What Is It?
Here is how Wikipedia describes this song:
“Strange Fruit” is a song written and composed by Lewis Allan and recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939. The lyrics were drawn from a poem by Meeropol published in 1937. The song protests the lynching of Black Americans with lyrics that compare the victims to the fruit of trees. Such lynchings had reached a peak in the Southern United States at the turn of the 20th century, and the great majority of victims were black. The song has been called “a declaration” and “the beginning of the civil rights movement“.
Meeropol set his lyrics to music with his wife and the singer Laura Duncan and performed it as a protest song in New York City venues in the late 1930s, including Madison Square Garden. Holiday’s version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978. It was also included in the “Songs of the Century” list of the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.
“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.
Meeropol published the poem under the title “Bitter Fruit” in January 1937 in The New York Teacher, a union magazine of the Teachers Union. Though Meeropol had asked others (notably Earl Robinson) to set his poems to music, he set “Strange Fruit” to music himself. First performed by Meeropol’s wife and their friends in social contexts, his protest song gained a certain success in and around New York. Meeropol, his wife, and the Black vocalist Laura Duncan performed it at Madison Square Garden.
Here are the descriptions for the videos above:
Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group
Strange Fruit · Billie Holiday
Lady Sings The Blues
℗ A Verve Label Group Release; ℗ 1956 UMG Recordings, Inc.
Released on: 1956-01-01
Producer, Associated Performer, Clarinet: Tony Scott
Associated Performer, Trumpet: Charlie Shavers
Associated Performer, Saxophone: Paul Quinichette
Associated Performer, Piano: Wynton Kelly
Associated Performer, Electric Guitar: Kenny Burrell
Associated Performer, Double Bass: Aaron Bell
Associated Performer, Drums: Lennie McBrowne
Orchestra: Tony Scott Orchestra
Composer Lyricist: Lewis Allan
Auto-generated by YouTube.
Provided to YouTube by Believe SAS
Strange Fruit · Billie Holliday · The Tony Scott Orchestra · Allan · Allan
Masters of Jazz: Billie Holiday & the Tony Scott Orchestra
℗ PCA Music
Released on: 2001-01-01
Auto-generated by YouTube.
I learned of this song thanks to the YouTube video Billie Holiday Vs The US Government – Extra History by the YouTube channel Extra Credits.
This song brought tears to my eyes.
I could feel the emotions expressed through the lyrics, voice, singing, and instrumentals.
Like an echo of the sadness, pain, suffering, et cetera from some of my ancestors calling out to me.
Like Billie Holiday was, sharing that through song, so that we learn & remember our history, and continue to work toward a better future.
- John Jr