VIDEO PREMIERE + 7 More Badass Covers of Ode to Billie Joe, Presented on the Third of June

Tara Murtha

This video premiered today, on this third of June. Disclosure: Jim Boggia, Allison Polans, Sarah Larsen and Phil D’Agostino are some of my favorite people. They also happened to be some of the most talented musicians around. Boggia is well-known for his brilliant Beatles-y pop, Polans for her powerhouse, soulful vocals, Sarah Larsen as master of all stringed things, and Phil D’Agostinois a brilliant bassist and producer who you may remember was also the bandleader on the epic Bobbie Gentry tribute—a performance of the entire record—we staged a few months back. (You should listen to the WXPN recording here).

Nancy Wilson kills it. KILLS IT. Fancy Miss Nancy recorded “Ode” for her 1968 album Welcome to My Love. Entirely suitable for playing at top volume while slinking about and booty-grooving alone in your apartment, perhaps while smoking some wacko tobacco. Nasty, yet smooth. Smooth, yet nasty. 

Lou Donaldson laid this epic jazz cover down in 1967 on Mr. Shing-a-ling. If you recognize the drum beat, that’s because it’s one of the most sampled beats in hip-hop, pulsing beneath “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West, “Clap Your Hands” by A Tribe Called Quest and hundreds of other songs. The classic beat surfaced most recently in “L$D” by A$AP Rocky. It’s like the word “atavistic.” Once you hear it, it’s suddenly everywhere.

Byrdwatchers know that in the mid-1960s, Clarence White, Gene Parsons, Gib Guilbeau and Wayne Moore were briefly in a rock-country quartet called Nashville West, named after the California club where they served as the house band. The one-off album, featuring this twangy cover of “Ode to Billie Joe,” was basically a live set recorded by Parsons, the Wikipedia tells me, for personal use. Oh well.

Who is this lovely creature owning, and I mean OWNING,“Ode to Billie Joe” while Ray Charles shouts jibber-jabberinto the spaces between? I must know. On the quest, I dove into the cesspool that is YouTube comments and came up with Clydie King, one of the Raeletts. Anyone out there know? My kingdom for a Ray Charles “Ode to Billie Joe” duet confirmation.

Oh, Tammy. Her voice mysteriously makes me cry instantaneously, like walking in the room the moment a stranger I know nothing about wins an Olympic sport I never watch, or when I have PMS and concentrate on how much I love my cats, Linda and Greg, and think about how every single thing we love will die. Tammy knew this. Tammy felt this.

Joe Tex editorializes the shit out of this song, and that’s just fine. He recorded this for the informatively named album Soul Country in 1968, the year you were drummed right out of the business if you didn’t formally submit an interpretation of “Ode to Billie Joe” into the universe’s jukebox.

I miss this Sinead. Fearless, strutting through the world fresh out of fucks to give. Make like Kris Kristofferson and lean in toward Sinead, whisper in her ear, tell her not to let the bastards get her down, and mean it.
Did I miss your favorite? Let me know @taramurtha.
Also! Tune in today, the third of June in the year 2015, to WXPN at 6pm EST to hear the musicians featured in the first video talk “Ode to Billie Joe” on Copy That, the radio show hosted by Dan Reed.
You can listen live here.
If you really want to celebrate the Third of June in style, check out my book about the album for the 33 1/3 series, featuring a foreword by Jill Sobule.

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