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Strange Fruit


Related threads:
(origins) Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article (39)
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GUEST,albert 19 Aug 07 - 07:59 AM
Azizi 19 Aug 07 - 08:58 AM
Azizi 19 Aug 07 - 09:04 AM
Flash Company 19 Aug 07 - 10:10 AM
GUEST,albert 19 Aug 07 - 10:21 AM
katlaughing 19 Aug 07 - 10:30 AM
Stilly River Sage 19 Aug 07 - 11:46 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Aug 07 - 12:04 PM
Jeremiah McCaw 19 Aug 07 - 12:35 PM
Azizi 19 Aug 07 - 12:39 PM
fat B****rd 19 Aug 07 - 03:10 PM
katlaughing 19 Aug 07 - 03:11 PM
Leadbelly 19 Aug 07 - 03:52 PM
GUEST,albert 19 Aug 07 - 04:36 PM
Bill Hahn//\\ 19 Aug 07 - 04:41 PM
GUEST,albert 19 Aug 07 - 04:43 PM
M.Ted 20 Aug 07 - 05:58 PM
katlaughing 21 Aug 07 - 12:02 AM
Brian Hoskin 21 Aug 07 - 06:25 AM
M.Ted 21 Aug 07 - 12:59 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 Aug 07 - 01:45 PM
GUEST,albert 21 Aug 07 - 04:16 PM
GUEST,Jim 21 Aug 07 - 04:59 PM
M.Ted 21 Aug 07 - 07:40 PM
M.Ted 22 Aug 07 - 12:04 AM
Songster Bob 22 Aug 07 - 12:38 AM
Stilly River Sage 22 Aug 07 - 02:28 AM
M.Ted 22 Aug 07 - 12:45 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 22 Aug 07 - 01:07 PM
beardedbruce 22 Aug 07 - 01:16 PM
beardedbruce 22 Aug 07 - 01:34 PM
M.Ted 22 Aug 07 - 03:21 PM
Bill Hahn//\\ 22 Aug 07 - 04:26 PM
kendall 07 Jun 08 - 07:56 AM
Felipa 02 Jan 17 - 05:00 PM
Felipa 02 Jan 17 - 05:08 PM
Thompson 03 Jan 17 - 03:10 AM
Felipa 03 Jan 17 - 07:14 AM
mkebenn 03 Jan 17 - 10:02 AM
Big Al Whittle 04 Jan 17 - 07:16 AM
GUEST,The Sandman 15 Jan 21 - 10:03 AM
Stilly River Sage 15 Jan 21 - 11:55 AM
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Subject: Strange Fruit
From: GUEST,albert
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 07:59 AM

Yestersday's Guardian newspaper carried a most interesting article about the BillieHolliday song "Strange Fruit".
The song was written by a New York teacher and communist Abel Meeropolin the 1930s and was first published in a trade union magazine called the New York Teacher. He published it under the pseudonym "Lewis Allan " because he was concerned about anti semitism.
Abel wrote the song after seeing a photograph of two black teenagers hanging from a tree in Marion,Indiana.

Thousands of black people had been lynched in the late 18th and up to 1940s and the song brought this home to many white people the as they listened to the song which Billie Holliday made her "own".

The article which explored the dark history of the song was written by the black British playwrite Caryl Phillips.

Who else has recorded it?

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 08:58 AM

hello, GUEST,albert.

See this excerpt from

"Strange Fruit" began as a poem about the lynching of two black men written by a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx Abel Meeropol, who used the pen name Lewis Allan (the names of his two children, who died in infancy). Meeropol and his wife were also the adoptive parents of the children of the executed spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in the 1950s. "Strange Fruit" was written as a poem expressing his horror at the lynchings, and was first published in 1937 in The New York Teacher, a union magazine. Though Meeropol/Allan often asked others (notably Earl Robinson) to set his poems to music he set Strange Fruit to music himself and the song gained a certain success as a protest song in and around New York. Before Holiday was introduced to the song, it had been performed by Meeropol, by his wife, and by black vocalist Laura Duncan, who performed it at Madison Square Garden.

Meeropol said later that he had been inspired by seeing Lawrence Beitler's photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana. "Strange Fruit" was eventually heard by Barney Josephson the founder of Cafe Society, New York's first integrated nightclub, who introduced it to Billie Holiday. Holiday performed the song at Cafe Society in 1939, a move that by her own admission left her fearful of retaliation. Holiday later said that the imagery in "Strange Fruit" reminded her of her father's death, and that this played a role in her persistence in performing it. The song became a regular part of Holiday's live performances.

