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Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article


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Gervase 17 Feb 01 - 11:34 AM
Roger in Sheffield 17 Feb 01 - 01:58 PM
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Subject: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Gervase
Date: 17 Feb 01 - 11:34 AM

For all non-Guardian readers who may have missed it, there was a cracking read in yesterday's G2 on the real origins of the Billie Holliday classic. Click here

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Roger in Sheffield
Date: 17 Feb 01 - 01:58 PM

The link won't work for me, found the article manualy
try again
does that one work?

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Roger in Sheffield
Date: 17 Feb 01 - 02:09 PM

Now I will read it gervase, though I am sure it will be upsetting, how could people can people continue to be so terrible??


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: GUEST,treaties
Date: 17 Feb 01 - 06:37 PM

Thankyou for this link. The article is very moving and worthy of being posted

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: jofield
Date: 17 Feb 01 - 07:31 PM

My mother was a big Billie Holiday fan and introduced me to her through a very early LP. She told me that white audiences would always fervently request "Strange Fruit" and she (my mom) found it a bit ghoulish. I have a feeling that some of the resentment Holiday showed at having to sing it so often was her sense that many in the audience just wanted the thrill of the macabre.

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Giac
Date: 17 Feb 01 - 07:37 PM

Thanks, Gervase.

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Sorcha
Date: 17 Feb 01 - 08:04 PM

wow. that's all i can say.

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Feb 01 - 08:11 PM

I think it's worthwhile to post the text of the Guardian article. Links have a nasty habit of expiring.
-Joe Offer-
Civil rights, civil wrongs

Strange Fruit is one of the most potent protest songs ever written. But few know that its three short anti-racist verses were written by a white New York schoolteacher - or that it contributed to the early death of the singer who came to embody it, Billie Holiday. David Margolick reports

David Margolick

Friday February 16, 2001

As Billie Holiday later told the story, a single gesture by a patron at a New York nightclub changed the history of American music. It was early 1939, the night that Holiday first sang Strange Fruit. The venue was Café Society in Greenwich Village, New York's only truly integrated nightclub, a place catering for progressive types with open minds. Even here, Holiday was afraid to sing this new song, a song that tackled racial hatred head-on at a time when protest music was all but unknown. "There wasn't even a patter of applause when I finished," she wrote later. "Then a lone person began to clap nervously. Then suddenly everybody was clapping."

The famed songwriter EY Harburg called Strange Fruit a "historic document". The jazz writer Leonard Feather said it was "the first significant protest in words and music, the first unmuted cry against racism". The record producer Ahmet Ertegun called the song, which Holiday first sang 16 years before Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat on an Alabama bus, "a declaration of war... the beginning of the civil rights movement".

Strange Fruit pops up in many places now. Leon Litwack, the Pulitzer prize-winning historian of the American civil war, uses it in his classes at the University of California at Berkeley. A federal appeals court judge cited it a few years ago to show that execution by hanging was inherently "cruel and unusual". Khallil Abdul Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan's notoriously anti-Semitic disciple and maestro of the Million Man March, has quoted it in speeches assailing American racism - unaware, apparently, that the song was written by a white Jewish schoolteacher from New York City named Abel Meeropol.

Meeropol, who wrote under the pen name Lewis Allan, did not write the song for Holiday; and yet so completely did Holiday come to own Strange Fruit that Meeropol spent half a lifetime reminding people that it was really his creation, and his alone. Few people seemed to be able to accept that so potent a song could come from so prosaic a source. Newspaper articles saddled Meeropol with a range of purported collaborators. "One Lewis Allen [sic] is cited as the author of Strange Fruit, but did he compose both words and music?" the composer and diarist Ned Rorem, a passionate Holiday devotee, wrote in the New York Times in 1995, nine years after Meeropol's death. "Indeed, who was he? Was he black?" (To the organisers of a celebration of black composers at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1999, the answer was yes, for they included Strange Fruit on the programme.)

In a way, Meeropol sealed his own fate, his status as a historical footnote, when he decided that it was Billie Holiday to whom he'd bring the song: she made it her own more effectively than any other artist ever could have. "When you listen to her, it's almost like an audio tape of her autobiography," said Tony Bennett. "She didn't sing anything unless she had lived it."

