Few artists can say they knocked the Beatles off their pedestal, but Bobbie Gentry is one of them. The Mississippi-born singer-songwriter with the one-of-a-kind voice and similarly singular songwriting perspective scored a No. 1 album with her debut Ode to Billie Joe in 1967, temporarily ousting the Fab Four’s seminal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from a weeks-long stint atop the Billboard 200.
Topping the Beatles is a remarkable feat on its own, but especially so for a debut artist who approached music stardom with a skeptical curiosity before suddenly tapping out, and eventually vanishing, while at the top of her game. Ode to Billie Joe itself is both a time capsule of its era — the turbulent and transformative late ’60s — as well as a primer for Gentry’s chameleonic artistry.