Holiday approached her recording label, Columbia, about recording the song, but her producer John Hammond—the man credited with originally discovering her—did not support her choice, and Columbia refused to record the song. Holiday arranged to record it with Commodore, Milt Gabler's alternative jazz label in 1939. She would record two major sessions at Commodore, one in 1939 and one in 1944. "Strange Fruit" was highly regarded and in time became Holiday's biggest selling record. Though it became a staple of her live performances at the time, Holiday's accompanist, Bobby Tucker, later commented that Holiday would break down after every performance of it.

In her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues, Billie Holiday suggests that she, together with Lewis Allan, her accompanist Sonny White and arranger Danny Mendelsohn put the poem to music, though the claim is dismissed by David Margolick and Hilton Als in 'Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song as "an account that may set a record for most misinformation per column inch". When challenged, Holiday - whose autobiography had been ghost-written by William Dufty - claimed "I ain't never read that book."

The club owner immediately recognized the impact of the song on his audience and insisted that Holiday close all her shows with it. Just as the song was about to begin, waiters would stop serving, the lights in club would be turned off, and a single pin spotlight would illuminate Holiday on stage. During the musical introduction, Holiday would stand with her eyes closed, as if she were evoking a prayer.

The song was ultimately to become the anthem of the anti-lynching movement. The dark imagery of the lyrics struck a chord, and can be said to have planted one of the first seeds of what would later become the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s.

The song became an instant success and came to be the piece most identified with Holiday, though it has been performed by countless others including Josh White, Sting, Robert Wyatt, UB40, Tori Amos, Pete Seeger, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Cassandra Wilson, Nina Simone (on Pastel Blues), Lester Bowie, Antony and the Johnsons, Jeff Buckley, Cocteau Twins, Sounds of Blackness, This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, John Martyn, The Twilight Singers, Karate, and Tcheky Karyo (in Ce lien qui nous unit) and remixed by Tricky. 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 2002, it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry"...

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 09:04 AM

Here's the YouTube video of:

Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit

Added: November 25, 2006
From: MonsieurBaudelaire
"Rare Live Footage of one of the firts anti rascism songs ever"

As of this time today, this video has 534 comments.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Flash Company
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 10:10 AM

Josh White also sang this one.


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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: GUEST,albert
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 10:21 AM

Thank you Azizi and Flash Company .I had no idea that the song had been recorded by so many singers !

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 10:30 AM

If you put "fruit"in the thread title search box and hit "go," you will find several threads on this song. In particular, this one in which Masato posted about its origins and also there are a couple of other links in it.

There's also an article from The Guardian, from 2001, posted by Joe Offer in this thread. (I didn't compare them to see if the Guardian is recycling.:-)

all the best,


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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 11:46 AM

Great writeup, Azizi. And that's a stunning performance.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 12:04 PM

Several previous threads (see Katlaughing, above) cover this song's history, but it bears repeating.

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Subject: Lyr Add: STRANGE FRUIT (Lewis Allen)
From: Jeremiah McCaw
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 12:35 PM

Curiosity sent me to Google to find the lyrics. Good Lord, I cannot imagine such a song being performed in a night club. I'm on a slow dial-up connection, but I'll watch that 'youtube' as soon as I visit a higher speed source.

Strange Fruit - Lewis allen

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.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 12:39 PM

Stilly River Sage, yes I agree with both of your comments.

Whoever wrote that wikipedia article did a great job with that write-up*, and Billie Holiday's singing of Strange Fruit is a stunning performance.

*Neither the writer nor the singer was me, so I have no problem praising both for using their skill and their talents so well.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: fat B****rd
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 03:10 PM

Robert Wyatt's version actually gave me goose bumps.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 03:11 PM

Jeremiah, no need for google when you are here, at least not for this song. It is in the DT aka the Digital Tradition.:-)

all the best,


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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Leadbelly
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 03:52 PM

To Albert:

Cannot understand, why Abel changed his name into Lewis. What's the difference concerning anti semitism??? Both names are jewish.


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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: GUEST,albert
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 04:36 PM

According to the Guardian article A

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 04:41 PM

According to legend Billie Holiday was furios that Josh White did the song. She also did nothing to discourage her hinting at her involvement in its composition.

A few years back I had the pleasure of interviewing David Margolick about the book for my TRADITIONS program---fascinating person and interviewee. He has a later book about the Louis/Schmelling fight and its impact on the era.

