Audience members roared with applause and clapped until their hands stung, with a comparably low number of walkouts by obvious racists. CONCORD When Billie Holiday first performed Strange Fruit, the café was already on the verge of closing. Though he had often asked others (notably Earl Robinson) to set his poems to music, he set “Strange Fruit” to music himself and the piece gained a certain success as a protest song in and around New York. [9] It was recorded on April 20, 1939. For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck Essay by Cary O’Dell . One version of events claims that Barney Josephson, the founder of Café Society in Greenwich Village, New York's first integrated nightclub, heard the song and introduced it to Billie Holiday. She developed some of her trademark stage persona there—wearing gardenias in … It was March 1939, a cold night. "Strange Fruit: the first great protest song", Bettye LaVette Unleashes Cover of Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’, "Video: Listen To Edward W. Hardy's Haunting String Quartet Arrangement Of 'Strange Fruit'", "Strange Fruit: The most shocking song of all time", "Music Is Love! [17] Gabler worked out a special arrangement with Vocalion Records to record and distribute the song.[18]. [23] Journalist Lara Pellegrinelli wrote that Jeff Buckley while singing it "seems to meditate on the meaning of humanity the way Walt Whitman did, considering all of its glorious and horrifying possibilities". Bob Dylan cited “Strange Fruit” as an influence in the 2005 documentary No Direction Home. Considering the vivid images and sustained metaphor of the song “Strange Fruit,” it shouldn’t be surprising that it began as a poem. The Tragic Story Behind Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" "Strange Fruit" was originally a poem. In October 1939, Samuel Grafton of the New York Post said of "Strange Fruit", "If the anger of the exploited ever mounts high enough in the South, it now has its Marseillaise. [16] Holiday sang "Strange Fruit" for him a cappella, and moved him to tears. Such lynchings had occurred chiefly in the South but also in other regions of the United States. Not long after Eleanora w… Holiday sang “Strange Fruit” for him a cappella, and moved him to tears. When challenged, Holiday—whose autobiography had been ghostwritten by William Dufty—claimed, "I ain't never read that book."[19]. The great Billie Holiday singing the classic Strange Fruit, one of the first great protest songs and certainly one of the earliest examples of a black singer performing on a regular basis a poweful anti-racism song. Label Clef Records. In the lyrics, black victims are portrayed as “strange fruit,” as they hang from trees, rotting in the sun, blowing in the wind, and becoming food for crows upon being burned. As written by … Diana Ross recorded the song for her debut film, the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues (1972), and it was included on the chart topping soundtrack album. (15 Tracks That Changed The World) CD", "100 Songs of the South | accessAtlanta.com", "Strange Fruit: A protest song with enduring relevance", Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday at Newport, The Essential Billie Holiday: Carnegie Hall Concert Recorded Live, Lady in Autumn: The Best of the Verve Years, Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia 1933–1944. The writers David Margolick and Hilton Als dismissed that claim in their work, Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song writing that hers was “an account that may set a record for most misinformation per column inch”. With no support from her parents, she made arrangements with her older, married half-sister, Eva Miller, for Eleanora to stay with her in Baltimore. Holiday's version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978. [29] The group's rendition was selected by the Mojo magazine staff to be included on the compilation Music Is Love: 15 Tracks That Changed The World . [9] Holiday first performed the song at Café Society in 1939. The song has been covered by numerous artists, including Nina Simone, UB40, Jeff Buckley, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Robert Wyatt, and Dee Dee Bridgewater. By checking this box I consent to the use of my information provided for email marketing purposes. [3], Meeropol set his lyrics to music with his wife and singer Laura Duncan and performed it as a protest song in New York City venues in the late 1930s, including Madison Square Garden. “Strange Fruit” is a song performed most famously by Billie Holiday, who first sang and recorded it in 1939. [9][10] Though Meeropol had asked others (notably Earl Robinson) to set his poems to music, he set "Strange Fruit" to music himself. [4] It was also included in the "Songs of the Century" list of the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. Columbia gave Holiday a one-session release from her contract so she could record it; Frankie Newton's eight-piece Café Society Band was used for the session. Because he was worried that the song was too short, Gabler asked pianist Sonny White to improvise an introduction so that Holiday only starts singing after 70 seconds. Sarah moved to Philadelphia at age 19, after she was evicted from her parents' home in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, for becoming pregnant. [14] Because of the power of the song, Josephson drew up some rules: Holiday would close with it; the waiters would stop all service in advance; the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday's