b/ Billie Holiday (Tricky / Verve Re-Mix)
“Strange Fruit” is a song performed most famously by
Billie Holiday, who first sang and recorded it in 1939.
Written by teacher Abel Meeropol as a poem and published in 1937,
it protested American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans.
Such lynchings had reached a peak in the South at the turn of the century, but continued there and in other regions of the United States.
According to the Tuskegee Institute, 1,953 Americans were murdered by lynching, about three quarters of them black.
The lyrics are an extended metaphor linking a tree’s fruit with lynching victims.
Meeropol set it to music and, with his wife and the singer
Laura Duncan, performed it as a protest song in New York City venues in the late 1930s, including Madison Square Garden.
The song continues to be covered by numerous artists, including
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Robert Wyatt and
Dee Dee Bridgewater
and has inspired novels, other poems, and other creative works.
Ahmet Ertegun called “Strange Fruit”
A DECLARATION OF WAR
THE BEGINNING OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.