Song Lyric Sunday – Fancy

The prompt from Jim:

Our theme this week is songs that mention the words Fraud, Hypocrite, Phony, Pretender, or Snob and this was suggested by Angie Trafford.

There’s no better place to go when you are looking for songs related to the prompt today than the country catalog.

“Fancy” was written by Bobbie Gentry (“Ode to Billie Joe”) and released on her 1969 album of the same name. It reached #26 on the country chart and was also a crossover hit reaching #8 on the Adult Contemporary Chart.

”Fancy” is a rags to riches song, but very unconventional in its approach. The protagonist’s mother encourages her to seek her way out of poverty through prostitution. For many it is a song of empowerment depicting a woman who did whatever she needed to do to escape the reality of living in poverty.

Society is very hypocritical of sex workers, but the reality no one ever wants to face is without customers, there would be no prostitution.

When I hear this song I often remember a documentary I saw about sex workers in a third world country many years ago. So many of the women they interviewed chose that life over the reality of the life that awaited a woman in traditional households during that time. They felt like at least they had a sense of freedom.

Reba McEntire loved the song but got pushback when she wanted to record it. Song selection is critical in the ‘brand’ of a singer and singing a song about a prostitute making good was not exactly the kind of song her producer wanted her associated with. There was also concern that the song would be too closely associated with Bobbie Gentry. But she pushed and recorded the song in 1990 on her “Rumor Has It” album and it peaked at #8 on the charts.


“Fancy”, written and performed by Bobbie Gentry and performed by Reba McEntire
Lyrics from

I remember it all very well lookin’ back
It was the summer I turned eighteen
We lived in a one room, rundown shack
On the outskirts of New Orleans
We didn’t have money for food or rent
To say the least we were hard pressed
Then Mama spent every last penny we had
To buy me a dancin’ dress

Mama washed and combed and curled my hair
And she painted my eyes and lips then I stepped into a satin
Dancin’ dress that had a split on the side clean up to my hip
It was red velvet trim and it fit me good
Standin’ back from the lookin’ glass
There stood a woman where a half gown kid had stood

She said here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down
Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down

Mama dabbed a little bit of perfume on my neck
And she kissed my cheek
Then I saw the tears wellin’ up in her troubled eyes
When she started to speak
She looked at a pitiful shack
And then she looked at me and took a ragged breath
She said your Pa’s run off and I’m real sick
And the baby’s gonna starve to death

She handed me a heart shaped locket that said
“To thine own self be true”
And I shivered as I watched a roach crawl across
The toe of my high heel shoe
It sounded like somebody else that was talkin’
Askin’ Mama what do I do
She said just be nice to the gentlemen Fancy
And they’ll be nice to you

She said here’s your chance Fancy don’t let me down
Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down
Lord forgive me for what I do, but if you want out
Well it’s up to you
Now don’t let me down you better start movin’ uptown

Well, that was the last time I saw my Ma
The night I left that rickety shack
The welfare people came and took the baby
Mama died and I ain’t been back

But the wheels of fate had started to turn
And for me there was no way out
And it wasn’t very long ’til I knew exactly
What my Mama’s been talkin’ about

I knew what I had to do but I made myself this solemn vow
That I’s gonna be a lady someday
Though I don’t know when or how
I couldn’t see spending the rest of my life
With my head hung down in shame you know
I might have been born just plain white trash
But Fancy was my name

Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down
Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down

It wasn’t very long after a benevolent man
Took me off the street
And one week later I was pourin’ his tea
In a five room hotel suite

I charmed a king, a congressman
And an occasional aristocrat
Then I got me a Georgia mansion
In an elegant New York townhouse flat
And I ain’t done bad

Now in this world there’s a lot of self-righteous hypocrite
That would call me bad
And criticize Mama for turning me out
No matter how little we had

But though I ain’t had to worry ’bout nothin’
For nigh on fifteen years
I can still hear the desperation in my poor
Mama’s voice ringin’ in my ear

She said, here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down
Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down
Lord, forgive me for what I do
But if you want out well it’s up to you
Now don’t let me down
Your Mama’s gonna help you uptown

I guess she did

Song Lyric Sunday is hosted every Sunday by Jim Adams. If you would like to join in the fun, check out his blog for the rules and to take in all the other music posted by other blogger