Mercury Rev – Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited

Best known for the huge hit ‘Ode to Billie Joe’, Bobbie Gentry soon after released The Delta Sweete in 1968, a concept album based on life in the Deep South, her Mississippi childhood, and church life. Somewhat of a trailblazer, in a very heavily dominated male industry, Gentry was one of the first female artists of note who wrote most of their own material. She wrote eight of the 12 songs on the original release, the other four representing re-workings of songs she heard whilst growing up, such as ‘Tobacco Road’. She was also heavily involved in the production of her music, played guitar, often painted her own record sleeves, and designed her own costumes. She was a game changer in many ways, not least because she withdrew from both recording and performing, and indeed being in the public eye, by the early 80s. Her last album was released in 1971, and her last ever single, in 1978. Although still alive, very little is known about Bobbie Gentry, post-1981, when she made her last public appearance, aged just 38. The mystique, and therefore the legacy, remains largely intact.

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