By: Paulanne Simmons
March 17, 2019: Bobbie Gentry is not exactly a name we hear often these days. Yet the singer/songwriter was one of the first female artists to compose and produce her work. Born in Chickasaw Country, Mississippi, she was hugely influenced by the music she heard growing up on her grandparents’ farm. Gentry’s country rock, blues-inflected style helped her rise to international fame with her mega-hit, “Ode to Billie Joe,” which was the No. 1 pop song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1967.
Although Gentry had considerable success with other singles and Las Vegas variety shows, and her album, Fancy, earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, she stopped performing in the late ‘70s. No one seems to know exactly why. However, fans of Bobbie Gentry need not despair, Marnie Klar’s tribute show, Marnie Klar sings Bobbie Gentry (March 16 at Don’t Tell Mama) includes many of Gentry’s songs and a few of her covers.
Klar is a belter with a sassy and soulful edge that’s perfect for Gentry’s music. And for singing about Gentry’s favorite subjects: crops, bugs, stepdads, boredom. She’s backed by Matt Scharfglass on bass and Don Kelly on guitar. Music director Steven Ray Watkins is on piano and provides vocals at precisely the right moments.
When Capitol Records suggested Gentry turn from singing original songs to covering other composers, Gentry interpreted the likes of Bacharach and David (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”) and Laura Nyro (“Wedding Bells”). Klar makes the transition as effortlessly as Gentry did.
Klar, who hails from Virginia Beach, shares Gentry’s southern roots. But Klar, who holds a BFA in Musical Theater from the University of Miami, has a much wider range of music and theater to explore. Now that she’s paid homage to her southern heritage, it will be interesting to see where Klar will next bestow her considerable talents.
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