Holiday was only 24 years old in 1939, but she had already experienced enough prejudice and despair by then to call herself a "race woman". She began performing in Harlem in the late 1920s; by 1933, she had been discovered by the record producer John Hammond, who quickly teamed her with Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson and other legendary musicians of the day. Together, they made what became some of Holiday's finest and most beloved records: I Wished on a Moon, What a Little Moonlight Will Do and Me Myself and I, to cite just three. In the late 1930s, she toured with the bands of Count Basie and Artie Shaw.

Though all of the hard knocks helped Holiday infuse everything she sang with a unique mixture of resilience, defiance, exuberance and shrewdness, her songs, at least on paper, were invariably what her first biographer, Linda Kuehl, called "second cousins to her favourite reading: love comics and true romance magazines" - that is, bland, banal ballads. Politics, and particularly racial politics, had never influenced her choice of material until Strange Fruit came along.

Holiday's autobiography - co-written by William Dufty and entitled Lady Sings the Blues - offers an account of the song's origins that may set a new record for most misinformation per column inch. (Holiday later tried to fob off the blame on Dufty: "Shit, man, I ain't never read that book," she said. In fact, because her publishers were skittish about the entire undertaking, they made her read and sign every page of the manuscript.) "The germ of the song was in a poem by Lewis Allen," Holiday declared in the book. "When he showed me that poem, I dug it right off. It seemed to spell out all the things that had killed Pop."

As Holiday told the story, her father, a musician in Fletcher Henderson's band, was exposed to poison gas as a soldier during world war one and died of pneumonia in 1937 after several segregated Southern hospitals refused to treat him. "Allen had heard how Pop died and of course was interested in my singing. He suggested that Sonny White (who had been my accompanist) and I turn it into music. So the three of us got together and did the job in about three weeks."

In fact, Meeropol had never met Holiday and apparently knew nothing about her father, who probably never fought in Europe in world war one and is unlikely to have been gassed there.

An English teacher at De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx for 27 years, Meeropol led two other, parallel lives. One was as a political activist: he and his wife were closet communists, donating a percentage of their earnings to the party. The other was as a writer, poet and composer. Meeropol wrote incessantly - poems, ballads, musicals, plays - all using the nom de plume "Lewis Allan", the names of his two natural-born children, neither of whom survived infancy. Though he had his admirers - including Ira Gershwin, Kurt Weill and the Nobel prize-winning novelist Thomas Mann - most of his work was quickly forgotten and now sits in dusty heaps at Boston University.

Lynchings - during which black people were murdered with unspeakable brutality, often in a carnival-like atmosphere and then hung from trees for all to see - were rampant in the South following the civil war and for many years thereafter. Conservative figures put the number of people lynched between 1889 and 1940 at 3,833; 90% of them were murdered in the South, and four fifths of them were black. Lynchings tended to occur in poor, small towns - often taking the place, as the newspaper columnist HL Mencken once said, "of the merry-go-round, the theatre, the symphony orchestra". They involved either the whole community or a cabal of vigilantes, often in disguise. And they were meted out for a host of alleged offences - not just murder, theft and rape, but for insulting a white person, boasting, swearing or buying a car. In some instances, there was no infraction at all; it was just time to remind "uppity" blacks to stay in their place.

The numbers gradually declined. Officially, there were only three lynchings in 1939 - the year Holiday first sang about them. Still, a survey taken that year revealed that more than six in 10 Southerners thought lynchings to be justified in cases of sexual assault. And despite a long campaign by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Congress had never managed to pass a federal anti-lynching law.

Lynchings may have been localised affairs, but as Gunnar Myrdal pointed out in An American Dilemma, his 1944 study of race relations in the US, they brutalised people everywhere. "Even in the north, some people have ceased to be concerned when another lynching occurs, and they jest about going south to see a lynching," he wrote.

Meeropol, clearly, was not among them. In fact, it is possible that what inspired him to write Strange Fruit was a double lynching that took place north of the Mason Dixon line - in Marion, Indiana, in 1930 - immortalised in a shocking and widely publicised photograph. In any case, it was around that time that Meeropol came across a photograph of a particularly ghastly lynching in a civil rights magazine which, he said, haunted him for days. So he wrote a poem about it, which first saw print - as Bitter Fruit - in the January 1937 issue of the New York Teacher, a union publication.

