the Title - probably for search purposes).

So as some of us have said, the beauty/genius of this song is that it provides a framework, but leaves enough unsaid that you can create a story in your mind. No one knows what 'really' happened.

As I said, I tend to reject the obvious abortion/stillborn/miscarriage story on 'artistic' grounds alone. It's just too obvious, and I think there are more interesting thoughts. Here are some I gathered from reading, which sparked a few of my own, but first, why there are also some story-line holes in the abortion/stillborn/miscarriage story:

The narrator (no name given, other than in the draft, so I'll just say "she"/"her") was working in the fields that AM as if nothing happened. It was just "another sleepy, dusty, Delta day ". If she had gone through an abortion/stillborn/miscarriage, would she be working the fields like nothing happened? And her Mother doesn't note the loss of appetite until after the news about Billy Joe is heard. Momma was 'cooking all morning', expecting hearty appetites from all. And would they do such a taboo thing in broad daylight, for someone like the Preacher to see? I think it would have been hidden away.

Now here are some interesting (IMO) ideas:

A) There was some speculation that 'she' pushed Billy Joe off the bridge(!) after an argument. OK, seems far fetched, but hey, maybe they didn't find the body until later, and assumed he jumped that day? I don't give this much credence, she would have been affected by this, not just after she "heard the news". But it is creative, and not totally implausible. Further speculation was that this is what the preacher observed, and was trying to appeal to "her" conscience to come forward and confess? Pretty diabolical, no?

B) Here's one I hadn't considered, and find rather interesting - What if Billy Joe was suffering depression, not related to any romantic relationship with "her"? It kind of fits, mental illness was even more hidden away than now, "she" could have just been friendly with Billy Joe, sensed his darkness, was trying to help him, and was really affected, as a close friend, not a lover, by his taking his own life. I'm impressed with this one.

C) Another I had not thought of, that I think is along the lines of abortion/stillborn/miscarriage, but fits better IMO. What if what they were throwing off the bridge was blood-stained clothing from her losing her virginity to Billy Joe? That would be something to hide, in a religious community of the time, and especially since her Father didn't think much of Billy Joe. Interesting, no? I guess it doesn't go so far as to explain Billy Joe's apparent suicide though? But maybe that is related more to general depression?

D) I never really thought about this, but the only observer/reporter of "something being thrown off the bridge" is the "nice young Preacher, Brother Tom". Hmmmm? This opens up a lot of paths, including what I outlined in 'A". Let's see...

How about... she has become romantically involved with the Preacher and he has asked her (or they agreed) that she was going to break off her relationship with Billy Joe? Adding in the comment of them "throwing something off the bridge" could be an acknowledgement/metaphor that they ended their relationship. But of course, she is still affected by Billy Joe's apparent suicide.

I've always found the specific phrase to be interesting, but have not seen comments on it... maybe it means nothing, just the words that fit, but the Preacher says he "saw a girl that looked a lot like you", but he has no problem recognizing Billy Joe! Is he trying to provide some cover for her? By keeping it vague, later she could say, no, that wasn't me? IS he trying to send her a message?

Or it was the Preacher who pushed Billy Joe off the bridge? Hmmm, maybe it was a jealous argument, maybe Billy Joe was trying to rape 'her', and the Preacher defended her, but thought it better to cover it up. Or the Preacher broke it up, and Billy Joe committed suicide out of shame (how could he face the Preacher at Church?)?

That's a lot of things to draw from a few verses, which is why I feel the song is magical.

OK, I told you I was obsessed!

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Old 06-06-2019, 05:08 PM   #51
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WHAT?


Maybe it's a southern thing, but everyone around here (well the natives anyway) eat black-eyed peas each New Years day. (For good luck)
Back in the day - money, luck and happiness - or some such.

Fried cabbage, black eyed peas and BACON! or pork for the philistines.

And being New Years on Lake Pontchartrain we had the duel of the runs(docks up north) with which neighbor had the 'best' fireworks.

With lard - or Crisco. And yes I liked the song also.
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Old 06-06-2019, 05:15 PM   #52
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Oh, oh...the Billie Joe thing looks like it could turn into another "What about Tesla (stock)" thread.
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Old 06-06-2019, 05:18 PM   #53
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WHAT?


Maybe it's a southern thing, but everyone around here (well the natives anyway) eat black-eyed peas each New Years day. (For good luck)

Black eyed peas for good luck and cabbage for money...
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Old 06-06-2019, 05:21 PM   #54
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Well this is NOT the best time of year to be visiting. The heat index was over 100 today in south Alabama. Give me a call in the fall and we'll watch some college football and I'll make you some blackeyed peas.
Don't forget the cornbread.
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Old 06-06-2019, 05:46 PM   #55
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But that's from the movie, ~ 10 years after the song came out, and not the view of the composer.

I mentioned I became obsessed with this song a few years back (and always was mesmerized by it, I was a young teen when it was released). I came across a site I read at the time, I like this one, he starts out with a "just the fact's ma'am" approach, what we know, what we don't know from the song - which helps keep the interpretation in check. And then he goes on to some interpretations, and some from seemingly knowledgeable people (southern roots, songwriters, historians) add their views.

The Mystery of Ode to Billie Joe (note, even he uses 'billy' in the url ( billyjoe.htm ), the more typical male spelling, but not the Title - probably for search purposes).

So as some of us have said, the beauty/genius of this song is that it provides a framework, but leaves enough unsaid that you can create a story in your mind. No one knows what 'really' happened.

