Ode To Billy Joe
(by Bobbie Gentry)

These are the lyrics to a chart-topping 1967 song about the suicidal jump of a young man from the Tallahatchie Bridge into the river below. The Tallahatchie Bridge actually did exist in Greenwood, Mississippi, although it collapsed in 1972. The song is about the unintentional thoughtlessness of a family as they discuss, and forget, the news at the dinner table..

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin' cotton and my brother was balin' hay
And at dinner time we stopped and we walked back to the house to eat
And mama hollered at the back door "y'all remember to wipe your feet"
And then she said she got some news this mornin' from Choctaw Ridge
Today Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Papa said to mama as he passed around the blackeyed peas
"Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense, pass the biscuits, please"
"There's five more acres in the lower forty I've got to plow"
Mama said it was shame about Billy Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And brother said he recollected when he and Tom and Billy Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn't I talkin' to him after church last Sunday night?
"I'll have another piece of apple pie, you know it just don't seem right"
"I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge"
"And now you tell me Billy Joe's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

Mama said to me "Child, what's happened to your appetite?"
"I've been cookin' all morning and you haven't touched a single bite"
"That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today"
"Said he'd be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way"
"He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge"
"And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

A year has come 'n' gone since we heard the news 'bout Billy Joe
Brother married Becky Thompson, they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going 'round, papa caught it and he died last Spring
And now mama doesn't seem to wanna do much of anything
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin' flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge