Watch Bobbie Gentry’s 1970 Preview Of New Song On ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’

Backed by fellow Capitol sigings Goose Creek Symphony, Gentry performs a three-song medley including the then-new ‘But I Can’t Get Back.’

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Bobbie Gentry - Photo: David Redfern/Redferns
Bobbie Gentry - Photo: David Redfern/Redferns

Another vintage performance by Bobbie Gentry has been shared from the rich archives of The Ed Sullivan Show. The clip is from the edition of the famous, long-running variety show broadcast in Christmas week 1970, on December 27.

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Backed by Phoenix, Arizona-based Goose Creek Symphony, her fellow signings to Capitol Records, Gentry performs a medley “But I Can’t Get Back,” “I’ll Fly Away,” and “Put A Little Love In Your Heart.” The performance came at what can be seen as a pivotal moment in the career of the entertainer, as she was some four months away from releasing what became her seventh and final studio album, Patchwork. Gentry did not, however, announced her retirement from music until 1980.

The excerpt of “But I Can’t Get Back” is a preview of the sixth track (not counting frequent interludes) on Patchwork. Written by the artist with Kelly Gordon – the only track on the record not penned by Gentry on her own – the gentle and atmospheric piano ballad was strongly redolent of the emerging singer-songwriter style of the time, and of Carole King in particular.

Bobbie Gentry & Goose Creek Symphony "But I Can't Get Back, Put A Little Love In Your Heart & more"

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The song was released as the first single from Patchwork in March 1971, a month ahead of the LP, but failed to make the charts. Indeed, the album fell short of the 200-position Billboard survey, despite highly enthusiastic reviews from the magazine and the rest of the trade press.

In the Sullivan performance, the song blends gently into “I’ll Fly Away,” the hymn written by Albert Brumley in 1929 that has been repeatedly interpreted and sung at live festivals and gatherings without number. It was recorded by such artists as the Selah Jubilee Singers and the Chuck Wagon Gang, then by George Jones on his 1965 album Old Brush Arbors.

There was even a reggae adaptation by Bob Marley and the Wailers, and the gospel staple was introduced to a modern-day audience by the million in the 2000 film O Brother Where Art Thou? The 1956 version by the Kossoy Sisters was used in the film, but Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch recorded it for the multi-platinum soundtrack album.

“Put A Little Love In Your Heart” is the familiar song written and first recorded by Jackie DeShannon, who wrote it with with her brother Randy Myers and Jimmy Holiday. That version, on Imperial Records, was a Top 5 US pop hit, and the song was taken back into the American Top 10 in 1989 in a revival by Annie Lennox and Al Green. In all, it’s been covered more than one hundred times, including by David Ruffin, the Dave Clark Five, the Isley Brothers, and Gladys Knight and the Pips.

Watch all the latest archival videos from The Ed Sullivan Show on the program’s official YouTube channel.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Daniel Drown

    October 20, 2022 at 8:27 am

    I remember an off the record discussion I had with a former Capitol Records A&R man over three decades ago. He informed me that a small group of men destroyed the commercial viability of Bobbie Gentry’s 1971 masterpiece album , PatchWork. But I Can’t Get Back was the album’s first single. Bobbie Gentry was coming off a great year in 1970. Two gold singles in the U.K. Her version of, I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, was a U.K #1 pop smash and her duet with Glen Cambell, All I Have To Do Is Dream, went to #3 on the U.K pop singles chart. In 1970 she would win the Brit Music Award for top international female recording artist. Stateside, her self penned song ,Fancy, was a smash spending 14 weeks on the pop hot 100 and going top forty on three separate charts, pop, country and adult contemporary. It was against this back drop of commercial and artistic success that Capitol greenlighted the PatchWork sessions with Bobbie helming the project by writing and producing the entire album. The boys club at Capitol felt threatened by her control and actively worked to destroy the commercial viability of this expensive project. Tactics included destroying expensive promotion material set to go out to record stores and radio stations and it was suggested to me that her album sales were altered in the accounting department to make sure PatchWork would not debut on the Billboard top 200 album chart. I don’t think Bobbie ever got over it. She was locked in a long term recording contract with Capitol Records and just changed directions putting her considerable artistic energy and talent into her live Vegas shows which resulted in a string on million and multi million dollar contracts with The Howard Hughes Organization making her one of the richest women in America during that era.

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