face; and there would be no encore. [7], Meeropol published the poem under the title "Bitter Fruit" in January 1937 in The New York Teacher, a union magazine of the Teachers Union. Holiday first performed the song at Café Society in 1939. On the recording, Holiday starts singing after 70 seconds. “Strange Fruit”—Billie Holiday (1939) Added to the National Registry: 2002 . [22], Notable cover versions of this song include Nina Simone (whose version was sampled in Kanye West's "Blood on the Leaves"[23]), René Marie,[23] Jeff Buckley,[23] Siouxsie and the Banshees,[24] Dee Dee Bridgewater,[24] Josh White,[25] UB40,[24] Bettye LaVette[26] and Edward W. The song was highly regarded and the 1939 record sold a million copies, in time becoming Holiday’s biggest-selling record. “Strange Fruit” was originally a poem called “Bitter Fruit,” written by Jewish schoolteacher and … March 5, 2020 6:34 AM EST Billie Holiday knew the dangerous power of “ Strange Fruit ” when she first sang it at a Manhattan club in 1939. Billie Holiday made history when she sang a denunciation of racial violence, well ahead of the Civil Rights movement: "Strange Fruit." She said that singing it made her fearful of retaliation but, because its imagery reminded her of her father, she continued to sing the piece making it a regular part of her live performances. Columbia allowed Holiday a one-session release from her contract in order to record it and Frankie Newton’s eight-piece Cafe Society Band was used for the session. Greatest Songs of the 1930's. This site is maintained by the Estate of Billie Holiday. Written by a white, Jewish high school teacher from the Bronx and a member of the Communist Party, Abel Meeropol wrote it as a protest poem, exposing American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans. By checking this box I consent to the use of my information provided for email marketing purposes. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution listed the song as Number One on “100 Songs of the South”. When challenged, Holiday—whose autobiography had been ghostwritten by William Dufty—claimed, “I ain’t never read that book.”, Numerous other singers have performed the work. Cigarettes were flashing like torches, but the breaths were frozen, even the smoke, when she began to sing: "Southern trees bear a strange fruit Blood on the leaves and blood at the root Billie Holiday Original label Abel Meeropol . “Strange fruit” as sung by Billie Holiday, is a protest song about the lynching of black people and uncovers the brutality of racism and violence in South America. The song reminded Holiday of her father. The song was highly regarded; the 1939 recording eventually sold a million copies,[7] in time becoming Holiday's biggest-selling recording. Song information for Strange Fruit - Billie Holiday on AllMusic ... Four of a Kind: 200 Classic Songs (From Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong) Hli: Various Artists . The film directed by Lee Daniels, who is responsible for classic entertainment like Precious, The Butler and Fox’s Star, will showcase how the Federal Bureau of Narcotics launched an undercover sting operation against Billie Holiday after her song “Strange Fruit” … Best-known from Billie Holiday's haunting 1939 rendition, the song "Strange Fruit" is a harrowing portrayal of the lynching of a black man in the American South. Billie Holiday recorded her iconic version of Strange Fruit on 20 April 1939. Then the sudden smell of burning flesh, Here is fruit for the crows to pluck General Inquiries: [email protected] [5], "Strange Fruit" originated as a poem written by Jewish-American writer, teacher and songwriter Abel Meeropol, under his pseudonym Lewis Allan, as a protest against lynchings. Billie Holiday first performed “Strange Fruit” in 1939 at Café Society, New York City’s first integrated jazz club, after reportedly being introduced to the song by the club’s founder. Other reports say that Robert Gordon, who was directing Billie Holiday's show at Café Society, heard the song at Madison Square Garden and introduced it to her. Other reports say that Robert Gordon, who was directing Billie Holiday’s show at Cafe Society, heard the song at Madison Square Garden and introduced it to her. "Strange Fruit" is a song recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939, written by Abel Meeropol and published in 1937. Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh [4] It was also included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. 1999, Time magazine called it the song of the century. 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. Holiday approached her recording label, Columbia, about the song, but the company feared reaction by record retailers in the South, as well as negative reaction from affiliates of its co-owned radio network, CBS. Album At Jazz At The Philharmonic (1954) by Billie Holiday. The writers David Margolick and Hilton Als dismissed that claim in their work Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song, writing that hers was "an account that may set a record for most misinformation per column inch". 