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Free At Noon Flashback: The Lower 40 give Bobbie Gentry a smashing and sincere tribute

The Lower 40 | Photo by Kelsey Stanger
The Lower 40 | Photo by Kelsey Stanger

Today’s Free At Noon concert featured 11 local musicians paying tribute to Bobbie Gentry’s album Ode to Billie Joe, in celebration of author Tara Murtha’s new 33 1/3 book exploring the album. Performing under the name The Lower 40 (a lyric from the album’s title track), the band took the stage today at noon, filling it out entirely with their five interchanging vocalists, horns, vibraphone and more. Continue reading →

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Searching for Bobbie Gentry: Tara Murtha and a team of Philly musicians explore Ode to Billie Joe

Bobbie Gentry's classic Ode To Billie Joe will be explored in a new 33 1/3 book and performed by Philly musicians this Friday at Free at Noon and Underground Arts
Bobbie Gentry’s classic Ode To Billie Joe will be explored in a new 33 1/3 book and performed by Philly musicians this Friday at Free at Noon and Underground Arts

When Tara Murtha first heard the music of Bobbie Gentry, she couldn’t believe she hadn’t found it sooner.

It was about eight years ago, back when the Philadelphia writer started dating her now-husband Jesse Lundy. She characterizes it as the point in a relationship where one partner is trying to impress the other, show off their taste a bit, and Lundy did this with a copy of Ode to Billie Joe, the 1967 debut LP by the multifaceted Mississippi-born musician who disappeared from the public eye in 1980.

After listening, Murtha was intrigued, and took to Google to learn more. The first thing she came across was a video of Gentry on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, surrounded by dancers in bright colors, making her way through an elaborate stage set designed like a Louisiana swamp. It was 1967 and she was performing her rendition of “Niki Hoeky,” a song by Jim Ford and Pat and Lolly Vegas. Continue reading →

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Philly writer Tara Murtha takes on the legend of Bobbie Gentry


One of our all time favorite journalists in Philly is Tara Murtha. Chances are you’ve probably read at least one of the many cover stories she’s written for the Philadelphia Weekly over the years. While she focuses on issues of social justice, Murtha is also a passionate music fan and occasionally writes about music.

One of her long time musical obsessions has been the legendary Bobbie Gentry, whose song “Ode To Billie Joe” was a number one hit song in 1967. Murtha is currently working on a book about Gentry called Bobbie Gentry: Ode to Billie Joe that will be published in 2014 by Bloomsbury Academic’s acclaimed 33 1/3 Books, a series exploring a range of iconic records. Launched in September 2003, the series now contains 86 titles and had explored albums like Dusty In Memphis by Dusty Springfield (written by Warren Zanes), The Replacements’ Let It Be (written by Colin Meloy of The Decemberists) , OK Computer by Radiohead (written by Dai Griffiths) and other classics. The most recent book is on the Talking Heads’ Fear Of Music written by Jonathan Lethem.

Bobbie Gentry’s story is filled with a few facts and a lot of mystique. Continue reading →