Bobbie Gentry became an overnight success with the self penned song Ode to Billy Joe, about the Tallahatchie Bridge – a mysterious bundle thrown from it, and the suicide of Billy Joe off it. The speculation of who Billy Joe was, and why the narrator took flowers to his watery grave captivated the nation's imagination. Was Billy Joe a black man, carrying on a forbidden relationship with the narrator, a white woman? Was the bundle they threw the baby they had made? It had all the trappings of the most fascinating town gossip accompanied by a soft, lovely and simple guitar tune and Gentry's fantastic, slightly scratchy voice.
Speculation about the song is still alive today, just read this site, and was so fevered after the song came out in 1967 that eventually a film was made to answer the questions. In it, Billy is a gay man and when found out, he jumps off the bridge. The bundle was explained as a doll the narrator throws off the bridge to symbolize the loss of innocence.
Funny enough, Gentry claimed to have never even thought about the questions everyone was asking – she was trying to point out the callous nature of people to the horrible death of a man.
Gentry, a raven haired beauty and genuine talent never reached the kind of fame she achieved with this, her first single. There were other high and low points throughout her career, but after fading from fashion, she decided to bow out of show business completely in 1978 – which has become another source of mystery and speculation surrounding the singer.