As to why Meerapol used a pen name of Lewis one can make certain assumptions. Perhaps, since he was a teacher in the NYC system, he did not want to mix the two careers. Many writers use pen names as actors use stage names that are easier to remember. Don't forget Meerapol wrote other things---not the least of which is THE HOUSE I LIVE IN. He co-wrote that with Earl Robinson.

Bill Hahn

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: GUEST,albert
Date: 19 Aug 07 - 04:43 PM

Sorry about the above

According to the Guardian article article Abel took the pseudonym Lewis Allan after his two sons who who were both stillborn.

As a communist teacher in New York in the 1930s Abel would have been vulnerable to be sacked and as a Jewish person he would have been vulnerable to attack from right wing racists.

The Palmer Raids of the 1920 s had meant a witch hunt of communists and leftwingers and I think Abel would have felt exposed as the fame of the song spread beyond trade union and progressive circles.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: M.Ted
Date: 20 Aug 07 - 05:58 PM

The lynching that "inspired" Allan/Meerapol took place in Indiana, the Midwest, not the South, yet he relocated it in order to juxtapose the symbols of Southern aristocracy with images death.

There is a certain disengenuity here, because, if you look at the famous picture of the Marion lynching, you will observe that the mob consists mostly the sort of Midwestern farmer/factory worker-type "proletarians" (who the Communists liked to champion as the salt of the earth), rather than unreconstructed Confederate Aristocrats--

It seems more like a veiled political tract that tows the party line about racism, rather than a plea for justice or a rallying cry for freedom--

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: katlaughing
Date: 21 Aug 07 - 12:02 AM

Lewis is a Welsh surname and, while it's probably not the case here, folks often named their children after their mother's maiden surname or grandparents, etc., so it's not entirely a "Jewish" name.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 21 Aug 07 - 06:25 AM

Here's the Guardian article in question:

Blood at the root
So horrific are the images conjured up by 'Strange Fruit' that Billie Holiday always performed it with her eyes closed. Caryl Phillips, who used the title for his first play, traces the song's dark history

Caryl Phillips
Saturday August 18, 2007


In late 1979, I finished writing my first stage play, but long before I put the final full stop in place, I had decided that I was going to call it Strange Fruit. The drama concerns the relationship between a single mother and her two rebellious sons, both of whom are in danger of "going off the rails". The mother is understandably worried, and she begins to question the nature of her relationship with her children. I took the title of the play from the Billie Holiday song of the same name, but at the time I knew very little about the full history of "Strange Fruit". I understood that the name of the song made reference to racially motivated American violence, but "Strange Fruit" also seemed to me to be evocative of the puzzling situation that many parents unwittingly find themselves in with their children and, this being the case, it seemed to me to be an apt title.
The play premiered at the Sheffield Crucible Studio Theatre in October 1980, and a year or so later it was produced in London. I don't remember doing any press interviews, so no journalist ever asked me what I intended by the name of the play. Perhaps more surprisingly, neither the director nor any of the actors ever questioned me about the significance of the title. Accordingly, I just assumed that everybody understood that the play's title made reference to the dilemma of intergenerational communication, and, this being the case, I was perfectly content.

Two years later, in early 1983, I was in Alabama, being driven the 130 miles from Birmingham to Tuskegee by the father of one of the four girls who had been killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of 1963. Chris McNair is a gregarious and charismatic man who, at the time, was running for political office; he was scheduled to make a speech at the famous all-black college, Tuskegee Institute. That morning, as he was driving through the Alabama countryside, he took the opportunity to quiz me about my life and nascent career as a writer. He asked me if I had published any books yet, and I said no. But I quickly corrected myself and sheepishly admitted that my first play had just been published. When I told him the title he turned and stared at me, then he looked back to the road. "So what do you know about lynching?" I swallowed deeply and looked through the car windshield as the southern trees flashed by. I knew full well that "Strange Fruit" meant something very different in the US; in fact, something disturbingly specific in the south, particularly to African Americans. A pleasant, free-flowing conversation with my host now appeared to be shipwrecked on the rocks of cultural appropriation.

I had always assumed that Billie Holiday composed the music and lyrics to "Strange Fruit". She did not. The song began life as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a schoolteacher who was living in the Bronx and teaching English at the De Witt Clinton High School, where his students would have included the Academy award-winning screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, the playwright Neil Simon, and the novelist and essayist James Baldwin. Meeropol was a trade union activist and a closet member of the Communist Party; his poem was first published in January 1937 as "Bitter Fruit", in a union magazine called the New York School Teacher. In common with many Jewish people in the US during this period, Meeropol was worried (with reason) about anti-semitism and chose to publish his poem under the pseudonym "Lewis Allan", the first names of his two stillborn children.

