I first heard House of the Rising Sun at my high school talent show. I think it was 1963. I didn’t know the teenage girl who sang that night, but I remember the purity of her voice. Such a sad and mournful lyric, coming from that young girl, it was electrifying. To this day I still think about that moment whenever I hear the song.
It’s strange how a moment like that can stay with you for decades. Memories are not locked in stone. Your subconscious makes decisions about what you remember and how you remember it. Contrary to what we would like to believe, a memory is not like a video recording, the physical fact of a moment that remains unchanged forever. I can’t even guess what made that particular girl, her voice, and that song, have such an effect. But it stuck with me and I still wonder what happened to her. Did she have a career in music? (more…)
There are a few songs have a kind of evil magic that grabs your subconscious and won’t let go. Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe is one of the best. When it was released in the summer of 1967 it was an instant hit, selling 750,000 copies its first week. It knocked the Beatles “All you need is love” out of the number one slot.
Like everyone else I was fascinated by the mystery of what was thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge. The popular theories of the time suggested a token of failed romance, perhaps a wedding ring or flowers. There were many people who believed in a much darker story. It was even suggested that the object thrown into those muddy waters was an aborted fetus. Years later, a movie was made that tried to answer those questions. The movie was an unfortunate exercise written without any help from Bobbie Gentry. She was the wise one, these stories are much better when every detail is not spelled out. A little mystery lets the audience read in their own fears and beliefs. (more…)