originally by Bobbie Gentrey

It was the third of June
Another sleepy, dusty
I was out chopping cotton
And my brother was bailing hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And Mama hollered at the back door
"Y'all remember to wipe your feet"
Then she said
"I got some news this mornin' from Choctaw Ridge
Today Billy Joe McAllister
Jumped off the Talahachee Bridge"


Lyrics submitted by spliphstar

Ode To Billy Joel song meanings
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9 Comments

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  • 0
    General CommentOmg i love the orginal..sheryl sings this so bad
    Riot Grrrlon June 17, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is "Ode to Billie Joe", moron, not Billy Joel.
    DJacques75on November 17, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's not even the complete song.
    voodoochildeon November 22, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI actually went over this song with my students recently. The song is about a young girl who gets pregnant with a boy and upon having the child goes with the boy (Billy Joe) and throws the baby into the river. The boy then throws himself off the next day. The girl is hearing all of this over dinner and the background story (once you figure it out) along with the preacher coming over and a big family dinner lends quite an ambiance of stress and regret.

    The last stanza, in which the father is now dead and the mother is stricken with great depression drives home the idea that she is now cursed to unhappiness for her role in this unfortunate teenage decision.

    According to my mother, there is a movie which dramatizes the story... but I have yet to run across it.

    And yes... this is not the complete song. But it is a great song. I think I'll DL it from Itunes tomorrow.
    sightson January 09, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentActually, the author of the song has refused to say exactly what it was about, preferring it to remain an enigma. There is speculation that the object thrown from the bridge was a child, a ring, a doll, and too many other things to mention.

    In the movie, the object thrown off the bridge is a doll. Billy Joe killed himself because of a homosexual incident that made him doubt his sexuality. The female lead allowed townfolk and her own family to believe that Billy Joe had gotten her pregnant to preserve his memory and protect it against any rumors of homosexuality. In truth, the young couple did not have sex.

    Also, according to the movie, the mother's depression is a result of her husband dying so suddenly.

    What is the real meaning of this song? No one will ever know. We can only guess and say what it means to us.
    voodoochildeon January 12, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI first heard this song on an oldies station and loved it! The funny thing was, I always thought it was a black woman singing it. She has a deeper "soul" voice. And the line "cuttin cotton" made me think of poor black people and the food they talk about is very southern (which I guess doesn't make a difference). Considering the time period, I thought Billy Joe was a black man who committed suicide because he couldn't take being black in a white southern society anymore...or...he was murdered and it was covered up. The "throwin something off the bridge" I thought was just the two of them playing, and maybe throwing rocks or something into the water. I read an interview with the artist and she said she never decided on why he committed suicide when she wrote the song. Course, I also though "Son of a Preacher Man" was also sung by a black woman.
    Brunicason November 07, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhen I heard this song I was'nt sure what it meant but later figured out that the girl and billy were in love and the girl got pregnant and they ended up aborting the baby. The song implies by saying that something was being thrown off the bridge that the girl and boy had made a regretted decision.
    belle92on February 03, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI also thought that when the song says they were throwin something off of the bridge that it might have been
    reckless decisions made in the past instead of an actual child.
    belle92on February 03, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't believe this song is about infanticide. The family's dinner wouldn't have been so routine nor would the discussion of Billy Joe's suicide if the girl had been pregnant in front of her family. Whatever happened, it is obvious the family doesn't know that the girl and Billy Joe were intimate.

    When asked about it, all Bobbie Gentry said was that the song was about "man's inhumanity to man."

    Given the context of the times in which it was written and wildly popular, a student of mine once commented that Billy Joe symbolized the draft of young men into the Viet Nam War. Lots of young men, 55,000 of them, basically jumped off a bridge when they went to Viet Nam never to come home.

    I am not sure if it was that specific, but the heartache behind the lyrics was definitely aimed at the loss of Billy Joe, not the loss of an infant. The mystery of what the two threw off the bridge, I believe, is overshadowed by the sense of loss and the passage of time as presented in the last verse. There is no other clue in the song as to what might have been thrown. But there is in every verse a sense of shock and sorrow, loneliness and regret, waste and carelessness.
    matt1361on February 07, 2009   Link

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