Meeropol was motivated to write the poem after seeing a photograph of two black teenagers, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, who had been lynched in Marion, Indiana on August 7 1930. Their bodies were hanging limply from a tree. The image greatly disturbed him, and his poem opens with the following lines:

Southern trees bear a 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.

Hoping to reach a wider audience, Meeropol set his poem to music, and the song "Strange Fruit" was first performed at a New York City Teachers Union meeting. It created an immediate stir. Meeropol sang it himself, but as "Strange Fruit" grew in popularity, his wife began to perform the song.

According to figures kept by Alabama's Tuskegee Institute, between 1889 and 1940, 3,833 people were lynched in the US - the overwhelming majority of the victims being in the southern states, and black. The brutality of this mob "justice" invariably went unpunished, and when Meeropol was asked, in 1971, why he wrote the song, he replied: "Because I hate lynching and I hate injustice and I hate the people who perpetuate it." Those who heard "Strange Fruit" in the late 30s were shocked, for the true barbarity of southern violence was generally only discussed in black newspapers. To be introduced to such realities by a song was unprecedented, and was considered by many, including leftwing supporters of Meeropol, to be in poor taste.

At this time, 24-year-old Billie Holiday was headlining at a recently opened Greenwich Village nightclub called Cafe Society. It was the only integrated nightclub in New York City, and a place that advertised itself as "the wrong place for the Right people". The manager of the club, Barney Josephson, introduced Billie Holiday to Meeropol and his new song, which had an immediate impact on her. She decided to sing it at Cafe Society, where it was received with perfect, haunting silence. Soon she was closing her shows with the song. It was understood that only when the waiters had stopped serving, and the lights dimmed to a single spotlight, would she begin singing, with her eyes closed. Once she had finished, she would walk off stage and never return to take a bow.

The song was revolutionary - not only because of the explicit nature of the lyrics, but because it effectively reversed the black singer's relationship with a white audience. Traditionally, singers such as Billie Holiday were expected to entertain and to "serve" their audiences. With this song, however, Holiday found a means by which she could demand that the audience stop and listen to her, and she was able to force them to take on board something with which they were not comfortable. She often used the song as a hammer with which to beat what she perceived to be ignorant audiences, and her insistence on singing the song with such gravitas meant that she was not always safe while performing "Strange Fruit". Some members of her audience did not fully appreciate her treating them to this particular song when they had stepped out for the evening to hear "Fine and Mellow" and other cocktail-lounge ditties.

Holiday was keen to record "Strange Fruit" on her label, Columbia, but her producer, John Hammond, was concerned that the song was too political and he refused to allow her to go into the studio with it. But the singer would not back down. In April 1939, she recorded "Strange Fruit" for a specialty label, Commodore Records. It became a bestseller and was thereafter forever associated with her.

When Josephson introduced her to Meeropol and his song, Holiday knew that she could sing this song like nobody else could, or would, ever sing it. She glimpsed truth in the song and that was enough. She, perhaps more than most artists, understood that if you live the truth, then you will pay a price, but without the truth there is no art. Whenever she performed the song, she could see the two teenagers, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, hanging from the tree - which is, of course, why she closed her eyes whenever she sang it.

Five years later, a southern writer published a novel called Strange Fruit. Lillian Smith was born in 1897 in Florida, the eighth of 10 children. Hers was a relatively comfortable, white, middle-class background, and her childhood was divided between Florida and a summerhouse in the mountains of Georgia, where her father ran a camp for girls called Laurel Falls. As a young woman, Smith travelled to Baltimore to study music, and she then spent a few years teaching in China. In 1925, she returned to the US and became principal of the Laurel Falls Camp, placing a great emphasis on the arts in the curriculum, and on music and drama in particular. In 1936, having grown increasingly aware of southern injustice and oppression, Smith founded a literary magazine, Pseudopodia, which the following year changed its name to the North Georgia Review, and in 1942 became South Today. Smith published writing by blacks and whites that agitated for social change in the south, and her politically progressive magazine quickly gained notoriety.

In 1944, she published Strange Fruit, which told the story of an interracial relationship in the south before the first world war. The narrative charts the mounting violence that eventually overtakes the relationship, and it thematically examines the same issues that inform Meeropol's lyrics. Despite being banned by many book stores, the novel was the nation's bestselling title in 1944 and sold over 1m copies. It was adapted for the Broadway stage, and by the time of Smith's death in 1966, it had sold 3m copies.