Meeropol often asked others to set his poems to music. But with Strange Fruit he insisted on doing the task himself. The song was then performed regularly in left-wing circles - by Meeropol's wife, by progressive friends at gatherings in hotels and bungalow colonies around New York, by members of the local teachers' union, and by a quartet of black singers at a fund-raiser for the anti-fascists during the Spanish civil war. As it happened, the co-producer of that fund-raiser, Robert Gordon, was also directing the first floor show at Café Society, which had opened in December 1938. The featured attraction: Billie Holiday, who had just quit Artie Shaw's band, in part because she'd been forced to take the freight elevator during a gig at a New York hotel.

Café Society was unusual even for New York City. The brainchild of Barney Josephson, a shoe salesman from New Jersey with progressive sympathies, it mocked the empty celebrity worship, right-wing politics, snootiness and racial discrimination of popular New York hangouts like the Stork Club. The doormen wore rags and stood by as the customers opened the doors themselves; the bartenders were all veterans of the anti-fascist Abraham Lincoln Brigade; blacks and whites fraternised on stage and off. As one press account described it, the club had "no girlie line, no smutty gags, no Uncle Tom comedy". It was probably the only place in America where Strange Fruit could have been sung and savoured.

Meeropol brought Strange Fruit to Josephson and Bob Gordon at the new nightclub in or around January 1939. "I read the lyrics, and I was just floored by them," Josephson told a documentary crew in 1983. "I said, 'What do you want to do with this?' He said, 'I would love to have Billie do this song.' " Shortly afterwards, Meeropol sat down at Café Society's piano and played it for Holiday. Neither Tin Pan Alley nor jazz, closer to the cabaret tradition of Blitzstein than anything else, it was alien to her, and she appeared indifferent.

"To be perfectly frank, I didn't think she felt comfortable with the song," Meeropol wrote later. "I feel almost certain that if she had to choose from a number of songs at that time, it would not have been Strange Fruit." The Holiday he remembered was "not communicative at all" that day and had asked only one question about the song: what did "pastoral" mean?

Josephson, who rarely asked Holiday to perform anything, later maintained that she "didn't know what the hell the song meant" and sang it originally only as a favour to him. "She looked at me after [Meeropol had] finished and said, 'What do you want me to do with that, man?' and I said, 'It would be wonderful if you'd sing it. If you care to. You don't have to.' And she said, 'You wants me to sing it? I sings it.' " Not until a few months later, when he spotted a tear running down her cheek during one performance, was Josephson convinced that she had finally grasped just what those strange fruit were.

According to Meeropol, who went to Café Society to hear her introduce the song, Holiday sang Strange Fruit with conviction and understanding from the beginning. "She gave a startling, most dramatic and effective interpretation, which could jolt an audience out of its complacency anywhere," he wrote. "This was exactly what I wanted the song to do and why I wrote it_ The audience gave her a tremendous ovation."

So did Holiday grasp the meaning of Strange Fruit or was she oblivious to it all? Holiday, it is true, was in some ways unsophisticated, and the song was unlike anything she had done. Josephson's version of events nonetheless seems harsh and patronising. That Holiday could not have known precisely what she was singing about and felt it deeply is inconceivable. Barry Ulanov, a jazz scholar who heard her sing it while he was a student at Columbia, suggested an alternative: Holiday understood the song but was uncomfortable with it and was particularly uncomfortable that others were pressuring her to sing it. That she sang with such ferocity and anger, he speculated, reflected both what the song said and what she wanted to say herself: So you say you want to hear about lynching, do you? Well then I'm really going to give it to you!

"She was not out there simply making a social or political plea," Ulanov said. "She was saying something in her own complex way."

One story has it that Holiday's mother objected when she began singing Strange Fruit and asked her why she was doing it. Because it could make things better, Holiday replied.

"But you'll be dead," her mother insisted.

"Yeah, but I'll feel it," Holiday said. "I'll know it in my grave."

