Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"STRANGE FRUIT" - The Poem - The Song - The History

~STRANGE FRUIT~
THE POEM and THE SONG
have a curious and controversial history.
Here is a part of it.
************************************
"Strange Fruit" was written by 
Abel Meeropol under the pen name
Lewis Allan.
He was born in the Bronx (NYC) in 1903.
Meeropol was an English teacher at 
DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx
and was also a poet, songwriter, 
and social activist. 
AFTER
Meeropol saw this photo of a lynching
in an American Southern State, he
became haunted by it for years.
He also had a growing concern about 
racial discrimination and the lack
of progress being made for 
minority people. This concern led
to Meeropol's writing his 
poem in 1937.
********************************
The poem was shortly followed by
Meefopol setting it to music.
He took the finished product to a
friend, a manager of a New York City
night club. The friend passed it
on to Billie Holiday who recorded
"STRANGE FRUIT"
in 1939.
However, her record label refused
to publish the song saying it was
'too controversial and inflammatory'.
This did not stop 'Lady Day', however.
She too had become obsessed with 
Mary Turner's story and other 
like stories.
"STRANGE FRUIT" 
was published on a secondary label
and an original "classic" was
born.
"STRANGE FRUIT"
has become a national
"ANTI-HATE ANTHEM"!
It was named Song of the Century
by TIME MAGAZINE in 1999,
and has been inducted into the
Music Hall of Fame.
Billie Holiday once confided that 
whenever she performed this 
song, immediately after it's finish 
she had to find a restroom 
to throw up, because the
lyrics are so emotionally powerful.
It must be noted that although there
were lynchings in other parts of
the country, they were commonplace
in the deep Bible Belt South for a
number of years. Mostly,
law enforcement looked the other
way when they happened. The
South was saturated predominately
in Calvinist Christianity that 
taught "Black People Didn't Have
Souls". 
"Black People were Sub-Human."
Killing Black People was 
NOT SINFUL.
********************************
Today we like to think we've come a
long way since the era discussed here.
But if we pause for a moment...look
around...it is reasonable to 
question just how far we 
have progressed, isn't it?
*******************************
We believe Billie Holiday's
"STRANGE FRUIT" 
is as relevant today as it was
in 1939. 
Here is the original recording,
recently remastered in HD.
(You may want to read the lyrics in the  
poem above as Billie Holiday sings.)
*******************************
~Contributed by
John Phillips, California

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