In the year of her death, while being honoured by the all-black Fisk University in Tennessee, Smith succinctly identified the enemy against which she had worked as both a teacher and a southern writer. "Segregation is evil," she declared. "There is no pattern of life which can dehumanise men as can the way of segregation." And segregation's natural corollary is, of course, violence.

On that hot southern morning, as Chris McNair drove us through the Alabama countryside, I knew little about the background to the Billie Holiday song, and I had never heard of Lillian Smith. After a few minutes of silence, McNair began to talk to me about the history of violence against African-American people in the southern states, particularly during the era of segregation. This was a painful conversation for a man who had lost his daughter to a Ku Klux Klan bomb. I had, by then, confessed to him that my play had nothing to do with the US, with African Americans, with racial violence, or even with Billie Holiday. And, being a generous man, he had nodded patiently, and then addressed himself to my education on these matters. However, I did have some knowledge of the realities of the south - not only from my reading, but from an incident a week earlier. While I was staying at a hotel in Atlanta, a young waiter had warned me against venturing out after dark because the Klan would be rallying on Stone Mountain that evening, and after their gathering they often came downtown for some "fun". However, as the Alabama countryside continued to flash by, I understood that this was not the time to do anything other than listen to McNair.

That afternoon, in a packed hall in Tuskegee Institute, McNair began what sounded to me like a typical campaign speech. He was preaching to the converted, and a light shower of applause began to punctuate his words as he hit his oratorical stride. But then he stopped abruptly, and he announced that today, for the first time, he was going to talk about his daughter. "I don't know why, because I've never done this before. But Denise is on my mind." He studiously avoided making eye contact with me, but, seated in the front row, I felt uneasily guilty. A hush fell over the audience. "You all know who my daughter is. Denise McNair. Today she would have been 31 years old." Indeed, strange fruit.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Aug 07 - 12:59 PM

My point is underscored in this article--the author is completely focussed "southern violence" "southern opression and injustice", and is completely unaware that the incident in question took place in Indiana, which fought with, and sided squarely with the Union--

My point is not a small one--legal segregation was implemented in Indiana after the Civil War, as it was in many Northern States. Urban ghettos, which were and are a feature of every major, industrial, "Northern" city, were created and sustained by a web of laws, customs, and undiscussed practices that we like to overlook.

"We", meaning Northern Liberals, Intellectuals, Democrats, artists, folksingers, and other high minded and righteously indignant types, have always blamed the South for the institutions of racism, even though we modernized them and updated them, and added some brutal and oppressive touches of our own.

For African Americans, "Strange Fruit" is emblematic of their experience of the brutality of racism, but for the rest, it is a handy way to point the finger at an evil Southern other, and avoid accountability for the very real and non-Southern racism that we live with and accept.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 Aug 07 - 01:45 PM

As MTed clearly states, racism was strong outside the southern states. In the time period between the two world wars in the general Rocky Mountain area, and into western Canada, KKK membership was large.
Many business men were card-carrying members of the KKK, as it was constituted at that time; the cards show up in business and personal archives that have been donated to repositories.

I have a book with a photograph of a meeting held by the KKK in Calgary, Canada, in the largest hall available at the time, at which some 1000 people, including prominent business leaders and politicians, were in attendance. It was just one of a number of well-attended KKK meetings held in the prairie provinces of Canada.
The very low numbers of African-Americans in the Rocky Mountain area before WW2 has been attributed to the their inability to find any employment in the area. Denver had a black ghetto, but Santa Fe, capital of New Mexico, had one family, by rumor, which was never seen.   

Not really 'northern,' but perhaps the worst racial incident of the 1920s took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the area of Black settlement and business was burnt out and many people were killed.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: GUEST,albert
Date: 21 Aug 07 - 04:16 PM

Reply to M Ted
The song had a massive impact because it resonated with the black experience of lynching in America.Over 3000 black people were publicly murdered this way in a 70 year period.
As for perception that the communists have a starry eyed view of the working class I dont think that holds up to scrutiny in the light of day.Its the soert of taunt that the mainstream media used to throw to bait the reds...and occasionally still do.
First of all the left has always been aware that racism is an ugly divide to the potential of working class unity , both internationallay and within national borders. Marx did all he could to warn British workers about the oppression of Irish workers and supported the North in its fight against the slave staes in the American Civil War.
Secondly ,marxists are well aware that inside the working class are all kinds of beliefs some of which are progressive and some of which are reactionary or racist. Which ones gain the upper hand in any given period are determined by a host of factors including the balance of class forces and the victories and defeats suffered or gained .
Secondly the organised communist or revolutionary socialist parties see it as their job to oppose the racists whether they are wearing white hoods and hanging people from trees or taking part in elections like the BNP in Britain.
Abel did his job well on that song ,not because he followed a party line, but because its powerful emotional intensity spoke the truth to people of all colours...and this obviously put him at some risk .