Witnessing Strange Fruit at Café Society was a visual as well as an auditory experience. Josephson, who called the song "agitprop", decreed elaborate stage directions for each of the three nightly performances. Holiday was to close each set with it. Before she began, all service stopped. Waiters, cashiers, busboys were all immobilised. The room went completely dark, save for a pin spot on Holiday's face. When she was finished and the lights went out, she was to walk off the stage, and no matter how thunderous the ovation, she was never to return for a bow. "People had to remember Strange Fruit, get their insides burned with it," Josephson later said. Miscreants were apparently dealt with harshly. "At Café Society I used to wonder at how quiet for a nightclub it was when I sang," Holiday recalled in 1949. "I found out later the waiters made a habit of going up to the noisiest characters and saying, 'Miss Holiday is afraid you aren't enjoying yourself. Pay up and go.' "

Holiday left Café Society after nine months, moving up to the jazz clubs of West 52nd Street. When it came to singing Strange Fruit, she chose her spots carefully, but even in ostensibly safe locales the song wasn't always well received. "Lots of people walked out on the song, party after party, because they said, 'We don't call this entertainment'," Josephson said. "I remember a time a woman followed Billie into the powder room. Billie was wearing a strapless gown and she tried to brush the woman off. The woman became hysterical with tears - 'Don't you sing that song again! Don't you dare!' she screamed - and ripped Billie's dress. I asked her to leave. She started to cry again. She explained she came to Café Society to have fun and here she heard Billie sing about 'burning flesh' and it brought back a lynching she had seen when she was seven or eight years old down south. She saw a black man tied by the throat to a back fender of a car, dragged through the streets, hung up and burned. She thought she forgot it and Billie brought it back."

Drugs and alcohol had been part of Holiday's life for years - between sets at Café Society she would routinely smoke marijuana in a cab riding around Central Park - but only in the early 1940s did she begin taking heroin, then mainlining it. That, plus the death of her mother and a series of disastrous relationships with abusive men, sent her life into a desperate, downward spiral. In the spring of 1947 she checked into a New York hospital for detoxification. A few months later, in Philadelphia, she was busted and spent nearly a year in a federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania.

With every increment of abuse Holiday endured, Strange Fruit became more personal to her. The confidence with which she'd first sung it gave way to pure pathos. Watching her undertake it could be both exhilarating and excruciating.

Even decades later, the experience of listening to and watching her perform Strange Fruit - eyes closed and head back, the familiar gardenia over her ear, fingers snapping lightly - lingered in many memories. The actress Billie Allen Henderson recalled how, during Holiday's appearance at New York's Birdland in 1952, the maitre d' actually confiscated all cigarettes before Holiday began singing it. "I was standing there with my date when she started singing this song," she recalled. "I was trying to be sophisticated and all of a sudden something stabs me in the solar plexus and I was gasping for air. It was so deeply felt. I understood it_ I could smell the burning flesh; I felt it. She was . . . unrelenting is a good word for it. Some didn't know how to react. They weren't quite sure. Nobody stirred. It was startling, and I'll never forget it. I thought, 'That's what art can do.'"

In The Heart of a Woman, Maya Angelou recounts how, during a visit to Los Angeles in 1958, Holiday sang Strange Fruit to Angelou's young son, Guy.

Billie talked and sang in a hoarse, dry tone the well-known protest song. Her rasping voice and phrasing literally enchanted me. I saw the black bodies hanging from the Southern trees. I saw the lynch victims' blood glide from the leaves down the trunks and on to the roots.

Guy interrupted: "How can there be blood at the root?" I made a hard face and warned him, "Shut up, Guy, just listen." Billie had continued under the interruption, her voice vibrating over harsh edges.

She painted a picture of a lovely land, pastoral and bucolic, then added eyes bulged and mouths twisted, onto the Southern landscape.

Guy broke into her song. "What's a pastoral scene, Miss Holiday?" Billie looked up slowly and studied Guy for a second. Her face became cruel, and when she spoke her voice was scornful. "It means when the crackers are killing the niggers. It means when they take a little nigger like you and snatch off his nuts and shove them down his goddam throat. That's what it means."

The thrust of the rage repelled Guy and stunned me.

Billie continued: "That's what they do. That's a goddamn pastoral scene."

Holiday performed it again in London in February 1959, in a televised concert that has since been excerpted in several documentaries. Haggard, largely wasted away, she had grown oddly, sadly suited to capture the full grotesqueness of the song. Now she not only sang of bulging eyes and twisted mouths. She embodied them.

Holiday died in July that year, aged 44. Meeropol died in 1986, in a Jewish nursing home near Springfield, Massachusetts. Strange Fruit was sung at his memorial service.

To some, the song remains too hot to handle. In the 1980s, a disc jockey in North Carolina came across a collection of Billie Holiday standards in the station's library. Strange Fruit was circled, with the admonitions "Watch" and "Do not play" printed next to it. And when Robert Meeropol, Abel's younger son, flew on United Airlines a couple of years ago, he noticed that Cassandra Wilson's album New Moon Daughter was among the in-flight entertainment, but that its first cut - Strange Fruit - was missing.

