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Old 05-07-2014, 08:02 AM
 
Location: Brooklyn New York
16,439 posts, read 27,326,891 times
Reputation: 22855

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This song has drove me crazy for decades. What did they throw off the bridge?

I have re-read the lyrics dozens of times, and I am thinking that she threw Billie Joe off the bridge and he did not jump. The preacher man saw the both of them up on the bridge throwing something off, (a fetus, or baby, perhaps), but that wouldn't make sense, then why would Billie Joe jump off?

So he saw them together on the bridge, and then she threw him off and people though he jumped...
Then the year later she was throwing flowers into the river...



Bobbie Gentry - Ode To Billie Joe Lyrics | MetroLyrics
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Old 05-07-2014, 11:08 AM
 
1,257 posts, read 2,235,247 times
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"Ode to Billy Joe" was a song first. Bobbie Gentry has always been very clear that she never came up with a reason for Billy Joe's suicide or what was tossed off the bridge. I think the mystery added to the song's popularity.

It was so popular that writer Herman Raucher (who also wrote the wonderful "Summer of '42" and "The Great Santini") was commissioned to write a novel and screenplay about it. The movie was even more popular than the song, thanks to blue-eyed heartthrob Robbie Benson.

In the book/movie, Bobbie Lee and Billy Joe are teenage sweethearts. Set in the 1950's, the two are in love and have intense sexual chemistry, but are frustrated by the taboos and prohibitions of the age. Raucher does a great job of exposing the hypocrisy of these mores, btw.

One evening, in a drunken stupor, Billy Joe has "relations" with a man. The movie made the encounter very ambiguous - we never know exactly what the act was or whether he consented. There was an overtone of a very predatory adult taking advantage of a very drunk, inexperienced boy.

But Billy Joe blames himself and is overcome with guilt and shame and self-loathing. He confesses all to Bobbie Lee during a walk on the bridge and breaks up with her, since he now considers himself "abomination" and is therefore not good enough for her. Incredulous and only half-believing him, she tries to hug and kiss him, but he pushes her off and runs away. She loses her balance and drops an object over the bridge and into the water - which turns out to be her rag doll "Freddie." I don't remember why she had this doll with her at the time, although the symbolism is clear enough: lost innocence, swallowed up and lost forever in the dirty, muddy water.

Unable to live with himself, Billy Joe commits suicide by jumping off that same bridge.

The whole town thinks that Billy Joe committed suicide because Bobbie Lee is pregnant. Rather than tell the truth (that Billy Joe was homosexual), she allows the rumor and then leaves town, with the understanding that she is going to have her baby "elsewhere" and give it up for adoption (as girls did in those days).

On her way to the bus station, she runs into the town "preacher man," who says in so many words that he knows she isn't pregnant, implicating himself as the man who debauched poor Billy Joe. But since her charade will save his skin, he vows to keep silent, and "gallantly" escorts her to the bus station.

Last edited by Brookside; 05-07-2014 at 11:46 AM..
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Old 05-07-2014, 11:43 AM
 
Location: FL
1,400 posts, read 1,366,612 times
Reputation: 2007
There are a few theories, their aborted child, a draft card, a gun. I tend to believe there was no intentional reason for the suicide or object thrown. It is interesting though that the brother was to some degree a friend of Billy Joe's at one time, they put a frog down the narrator's back. At the end the brother seems less affected than the Papa who died, Mama who doesn't feel like doing anything and the narrator who still visits the site to throw flowers...but the brother goes on to get married and open a store, not exactly bad news. It could be the brother and Billy Joe had what's considered in the old South to be an extremely inappropriate relationship, that may be a suicide reason, but still doesn't explain what was thrown from the bridge.
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Old 05-07-2014, 12:33 PM
 
Location: Brooklyn New York
16,439 posts, read 27,326,891 times
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I am still thinking she threw billie joe off the bridge, that would explain the preache man seeing a girl that looked a lot like you?

maybe, was there another girl there and she looked similiar, and SHE pushed him off after confronting him?? did billie joe have another chick on the side, and she knew?
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Old 10-12-2018, 11:56 AM
 
Location: So Ca
21,145 posts, read 18,736,412 times
Reputation: 18368
Bobbie Gentry has come out with a box set.

A lavish new box set suggests we have been asking the wrong question about Bobbie Gentry all these years. It’s not important why or how she retreated from fame: We should be more attuned to why she mattered so profoundly, particularly to female musicians who still claim her as a touchstone.

Four decades since Bobbie Gentry shunned fame, a new box set restores her unrivaled legacy - Los Angeles Times
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Old 10-12-2018, 01:05 PM
 
Location: Nantahala National Forest, NC
27,090 posts, read 7,997,127 times
Reputation: 30347
I love the song no matter what...

and her music.
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Old 10-12-2018, 01:09 PM
 
Location: Nantahala National Forest, NC
27,090 posts, read 7,997,127 times
Reputation: 30347
Quote:
Originally Posted by CA4Now View Post
Bobbie Gentry has come out with a box set.

A lavish new box set suggests we have been asking the wrong question about Bobbie Gentry all these years. It’s not important why or how she retreated from fame: We should be more attuned to why she mattered so profoundly, particularly to female musicians who still claim her as a touchstone.

Four decades since Bobbie Gentry shunned fame, a new box set restores her unrivaled legacy - Los Angeles Times
If you read this article, it says BJ committed suicide and then something (a baby?) was thrown off the bridge...

interesting article.
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Old 10-14-2018, 11:59 AM
 
Location: Houston, texas
15,149 posts, read 11,880,953 times
Reputation: 11402
Beautiful, talented. Her work transcended genre. 50 years after OTBJ, people still talk mostly about what was thrown off the bridge and why BJ killed himself, when Gentry stated over and over again that that was missing the point of the song, which was unconscious cruelty and indifference. She explained that the object thrown off the bridge was just a way to establish motivation for Billie Joe’s suicide. “I left it open so the listener could draw his own conclusion.”

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/m...ie-joe-196953/
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Old 10-14-2018, 12:10 PM
 
Location: North East
200 posts, read 81,580 times
Reputation: 360
That song was like nails screeching down a blackboard to my ears��
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Old 10-14-2018, 12:35 PM
 
Location: Nantahala National Forest, NC
27,090 posts, read 7,997,127 times
Reputation: 30347
Quote:
Originally Posted by CEN2RION View Post
That song was like nails screeching down a blackboard to my ears��
Then what are you doing here?
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