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 21 Aug 07 - 04:59 PM

My brother and I used to hitch-hike to Buffalo or Toronto from Hamilton in the sixties to see jazz performers. I saw Nina Simone perform Strange Fruit in a Buffalo show and always loved her version. I have recordings of Bilie Holiday and Josh White doing this song as well and they both do a great job. I can't imagine why Billie would resent anyone else doing that song.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Aug 07 - 07:40 PM

Here's a link--Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riot of 1921. After the Civil War, a lot of African Americans headed West, and, though it isn't much discussed, a fair percentage of the workers we like to call "cowboys" were freed slaves. Some say as many as a third. There many of them became farmers and ranchers, as well.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 Aug 07 - 12:04 AM

Guest, Albert: I am uncomfortable with the song because, rather than honestly depicting the event that inspired it, the writer pushed buttons that he knew would evoke the response he wanted. It's a "Fox News" story, that strives for shock value, at the expense of honesty and accuracy--

And, lest you be confused, I didn't and don't think that Communist organizers were starry eyed--I said that Allan deliberately avoided talking about the fact that the lynchings were perpetrated by workers--in the same way, I suspect, that Marx may have avoided telling British workers that the very Irish laborers who he championed, when he advised support of the North, rioted against the Civil War draft, and murdered and lynched a hundred or more African Americans--

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Songster Bob
Date: 22 Aug 07 - 12:38 AM

M Ted may not know it, but Southern culture stops at US 40, which transverses Indiana. Southern Indiana is the South, and the northern part of the state was not, at the time, all that much different.

If the Southat that time didn't condone lynching, the Indiana lynchers wouldn't have been so likely to lynch. Might have done so, yes, but it's less likely.


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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 22 Aug 07 - 02:28 AM

A lot of these events are hidden from local history today all over the country. Waco, Texas, had a high profile lynching in 1916 that allowed the NAACP and W.E.B. Dubois to begin a movement to effectively agitate against this kind of behavior throughout the nation. Link to book by Patricia Bernstein.

This behavior was well known at the time but is not included in local history books. Some would argue that Texas is Western, not Southern. Steinbeck wrote about lynchings in the Salinas Valley in California, a decidedly western state.

I'm sure they were everywhere. But that doesn't make the song any less powerful or authentic. The brazenness of most Southern law enforcement, conspicuous in it's move to do nothing, was renowned. Perhaps no more indictable than other places around the U.S., but more common knowledge.


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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 Aug 07 - 12:45 PM

Songster Bob--If you feel that proximity to the South created the mindset that allowed the lynchings, tell me what you think about this incident, Duluth Lynching Homepage , which took place more than a decade before. Also check this, Omaha Courthouse Lynching which was witnessed by a young Henry Fonda--

By the time the Marion lynchings took place, lynchings, particularly Southern lynchings, had become a lot less common. Race riots, (or, more accurately, massive mob assaults on urban black communities) had become much more common, and they were a much more of a Northern phennomenon--they were worse than lynchings, insofar as that they involved not only murder and torture(and on a larger scale), they also involved massive destruction of homes and property.

The rioters were mostly laborers, often immigrants--the kind of folks we like to mythologize rather than revile.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 22 Aug 07 - 01:07 PM

I do recall Josh White's version, as mentioned above. I may still have an old LP of his that includes the song. Others have followed suit, but White's version was as notable, in its time, as any other, if a little less professionally produced and slick than Billie Holliday's. White, who performed live for President and Mrs. Roosevelt and was a favorite of theirs, came as close to claiming the song as his own as anyone else.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: beardedbruce
Date: 22 Aug 07 - 01:16 PM

According to the Tuskegee Institute figures, between the years 1882 and 1951, 4,730 people were lynched in the United States: 3,437 Negro and 1,293 white.3 The largest number of lynchings occurred in 1892. Of the 230 persons lynched that year, 161 were Negroes and sixty-nine whites.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: beardedbruce
Date: 22 Aug 07 - 01:34 PM

No breakdown by North and South, or by region.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 Aug 07 - 03:21 PM

Here are the statistics onLynchings by State from Tuskegee--they don't include the New York Draft Riot lynchings, because the archive's statistics begin in 1882, and the numbers are regarded as conservative--

The statistics are attached to a website concerning Trial of Joseph Shipp which should interest you, BB, because it marks the beginning of the move toward Federalism which has defined our Gov't for the last century. It should be required reading for everyone else, too--like all the links on this page--we'll have a quiz on Friday;-)

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 22 Aug 07 - 04:26 PM

I have always liked the Josh White version best of all---and still have the 10"LP on which it resides.

