Where in the World Is Bobbie Gentry? Memphis, Maybe
It's one of country music's greatest mysteries: How and why Bobbie Gentry quietly and abruptly stepped away from the music business in late April 1982, at the height of her career, never to return.
Since then, attempts to reach Gentry, or to find out where (and if) she's living have all been denied. Even the "Ode to Billie Joe" legend's most high-profile fans don't know where she is. For example, Reba McEntire — who recorded a version of Gentry's crossover hit, "Fancy," in 1991 and has since made that rendition into one of her own signature songs — has no personal connection to Gentry, despite having such a massive hit in common.
"I've never met her. I've never talked to her," Reba McEntire told media in 2020, though she hinted that she might know someone who's still in touch with the mysteriously absentee country great.
"I talked to so many people who have gotten to work with her and know her and do stay in communication with her and I would say, 'Hey, would you tell her that I'd really like to meet her sometime or talk to her or email or text or smoke signals or anything.' I don't care, I'd just really like to communicate with her," McEntire continued.
McEntire's not the only one who'd love to pick Gentry's brain about what life's been like since her disappearance. Taylor Swift — who, like Gentry, skyrocketed to superstardom with country roots and pop appeal — is rumored to have possibly written about the country legend in the lyrics of her 2012 song, "The Lucky One."
"It was a few years later I showed up here / And they still tell the legend of how you disappeared / How you took the money and your dignity and got the hell out / They say you bought a bunch of land somewhere / Chose the Rose Garden over Madison Square / And it took some time, but I understand it now," Swift reflects in that track.
So, where is Gentry these days? That's the big question, and no one has a definite answer, but there are some credible theories that she's in Memphis — or at least she was, at some point in the not-too-distant past. Swift mentions a "Rose Garden" in the lyrics of "The Lucky One," and that's the name of a part of Memphis Botanic Garden, though the term "Rose Garden" is pretty generic, and any connection that can be drawn there is flimsy at best.
Sounder evidence pointing to Gentry being in the Memphis area comes in the form of a 2016 report from the Washington Post, where a journalist dug up a phone number for an address in the Memphis area, called it, and asked to speak to the person to whom the address was listed.
"'There's no one here by that name,'" the voice on the other end of the line replied, according to the Post.
"I apologized and started to read back the number, to make sure I had dialed it correctly, and she hung up," the article continues. "But there really isn't any doubt. I talked, for about 13 seconds, to Bobbie Gentry."
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