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Old 06-02-2007, 02:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Boston
Posts: 52
Default Strange Fruit Turns 70

America's Greatest Protest Song Turns 70 Years Old

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies 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 magnolias, 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.


When you listen to Billie Holiday sing “Strange Fruit” it’s difficult not to feel an icy shudder slip down your spine. Her haunting voice backed by the lonely wail of a trumpet cuts right to the bone. There’s no avoiding “Strange Fruit.” The song refuses to be shoved to the background. It pushes, elbows, and kicks its way to the forefront.

“Strange Fruit” refuses to be ignored. The song, written in 1937, vividly captures a lynching. The “strange fruit” of the song are the hanging corpses of black men dangling from the branches of a tree. The lyrics are so bold – so direct, that they’re like a swift kick to the teeth.

Holiday, who died in 1957 and may be the best female jazz singer in history, used to end her sets at the New York jazz club, Café Society, with the song. She’s perch on the stage with a lone spotlight washing over her as she sang “Strange Fruit” with her eyes closed.

You can read the whole essay here: Strange Fruit
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