Bill Hahn

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: kendall
Date: 07 Jun 08 - 07:56 AM

When I was in college we had a book titled "Strange Fruit". It was required reading.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Felipa
Date: 02 Jan 17 - 05:00 PM

Sky news 2 Jan.

Former X Factor runner-up Rebecca Ferguson says she has been asked to perform at Donald Trump's inauguration ceremony.

The star said she would "graciously accept" the invitation to take part in the 20 January event in Washington DC if she can sing Strange Fruit.

Strange Fruit is a song that protests against racism, particularly the lynching of African-Americans in the early 20th century.

It was recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939 but had previously been written as a poem by teacher Abel Meeropol.

The track has "huge historical importance" and used to be "blacklisted in the United States for being too controversial", according to Ferguson.

In a Twitter post, she said the song "speaks to all the disregarded and down trodden black people in the US" and is "a reminder of how love is the only thing that will conquer all the hatred in this world".

The 2010 X Factor runner-up released an album covering Billie Holiday songs in 2015, although Strange Fruit does not feature as one of the tracks.

It is not known who will perform at the President-elect's swearing-in ceremony in the US capital later this month.

But reports in America suggest a number of high-profile musicians have turned down invitations, including Celine Dion and opera star Andrea Bocelli.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Felipa
Date: 02 Jan 17 - 05:08 PM

though maybe it wouldnt be so suitable to sing lyrics which singles out one part of the country, the south

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Thompson
Date: 03 Jan 17 - 03:10 AM

Those imagining a conspiracy to demonise the American South might like to remember that this wasn't written as a massively powerful song; it was a poem in a school magazine.
The most fascinating, and heartwarming, thing for me in the story is the fact that its writer and his wife took in the orphaned children of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and gave them a happy, secure, loving childhood.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Felipa
Date: 03 Jan 17 - 07:14 AM

Thompson, I was commenting on the suggestion of singing Strange Fruit at the Trump inauguration, obviously meant to be a protest or at least a warning. I could have been clearer that I was replying to the article quoted in my previous comment.

The Rosenberg children, adopted surname Meeropol, run a foundation which gives grants to children of activists when their parents are imprisoned or have lost jobs due to their political activity. And last month they presented a petition at the White House asking for exoneration of their mother Ethel Rosenberg whom they (and many other people) say was wrongly condemned for alleged spying.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: mkebenn
Date: 03 Jan 17 - 10:02 AM

I,d love this, But Kelly Ann would never let him do it. He might, though, he does like headlines. Mike

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 04 Jan 17 - 07:16 AM

does anyone else remember the EL Doctorrow book about the Rosenberg kids. Called The Book of Daniel?

Its about 30 years since I read it, but i found it ver moving at the time.

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Subject: Strange Fruit
From: GUEST,The Sandman
Date: 15 Jan 21 - 10:03 AM

some information about the guy who wrote the song
Music News
The Strange Story Of The Man Behind 'Strange Fruit'

September 5, 20123:24 AM ET
Heard on Morning Edition
Elizabeth Blair 2018 square

One of Billie Holiday's most iconic songs is "Strange Fruit," a haunting protest against the inhumanity of racism. Many people know that the man who wrote the song was inspired by a photograph of a lynching. But they might not realize that he's also tied to another watershed moment in America's history.

The man behind "Strange Fruit" is New York City's Abel Meeropol, and he really has two stories. They both begin at Dewitt Clinton High School, a public high school in the Bronx that has an astonishing number of famous people in its alumni. James Baldwin went there. So did Countee Cullen, Richard Rodgers, Burt Lancaster, Stan Lee, Neil Simon, Richard Avedon and Ralph Lauren.

Meeropol graduated from Dewitt Clinton in 1921; he went on to teach English there for 17 years. He was also a poet and a social activist, says Gerard Pelisson, who wrote a book about the school.

