Home > Uncategorized > February 4 – Strange Fruit

February 4 – Strange Fruit

Strange Fruit, one of the most well-known anti-racism poems ever set to music, has been performed by countless singers, has inspired novels, and was listed as one of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. The singer most commonly associated with this song is Billie Holiday, who made this song a standard piece in all of her live performances, and whose recorded version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

But credit for this poem/song does not go to Holiday… in fact, credit does not even go to a Black author. Do you know who wrote Strange Fruit?

“Strange Fruit” was, in fact, originally written by a Jewish school teacher from the Bronx named Abel Meeropol. Meeropol, who wrote under the pen name Lewis Allan (in memory of his two stillborn children) also wrote a number of other poems and songs, including Frank Sinatra’s “The House I Live In” and Peggy Lee’s “Apples, Peaches and Cherries.”

In 1936, after seeing Lawrence Beitler’s horrifying photos of the 1930 lynchings of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Indiana, Meeropol penned “Strange Fruit” in condemnation of the lynchings of African-Americans across America, particularly in the South. Soon after, he personally set the poem to music, and it took on life as a powerful protest song.

Only 12 lines long, the poem is both raw in its imagery and unflinching in its purpose. Sung by the likes of Billie Holiday or Nina Simone,  Strange Fruit is downright haunting.

Note: this video contains disturbing images.

thanks for reading,

francis

Strange Fruit
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

– Abel Meeropol

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