There was much talk in 2011 about Adele reaching #1 with “Someone Like You.” Her achievement was particularly trumpeted because the fact that a ballad comprised only of her vocal and piano could so dominate in a time when dance-pop is the sound du jour was indeed an unexpected and special feat. In fact, “Someone Like You” is the only tune so sparsely adorned to have topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the chart’s 53-year history, and for five weeks at that.
Another female artist, Bobbie Gentry, might have beaten Adele to that record nearly 45 years ago with “Ode To Billie Joe,” save for some violins and cellos. Originally written and recorded on acoustic guitar, Gentry’s label adding a string arrangement for the single’s release. The gothic story-song debuted on the Hot 100 on August 5, 1967, and was number one three weeks later. Spending four weeks on top, “Ode To Billie Joe” became a certified classic and a continuing pop-culture puzzler, as it’s not clear what was tossed over the Tallahatchie Bridge or why Billie Joe committed suicide.
Now Billie Ray Martin, more often heard singing over a four-on-the-floor beat, has gone Gentry one better, stripping “Ode To Billie Joe” down to nothing but her stunning bluesy voice. With her acapella version, Martin throws Gentry’s bridge-jumping mystery into stark relief, and achieves an unexpected and special feat: Making “Ode To Billie Joe” even more captivating all these years later.
Free download of Billie Ray Martin – “Ode To Billie Joe” (Bobbie Gentry cover) via the SoundCloud player above.
UPDATE: As to be expected, the urge to put a beat behind Billie Ray Martin’s acapella cover of “Ode To Billie Joe” proved irresistible. UK producer Nathan Jay goes deep for his remix, and Billie Ray approves.
Free download of Billie Ray Martin – “Ode To Billie Joe” (Nathan Jay Remix) via the SoundCloud player above.