In the late 1930s, Pellison says, Meeropol "was very disturbed at the continuation of racism in America, and seeing a photograph of a lynching sort of put him over the edge."

Meeropol once said the photograph "haunted" him "for days." So he wrote a poem about it, which was then printed in a teachers union publication. An amateur composer, Meeropol also set his words to music. He played it for a New York club owner — who ultimately gave it to Billie Holiday.

When Holiday decided to sing "Strange Fruit," the song reached millions of people. While the lyrics never mention lynching, the metaphor is painfully clear:

Southern trees bear a 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,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

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

In 1999, Time magazine named "Strange Fruit" the "song of the century." The Library of Congress put it in the National Recording Registry. It's been recorded dozens of times. Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller did an instrumental version, with Miller evoking the poem on his mournful bass clarinet.

Miller says he was surprised to learn the song was written by a white Jewish guy from the Bronx. "Strange Fruit," he says, took extraordinary courage both for Meeropol to write and for Holiday to sing.

"The '60s hadn't happened yet," he says. "Things like that weren't talked about. They certainly weren't sung about."

New York lawmakers didn't like "Strange Fruit." In 1940, Meeropol was called to testify before a committee investigating communism in public schools. They wanted to know whether the American Communist Party had paid him to write the song. They had not — but, like many New York teachers in his day, Meeropol was a Communist.

Journalist David Margolick, who wrote Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song, says, "There are a million reasons to disparage communism now. But American Communism, one point it had in its favor was that it was concerned about civil rights very early."

Meeropol left his teaching job at Dewitt Clinton in 1945. He eventually quit the Communist Party.

And that's where the second part of Meeropol's story begins. The link is the pseudonym he used when writing poetry and music: Lewis Allan.

"Abel Meeropol's pen name 'Lewis Allan' were the names of their children who were stillborn, who never lived," says his son, Robert Meeropol. He and his older brother, Michael, were raised by Abel and his wife, Anne Meeropol, after the boys' parents — Ethel and Julius Rosenberg — were executed for espionage in 1953.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death for conspiring to give atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. The Rosenbergs had also been Communists.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are taken to prison after being found guilty of nuclear espionage. They were subsequently executed.
Keystone/Getty Images

The couple's trial and execution made national headlines, and there was also something of a salacious element, given that the Rosenbergs were a married couple. News accounts described it as "the first husband and wife to die in the electric chair."

At the time, the Rosenberg sons, Robert and Michael, were 6 and 10, respectively. News photographs of the boys show them dressed in suits visiting their parents in prison.

"They're these little boys and they're wearing these caps, and they look so young and so vulnerable. It's really a very poignant image," says Margolick.

Robert Meeropol says that in the months following his parents' execution, it was unclear who would take care of him and his brother. It was the height of McCarthyism. Even family members were fearful of being in any way associated with the Rosenbergs or Communism.

Then, at a Christmas party at the home of W.E.B. Du Bois, the boys were introduced to Abel and Anne Meeropol. A few weeks later, they were living with them.

"One of the most remarkable things was how quickly we adapted," Robert says. "First of all, Abel, what I remember about him as a 6-year-old was that he was a real jokester. He liked to tell silly jokes and play word games, and he would put on these comedy shows that would leave me rolling."

There is something else about Abel Meeropol that seems to connect the man who wrote "Strange Fruit" to the man who created a loving family out of a national scandal. "He was incredibly softhearted," Robert says.

Anne Meeropol plays a song on guitar for her sons, Robert and Michael.
Courtesy of Robert and Michael Meeropol

For example, there was an old Japanese maple tree in their backyard, which sent out many new seedlings every year.

"I was the official lawnmower," Robert says, "and I was going to mow over them, and he said, 'Oh, no, you can't kill the seedlings!' I said, 'What are you going to do with them, Dad? There are dozens of them.'

"Well, he dug them up and put them in coffee cans and lined them up along the side of the house. And there were hundreds of them. But he couldn't bring himself to just kill them. It was just something he couldn't do."

Abel Meeropol died in 1986. His sons, Robert and Michael, both became college professors. They're also both involved in social issues. Robert founded the Rosenberg Fund for Children. And he says that even after all these years, he still finds himself unable to kill things in his own garden.

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Subject: RE: Strange Fruit
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 15 Jan 21 - 11:55 AM

Dick, when you post these things don't just cut and paste, please remove the promotional links to other stories when you post the message here. (I removed them this time.)

You didn't provide a link after all of that, but the story ran in the US on National Public Radio also and has some photos.

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