Bobbie Gentry (Roberta Lee Streeter)
BiographyChickasaw County, Mississippi, USA
Country singer/songwriter Bobbie Gentry was born Roberta Lee Streeter on July 27, 1944 in Chickasaw County, Mississippi. Gentry grew up in poverty on her grandparents' farm after her parents divorced when she was a little girl. She learned to play piano by watching the church pianist. Her grandmother traded a milk cow for a piano so Bobbie could practice regularly. She wrote her first song "My Dog Sergeant is a Good Dog" on the piano; she later used this song as a humorous part of her nightclub act. Read more... she attended elementary school. Bobbie next moved to Palm Springs, California to live with her mother. It was during this time she taught herself how to play the banjo, guitar, bass and vibes. She began performing at a country club while still in high school and graduated from Palm Valley School in 1960. At age 14, Gentry took her stage name from the 1952 movie Ruby Gentry (1952). She briefly worked as a dancer and singer in a Las Vegas revue show called Folies Bergere before moving back to California. Bobbie studied philosophy at UCLA and subsequently transferred to the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, where she majored in theory, counterpoint and composition while working as a secretary to keep herself afloat. In 1967, Gentry scored a massive smash hit with the moody and compelling story song "Ode to Billie Joe", which peaked at number one on the Billboard pop charts for a whole month. Bobbie won three Grammy Awards for this song, including Best New Artist and Best Vocal Performance by a Female. In addition, the Academy of Country Music named Gentry the Top New Female Vocalist of 1967. "Ode to Billie Joe" has been covered by such artists as Sinéad O'Connor, Tammy Wynette, Patti Smith and Ike Turner & Tina Turner. Gentry had only modest success with the offbeat "Okolona River Bottom Band" and a spirited rendition of Doug Kershaw's "Louisiana Man". Bobbie recorded three charming duets with Glen Campbell which included a cover of "Let It Be Me" by The Everly Brothers. Bobbie had another substantial Top 30 hit with the sassy "Fancy", which did well on both the pop and country charts. (Reba McEntire had a Top 10 country hit with her 1991 cover of this particular song). In Europe, Gentry enjoyed a number one hit in England with "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and a Top 40 success with "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head". In the late 60s, she headlined her own Las Vegas revue show in which she did the dance choreography, designed the costumes, and even wrote and arranged the music. In 1974, Gentry hosted her own short-lived TV variety show. That same year, she wrote and sung the haunting ending credits theme song "Another Day, Another Time" for the terrific redneck exploitation winner Macon County Line (1974). "Ode to Billie Joe" was adapted into a movie in 1976. Bobbie was briefly married to both Desert Inn Hotel manager Bill Harrah and fellow country singer/songwriter Jim Stafford. In the late 70s, Bobbie Gentry quit the music business and went on to run her own TV production company in Los Angeles.