Why Did Bobbie Gentry Disappear? The Secret History of Country Music
Bobbie Gentry was a star, but then she vanished, as if swallowed by a black hole of celebrity. The "Ode to Billy Joe" and "Fancy" singer's disappearance was very much of her own doing, however — in fact, the public now knows where to find her.
Gentry, who turned 77 years old on Saturday (July 27), is said to be living near Memphis, Tenn., after years spent on the west coast following her early '80s exit. How do we know that, and what drover her away after knocking the Beatles off of the top of the charts? That's all part of this week's episode of The Secret History of Country Music. Good reporting by the Washington Post, Medium and the Guardian helped solve this mystery, as well as the Cocaine and Rhinestones podcast.
If you're under 40 years old, it's okay to ask who Bobbie Gentry is. The singer notched an unconventional pop crossover hit with "Ode to Billy Joe" in 1967 and then found some country radio success with Glen Campbell before releasing her song "Fancy" (later recorded by Reba McEntire) to country radio. After cutting a flurry of albums in four years, she stopped after Patchwork in 1971, choosing to settle in Las Vegas where she had a popular residency for more than a decade. Two husbands, one child and a few meetings with Elvis Presley that set tabloids off all kept her in fame's spotlight. Then she vanished, with no one knowing where she was for two decades! Even her family is said to have lost contact with her during this time.
The Secret History of Country Music is a weekly series that goes deeper inside the stories of country music's biggest hits, moments and figures. Be sure to subscribe to Taste of Country's YouTube channel so you never miss a new episode.
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