As I said, I tend to reject the obvious abortion/stillborn/miscarriage story on 'artistic' grounds alone. It's just too obvious, and I think there are more interesting thoughts. Here are some I gathered from reading, which sparked a few of my own, but first, why there are also some story-line holes in the abortion/stillborn/miscarriage story:

The narrator (no name given, other than in the draft, so I'll just say "she"/"her") was working in the fields that AM as if nothing happened. It was just "another sleepy, dusty, Delta day ". If she had gone through an abortion/stillborn/miscarriage, would she be working the fields like nothing happened? And her Mother doesn't note the loss of appetite until after the news about Billy Joe is heard. Momma was 'cooking all morning', expecting hearty appetites from all. And would they do such a taboo thing in broad daylight, for someone like the Preacher to see? I think it would have been hidden away.

Now here are some interesting (IMO) ideas:

A) There was some speculation that 'she' pushed Billy Joe off the bridge(!) after an argument. OK, seems far fetched, but hey, maybe they didn't find the body until later, and assumed he jumped that day? I don't give this much credence, she would have been affected by this, not just after she "heard the news". But it is creative, and not totally implausible. Further speculation was that this is what the preacher observed, and was trying to appeal to "her" conscience to come forward and confess? Pretty diabolical, no?

B) Here's one I hadn't considered, and find rather interesting - What if Billy Joe was suffering depression, not related to any romantic relationship with "her"? It kind of fits, mental illness was even more hidden away than now, "she" could have just been friendly with Billy Joe, sensed his darkness, was trying to help him, and was really affected, as a close friend, not a lover, by his taking his own life. I'm impressed with this one.

C) Another I had not thought of, that I think is along the lines of abortion/stillborn/miscarriage, but fits better IMO. What if what they were throwing off the bridge was blood-stained clothing from her losing her virginity to Billy Joe? That would be something to hide, in a religious community of the time, and especially since her Father didn't think much of Billy Joe. Interesting, no? I guess it doesn't go so far as to explain Billy Joe's apparent suicide though? But maybe that is related more to general depression?

D) I never really thought about this, but the only observer/reporter of "something being thrown off the bridge" is the "nice young Preacher, Brother Tom". Hmmmm? This opens up a lot of paths, including what I outlined in 'A". Let's see...

How about... she has become romantically involved with the Preacher and he has asked her (or they agreed) that she was going to break off her relationship with Billy Joe? Adding in the comment of them "throwing something off the bridge" could be an acknowledgement/metaphor that they ended their relationship. But of course, she is still affected by Billy Joe's apparent suicide.

I've always found the specific phrase to be interesting, but have not seen comments on it... maybe it means nothing, just the words that fit, but the Preacher says he "saw a girl that looked a lot like you", but he has no problem recognizing Billy Joe! Is he trying to provide some cover for her? By keeping it vague, later she could say, no, that wasn't me? IS he trying to send her a message?

Or it was the Preacher who pushed Billy Joe off the bridge? Hmmm, maybe it was a jealous argument, maybe Billy Joe was trying to rape 'her', and the Preacher defended her, but thought it better to cover it up. Or the Preacher broke it up, and Billy Joe committed suicide out of shame (how could he face the Preacher at Church?)?

That's a lot of things to draw from a few verses, which is why I feel the song is magical.

OK, I told you I was obsessed!

-ERD50
LOL. Indeed you are. Far be it from me to question an expert but just to be clear, the thing about the doll was from novel, not the movie. It was never made clear in the movie what it was. And speculation continues to this day
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Old 06-06-2019, 05:54 PM   #56
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Maybe it was his draft card. He offed himself cause he didnít want to go to Nam.
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Old 06-06-2019, 06:25 PM   #57
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LOL. Indeed you are. Far be it from me to question an expert but just to be clear, the thing about the doll was from novel, not the movie. It was never made clear in the movie what it was. And speculation continues to this day
Yeah, I thought I read that the 'novel' was just the screenplay/script for the movie? I'll need to check on that, I know my obsession won't let me just let it sit there!


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Maybe it was his draft card. He offed himself cause he didnít want to go to Nam.
Yes, there's been some speculation on that as well. Not unreasonable, the timing is right.

Related to that, on youtube there is a video of Bobbie Gentry performing Ode to Billie Joe for some servicemen in a hospital. It's a terrible version of the song, played upbeat with a band - but I guess that makes sense, guys recuperating don't want some depressing/introspective ballad. But the funny part is she is drop dead gorgeous, wearing those tight jeans and tight top and swaying in front of them, playing it up, and these guys are really having to work to hold it together and be respectable - I'm sure they got a talk from their CO prior. They did it, but you could read the looks in their eyes!


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Oh, oh...the Billie Joe thing looks like it could turn into another "What about Tesla (stock)" thread.
Over the song/movie/novel/book, or over black-eyed peas?

For the record, I've never had black eyed peas, but since they included some form of smoked pork, I'd sure be up for trying them. I do like grits (but just 'like', not crazy about), and mustard/collard greens, so that should fit.

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Old 06-06-2019, 07:05 PM   #58
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All I know about black eyed peas was that the cook in Georgia at the factory said something along the lines of "you eat them black eyed peas and those beans, you gonna fart like a bulldog!" I am not sure about the beans, it could have been chard or some other greens. But she was warning us 2 northern boys that our innards were going to rebel!
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Old 06-06-2019, 07:07 PM   #59
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In other news-

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Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June in a Kenworth.......
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Old 06-06-2019, 08:06 PM   #60
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Over the song/movie/novel/book, or over black-eyed peas?

For the record, I've never had black eyed peas, but since they included some form of smoked pork, I'd sure be up for trying them. I do like grits (but just 'like', not crazy about), and mustard/collard greens, so that should fit.

-ERD50
The song.

I never had black eyed peas until i moved to Texas in 1992 and met and married DW a few years later. She made them for our first New Years Eve together and I almost spit them out.....to me, they are like eating dirt. But, she, being a midwesterner, didn't add the SMOKED PORK!
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