The story of STRANGE FRUIT

Billie Holiday’s 1939 song about racist lynchings stunned audiences and redefined popular music. In an extract from 33 Revolutions Per Minute, his history of protest songs, Dorian Lynskey explores the chilling power of Strange Fruit…

Written by a Jewish communist called Abel Meeropol, Strange Fruit was not by any means the first protest song, but it was the first to shoulder an explicit political message into the arena of entertainment. Unlike the robust workers’ anthems of the union movement, it did not stir the blood; it chilled it. “That is about the ugliest song I have ever heard,” Nina Simone would later marvel. “Ugly in the sense that it is violent and tears at the guts of what white people have done to my people in this country.” For all these reasons, it was something entirely new. Up to this point, protest songs functioned as propaganda, but Strange Fruit proved they could be art.

Been an important song in my life for decades. I threaten to get back to singing some day; but, honestly, that’s not likely. I spent a number of years singing pretty much full time. Years when I was also pretty much full time in the Movement. That was enough to say, back then. I’ll leave it at that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.