A simple acoustic guitar played against a background of strings creates the perfect setting for Bobbie Gentry's almost-raspy voice reminiscing about her protagonist's friend, Billie Joe MacAllister, and his suicide. The dinnertime conversation about the death is told so matter-of-fact that it creates an under-current in this masterful story/song - that the woman describing the event is more affected than she can let on. Her father dismisses the tragedy because "Billy Joe never had a lick of sense" and that there are more urgent matters at hand - like the fact five more acres of farmland have to be plowed. According to musician Buzzy Linhart the song uses a traditional blues scale (flat the 3rd and the 7th) as in "Black Magic Woman" - "I got a black magic woman and she's trying to make a devil out of me" descends in the same fashion as "the day Billy Joe McGallister jumped off the Tallahachee Bridge". The tune would be covered, veteran guitarist Cornell Dupree giving an amazing instrumental take on the title while The 5th Dimension created a superb soulful version with a voice coming in when mama hollered "Y'all remember to wipe your feet", playing roles with the characters in the song. There are scores of covers including Ellen McIlwaine's uptempo blues/folk rendition recorded in 1973 - quite a variety of talents from across the spectrum giving their interpretation of a story which at first glance would seem as type-cast as Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley P.T.A.", a #1 hit from 1968. And don't discount the importance of Bobbie Gentry hitting #1 exactly a year before Jeannie C. Riley, both were country story-songs and the more serious composition from Gentry found on Capitol Records 45 #5950 was music that definitely cut the path. This was a full year and a half before Tammy Wynette would proclaim it was ok to "Stand By Your Man" while the mystery of Billie Joe's death was compounded by the relationship he had with the woman telling the story. And what they threw off the Tallahachee Bridge was a question that made the song more of a conversation piece than who the culprit was in Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" five years later. Some surmised they threw an unborn child into the water, leading to Billie Joe's depression and desperation. It also led to water cooler conversations before cable TV came up with similar soap operas. The song became the title of a film in 1976, produced by Max Baer, Jr..