Reba McEntire Was Originally Told She Couldn’t Record “Fancy” Because It Was About Prostitution

Reba McEntire
Reba McEntire

These days “Fancy” is one of Reba‘s signature songs…but if her original producer had gotten his way, she wouldn’t have even recorded it.

While it may be most closely associated with Reba McEntire these days, “Fancy” was actually written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry way back in 1969. The mysterious Gentry, who had hits with songs like “Ode to Billie Joe” and “All I Have To Do Is Dream” before all but disappearing in 1982, saw “Fancy” as a feminist anthem of sorts:

“”Fancy” is my strongest statement for women’s lib, if you really listen to it. I agree wholeheartedly with that movement and all the serious issues that they stand for — equality, equal pay, day care centers, and abortion rights.”

And it also contained parallels to Gentry’s own life: The singer was born poor in her southern hometown in Chickasaw County, Mississippi before marrying casino magnate Bill Harrah in 1969 – when Gentry was only 27 and Harrah was 58. I guess you could say a benevolent man took her in off the streets?

So when Reba first wanted to record her version of “Fancy” back in 1984, her producer Jimmy Bowen, who was also the head of MCA Records, wasn’t exactly thrilled about the idea – because the song was so closely associated with Gentry, and because a song about prostitution wasn’t really the image they were going for:

“The first time I ever heard it I fell in love with it because I like story songs. I’m a huge fan of Dolly Parton, Tom T. Hall — people who write story songs — Bobbie Gentry, ‘Ode to Billie Joe.’

Well, ‘Fancy’ was the first one that was really big in 1968. Later on, when I got to start recording and singing old songs, I wanted to do ‘Fancy.’

Jimmy Bowen wouldn’t let me because it’s a rags-to-riches song and probably in a very not appropriate form. She’s a prostitute.”

Yeah, I guess that makes sense.

But luckily, Reba would finally get her shot at the song a few years later.

When Bowen left the label in the 1980s, and Tony Brown took over as producer for Reba, they were finishing up her album Rumor Has It, and Brown asked Reba if there was anything else she wanted to include:

“I always wanted to record it. Then Tony Brown said, ‘What’s a song you’d like to do a remake of?’ And I said, ‘Fancy.’

He said, ‘That’s one of my favorite songs, too.’ And so we recorded it.”

And the rest, as they say, is history. Much to their astonishment, “Fancy” became a Reba McEntire staple, surpassing Bobbie Gentry’s original on the country charts, and joining the ranks as one of country music’s greatest songs.

While “Fancy” wasn’t a #1 for Reba, only peaking at #8 on the charts, it’s undoubtedly one of her biggest songs – and one of the most iconic country songs of the ’90s.

It just took a few years longer for Reba to get her shot at recording it.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock