Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit

Really interesting backstory on this song…

from Popmatters: 

After a photograph of a lynching in the American South outraged him, Jewish Bronx schoolteacher Abel Meeropol, using the pseudonym Lewis Allan, wrote “Strange Fruit” as a poem. The song was later performed at a New York City teacher’s union meeting, where a Greenwich Village nightclub owner heard it and later introduced it to legendary singer Billie Holiday. (Meeropol and his wife later revealed their social consciousness again by adopting the orphaned children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.) According to the American Anti-Slavery and Civil Rights Timeline, “Between 1882 and 1968, mobs lynched 4,743 persons in the United States, over 70 percent of them African Americans.” Holiday’s dramatic, haunting rendition of the chilling words—“ Southern trees bear strange fruit / Blood on the leaves and blood at the root / Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze”—raised much needed awareness of the inherent evil of lynching at a time when much of the public was relatively indifferent. Holiday reportedly expected retaliation for the song, but plowed ahead anyway, partly because she said the poem’s imagery reminder her of her father’s death. Columbia wouldn’t touch it, so she recorded it with Commodore, an alternative jazz label. Holiday’s song would inspire civil rights activists to realize the power of conveying their message through popular culture.

Chris Justice

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