5750 Wilshire Blvd. Southern trees bear strange fruit Song information for Strange Fruit - Billie Holiday on AllMusic. One version of events claims that Barney Josephson, the founder of Café Society in Greenwich Village, New York's first integrated nightclub, heard the song and introduced it to Billie Holiday. Billie Holiday ‎– Strange Fruit - The Greatest Interpretations Of Billie Holiday Rare o.o.p. But there was no in between. View credits, reviews, tracks and shop for the 1975 RI Vinyl release of Strange Fruit on Discogs. [23] LA Times noted that Siouxsie and the Banshees's version contained "a solemn string section behind the vocals" and "a bridge of New Orleans funeral-march jazz" which enhanced the singer's "evocative interpretation". This will appeal to any lover of Billie Holliday and her music. View credits, reviews, tracks and shop for the 1972 PR Vinyl release of Strange Fruit on Discogs. Even John Hammond, Holiday’s producer, refused. Why is that? [27] Nina Simone recorded the song in 1965,[28] a recording described by journalist David Margolick in the New York Times as featuring a "plain and unsentimental voice". It protests the lynching of Black Americans, with lyrics that compare the victims to the fruit of trees. Serbian rock musician, journalist and writer Dejan Cukić wrote about “Strange Fruit” as among 45 songs that changed the history of popular music in his book 45 obrtaja: Priče o Pesmama. The song was originally written as a poem, by a school teacher in New York City, named Louis Allen. Because of the poignancy of the song, Josephson drew up some rules: Holiday would close with it; the waiters would stop all service in advance; the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday’s face; and there would be no encore. Suite 450, Los Angeles, CA 90036 Strange Fruit: The most shocking song of all time? "Strange Fruit" Striking out on her own, Holiday performed at New York's Café Society. The poem was published in the January 1937 issue of a union publication called The New York Teacher. Holiday first performed the song at Cafe Society in 1939. In October 1939, Samuel Grafton of The New York Post described “Strange Fruit”: “If the anger of the exploited ever mounts high enough in the South, it now has its ‘Marseillaise’.”. In her 1956 autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, Holiday suggested that she, together with Meeropol, her accompanist Sonny White, and arranger Danny Mendelsohn, set the poem to music. Gabler worked out a special arrangement with Vocalion Records to record and distribute the song. Andra Day transforms into “Lady Day” in The United States vs. Billie Holiday, the upcoming Lee Daniels biopic about the iconic Blues singer that will debut on Hulu this February. The two men are the "Strange Fruit." [2] The song has been called "a declaration of war" and "the beginning of the civil rights movement". She said that singing it made her fearful of retaliation but, because its imagery reminded her of her father, she continued to sing the piece, making it a regular part of her live performances. In 2010, the New Statesman listed it as one of the “Top 20 Political Songs”. “Strange Fruit” is a song performed most famously by Billie Holiday, who first sang and recorded it in 1939. "[21] In an attempt to have a two-thirds majority in the Senate that would break the filibusters by the southern senators, anti-racism activists were encouraged to mail copies of "Strange Fruit" to their senators. The song was first written as a poem by Abel Meerpol and was published in 1937. Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees, Pastoral scene of the gallant south About Strange Fruit lyrics. He published the poem under the title “Bitter Fruit” in 1937 in The New York Teacher, a union magazine. [6][7][8] 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. The photo was a shot of two black men hanging from a tree after they had been lynched in Marion, Indiana on August 7, 1930. In her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, Holiday suggested that she, together with Meeropol, her accompanist Sonny White, and arranger Danny Mendelsohn, set the poem to music. It was inspired by a terrible, gruesome picture taken in 1930s of two black men, strung up with rope, hanging from tree branches by their necks, surrounded by white men in fancy clothes. Written by a white, Jewish high school teacher from the Bronx and a member of the Communist Party, Abel Meeropol wrote it as a protest poem, exposing American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans. Here is a strange and bitter crop. Hardy. Holiday recorded two major sessions of the song at Commodore, one in 1939 and one in 1944. In 1939, at the height of the Jim Crow era, a 23-year-old blues singer did the unthinkable. Blood on the leaves and blood at the root Meeropol had seen Lawrence Beitler’s photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana. A good digitization of one of the most important jazz works and its performance from the 20th century. [15] When Holiday's producer John Hammond also refused to record it, she turned to her friend Milt Gabler, owner of the Commodore label. Because Gabler worried the song was too short, he asked pianist Sonny White to improvise an introduction. For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop Billie Holiday helped shape American popular music with her voice and unique style. SUBSCRIBE. The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth [20] Holiday's 1939 version of the song was included in the National Recording Registry on January 27, 2003. [30][31], Billie Holiday's performances and recordings, Review: Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights, "Strange Fruit is still a song for today", "The Strange Story of the Man Behind 'Strange Fruit, "Strange Fruit: Anniversary Of A Lynching". April 1939 ’ s photograph of the 1930 lynching of Black Americans, lyrics... 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