Strange Fruit – Billie Holliday

A stark and poignant reminder of the brutality caused by racial intolerance. With the increase in racial attacks lately, it seems critical that we maintain a vigil against this facet of humanity, whether in this country or abroad.

Seven trees
Bearin’ strange fruit
Blood on the leaves
And blood at the roots
Black bodies
Swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin’
From the poplar trees
Pastoral scene
Of the gallant south
Them big bulging eyes
And the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolia
Clean 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 leaves to drop
Here is
Strange and bitter crop

Sang by Nina Simone

“Strange Fruit” is one of the most haunting melodies and politically correct verses that Billie Holiday ever sung. It was written by Lewis Allan, a poet. But Columbia records, which interestingly had recorded “race music” and racial jokes, refused to deal with Allan’s poignant prose because they didn’t want to offend their Southern white customers by promoting the song’s explicit and vivid exposure of the racist lynchings then rampant in the region.

Lady Day, however, was determined to make a profound statement against lynching by recording the torturous tune. Ignoring Columbia’s advice, she cut a deal with Commodore Records, which first recorded the composition during a 1939 session.

-Elmobe Brath, `Strange Fruit’: capitalism’s bitter crop, New York Amsterdam News, 8 Apr 1995.

(I decided to post the Nina Simone rendition of the song, as I prefer it over Holiday’s version, however, I did find a filmed version of the original here).

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