Fancy (Bobbie Gentry song)

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"Fancy"
Single by Bobbie Gentry
from the album Fancy
B-side "Court Yard"
Released November 1969
Recorded Fame Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Genre Soul
Length 4:15
Label Capitol 2675
Writer(s) Bobbie Gentry
Producer(s) Rick Hall
Bobbie Gentry singles chronology
"Casket Vignette"
(1969)
"Fancy"
(1969)
"All I Have To Do Is Dream"
(with Glen Campbell, 1970)

"Fancy" is a song written and originally performed by Bobbie Gentry in 1969. The song depicts its heroine overcoming poverty to become a successful courtesan. Other than Gentry's, the best-known version of the song was recorded in 1990 by country music artist Reba McEntire for her Rumor Has It album. McEntire had a Top Ten country hit with her cover of the song in 1991.

Content[edit]

The Southern Gothic style-song is told from the perspective of a woman named Fancy, approximately thirty-three years old, looking back to the summer she was 18.

Fancy's family (consisting of Fancy, a baby sibling whose gender is not mentioned, and their mother; the father having abandoned them) lived in poverty — "a one room, rundown shack on the outskirts of New Orleans". Her mother is terminally ill and has no one to care for the baby.

In a last, desperate act to save Fancy from the vicious cycle, her mother spends her last penny to buy her a red "dancing dress", makeup and perfume, and a locket inscribed with the phrase "To thine own self be true", and sends her to a dance. She encourages Fancy to "be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy, and they'll be nice to you" (implying prostitution as a means to gain financial independence). Soon after, Fancy's mother dies and her baby sibling becomes a ward of the state.

Fancy recalls her mother's parting words: "Here's your one chance Fancy don't let me down" and "If you want out, well, it's up to you." Fancy ends up using sex and connections she makes to build a better life for herself (eventually owning a Georgia mansion and a New York flat), eventually making peace with her mother and acknowledging the complexity of the decision her mother was forced to make.

Reception[edit]

The song was a cross-over country and pop hit for Gentry in early 1970, and she received a Grammy nomination for best female pop vocal performance.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1970) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 26
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 8
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 31
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 1
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 20
Canadian RPM Top Singles 26
Preceded by
"Six White Horses"
by Tommy Cash
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single

February 14–21, 1970
Succeeded by
"Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
by Waylon Jennings

Reba McEntire version[edit]

"Fancy"
Single by Reba McEntire
from the album Rumor Has It
B-side "This Picture"
Released February 1991
Genre Country
Length 4:59
Label MCA S7-54042
Writer(s) Bobbie Gentry
Producer(s) Tony Brown
Reba McEntire
Reba McEntire singles chronology
"Rumor Has It"
(1990)
"Fancy"
(1991)
"Fallin' Out of Love"
(1991)

In 1991, Reba McEntire took the song to number eight on the Billboard Country charts. McEntire also produced a popular music video for the song, expanding on the song's storyline. For years, McEntire has encored her live concerts with the hit, singing the first half of the song in a ragged black mink coat and hat then removing them to reveal a floor length red gown for the second half. McEntire has referred to the song as her "possible signature hit". (The edit of the song heard on most radio stations cuts the song short after three verses, before the title character makes it off the streets.) Since 1984, Reba wanted to record it but her producer at the time, Jimmy Bowen was against it because he believed the song was too closely associated to Gentry. When Reba changed producers to Tony Brown, she was able to record it for her 1990 album Rumor Has It.[1]

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song tells the story of the song itself in more detail. It opens with the title character, Fancy Rae Baker, played by McEntire, riding in a taxi cab and arriving at the site of the small shack on the outskirts of New Orleans where she grew up, which is now abandoned. The video takes something of a creative license with the song as McEntire's version of Fancy, much like McEntire herself, is a famous singer and actress. The story of the song plays out against the background accompanied by flashbacks of Fancy's past with her mother and baby sibling playing prominent roles.

Near the end of the video, Fancy visits her mother's grave in the backyard of the shack and sees her mother's ghost standing nearby. She tells her that she understands now and forgives her. As the video ends, Fancy departs in her taxi and a large sign is seen in the front yard that says that the property is to be the future home of the Fancy Rae Baker Home for Runaways, dedicated to the memory of her late mother, with the home's motto "to thine own self be true" (the engraving on the locket Fancy's mother gave her before she left, which she threw down before leaving but retrieved at her return and placed on her mother's gravestone).

Though the song words indicate that the events described took place in the summer Fancy turned 18, in the video, the clothing worn by the characters, and the surrounding bare foliage, would appear to indicate winter conditions in southern Louisiana.

References in Stephen King's book "Duma Key"[edit]

In Stephen King's book Duma Key, there are some references to this song. In the book Edgar says he called his doll "Reba" because the radio in his car played Reba McEntire's song "Fancy" when he had his accident, and when he forgets his doll's name, he thinks about the song, especially about the sentence: "...It was RED!..." from the song. Also, there are a lot of references to this particular sentence ("...It was RED!...") when something in the book is red, all because his car radio played the song when the accident happened.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1991) Peak
position
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[2] 8
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[3] 8

Other Versions[edit]

  • Lynn Anderson recorded the song on her 1971 album The World of Lynn Anderson.
  • He Is Legend covered the song on the split album "Black Unicorn"
  • The Geraldine Fibbers included this song on the album What Part of Get Thee Gone Don't You Understand?
  • Kellie Pickler performed a version of the song on Season 5 of American Idol.
  • Megan Mullally & Supreme Music Program covered the song on the album Big as a Berry

References[edit]

External links[edit]