After her grandparents traded the family’s milk cow for a neighbor’s piano, a small town Mississippi girl named Roberta Lee Streeter composed her first song titled “My Dog Sergeant Is a Good Dog.”
She eventually taught herself how to play guitar, bass, and banjo and once she graduated high school and decided to pursue a music career, she decided to go by a stage name: Bobbie Gentry.
The inspiration for her stage name came from the 1952 movie Ruby Gentry, which was about a heroine who was born into poverty, but determined to make a success in her life, quite like herself.
She made waves in the country music world beginning in 1967 by becoming one of the first women to compose and produce her own materials.
If she wasn’t already on the map by the time she released her album Fancy in 1970, she was now a bonafide star! The album included the singles “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” “He Made A Woman Out Of Me,” and the iconic title track, which she wrote herself and received a well-deserved Grammy nomination.
Much like the movie in which she named herself after, the song “Fancy” is a story about a woman coming out of poverty to become a successful and she eventually owns a Georgia mansion and a New York townhouse flat.
In an article in After Dark Magazine in July 1974, Gentry was incredibly proud of “Fancy,” not only for the accolades she received for it, but for the message she was spreading.
“‘Fancy’ is my strongest statement for women’s lib, if you really listen to it,” she said. “I agree wholeheartedly with that movement and all the serious issues that they stand for — equality, equal pay, day care centers, and abortion rights.”
It went on to become even more famous in 1991 when country star Reba McEntire cut it on her Rumor Has It album. She took it to the Top Ten on the country charts and it has become a concert staple for her. She is known to wear a large black coat for the first half of the song and midway through, drop the coat a reveal a stunning red dress.
While McEntire’s version put it back on the map after 20 years, Gentry’s version will always be the groundbreaking original. It has since become one of the most famous songs in country music history and that is thanks to the one and only Bobbie Gentry.
Enjoy “Fancy” below.