Strange Fruit

I don’t think there is a more powerful song then ” Strange Fruit” which deals with racism. Especially the original version sung by Billie Holiday.

The lynching of black men in the American South was an all-too-familiar occurrence in the 1930s, even though it rarely made news. So when Billie Holiday had a hit record with the song “Strange Fruit,” it brought attention to this important issue in unusual ways.

“Strange Fruit” originated as a poem written by the Jewish-American writer, teacher and songwriter Abel Meeropol, under his pseudonym Lewis Allan, as a protest against lynchings. In the poem, Meeropol expressed his horror at lynchings , inspired by Lawrence Beitler’s photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana.

When Holiday heard the lyrics, she was deeply moved by them — not only because she was a Black American but also because the song reminded her of her father, who died at 39 from a fatal lung disorder, after being turned away from a hospital because he was a Black man.

Because of the painful memories it conjured, Holiday didn’t enjoy performing “Strange Fruit,” but knew she had to. “It reminds me of how Pop died,” she said of the song in her autobiography. “But I have to keep singing it, not only because people ask for it, but because 20 years after Pop died, the things that killed him are still happening in the South.”

There are relatively few lyrics in this blues song, but it is how they are song that gives me the shivers every time I hear them.

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulgin’ eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burnin’ flesh

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather
For the wind to suck

For the sun to rot
For the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop”

sources

https://www.biography.com/news/billie-holiday-strange-fruit

https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/resources-for-educators/classroom-resources/media-and-interactives/media/music/billie-holiday–strange-fruit/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_Fruit