© David Margolick. Taken from Strange Fruit, to be published by Payback Press in March priced £9.99 (with CD).

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Subject: Lyr Add: Strange Fruit ^^^
From: Sorcha
Date: 17 Feb 01 - 08:20 PM

and the lyrics, too, in case some folks haven't seen them:


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 cry.

Really powerful stuff......... ^^^

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Callie
Date: 18 Feb 01 - 04:49 AM

Fascinating and moving.

The article fails to mention though that Meeropol adopted the two Lindberg children when their parents were put to death.

Does anyone know a good midi (that have/show chords) for the song?

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Naemanson
Date: 18 Feb 01 - 08:23 AM

Good Article! I have always wondered about the history of that song.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Sorcha
Date: 18 Feb 01 - 08:41 AM

Lindber--you mean Rosenberg?

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: mkebenn
Date: 18 Feb 01 - 08:57 AM

Callie, Rosenberg rather than Lindberg? Mike

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: winniemih
Date: 18 Feb 01 - 11:50 AM

The last line of the song should read "here is a strange and bitter crop"

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: katlaughing
Date: 18 Feb 01 - 02:22 PM

Thanks, Gervase...I hadn't heard about this one, nor much about Billie before reading this. Now, I cannot stop the tears.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Callie
Date: 18 Feb 01 - 08:07 PM

D'oh! Sorry folks!

Stayed up for several hours seeking free Strange Fruit sheet music or midi on the internet to no avail. I reckon it doesn't exist as a freebie.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: katlaughing
Date: 18 Feb 01 - 11:42 PM

Apparently Tori Amos has done a cover of this song. I found a midi page for her, but couldn't get it to go beyond "connect" on Ral Audio. If someone else wants to try it is at

It says you have to have RA 5 and I have RA8, so the midi may not be playable on the newer version.

I also found this fellow, who says midis, sheet music, etc. are available from him by email, until an agreement is signed with Fox, at which time he appraently plans to put them online.

Callie, when I was searching on google, your postings at the Mudcat came up!


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Feb 01 - 12:39 AM

Meeropol adopted the children of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg - Click here for a story about them with an interesting musical angle.

I tried doing a MIDI of the tune, but it's too complicated for me. My scanner program erases the lines on a music staff, but let me see if I can tweak it to make a decent JPG for Callie....
Yup, I got a good image. It's 750k, but I can shrink it if you don't mind sacrificing sharpness. Callie, send me a personal message with an e-mail address where I should send it. I see you requested it in July - sorry I missed that.
-Joe Offer-

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Callie
Date: 19 Feb 01 - 01:51 AM

Cripes kat, i THOUGHT I was paranoid.

joe: I'm ever so grateful. I've been searching for the music - on & off - since July. Any help is appreciated.

I'll PM you.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Gypsy
Date: 19 Feb 01 - 10:56 PM

Wow....Joe, thanks ever so much for posting the article. That should be saved for the future. A powerful song indeed. You know on NPR, it was elected THE song of the twentieth century?

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 01:16 AM

Callie, that's the first time I've ever had that happen in all the searches for lyrics which I have done. It was weird, it took me right to the page which listed all of your postings, with reference in the google line to your original posting. Here is the hyperlink which showed up as "Untitled" on google:

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Tinker
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 09:24 AM

I bought the book last fall as published by Running Press,@2000. It didn't include a CD. They are at It's a wonderful, if haunting read and includes pictures of Billlie and one of a 1935 lynching. The article is a good encapsulization. There are multiple reminises including this one from Pete Seeger

I've sung(Strange Fruit) from time to time. You have to be careful to surround it with some other songs: it's so powerful it brings an audience to a dead stop.

--Pete Seeger


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Tinker
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 09:28 AM

directly to the book
If someone can make a clickie this brings you directly to the book.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 10:06 AM

For my money, for the full impact of this song you need to hear what Josh White did to it. Stops you right in your tracks.

Dave Oesterreich

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: JulieF
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 10:25 AM

A few months ago - one of the weekend papers had an article about an exhibition in New York. This was of photographs that were sold at lynchings at about the turn of the century. It was the first time I realised how "normal" these events were - it wasn't really a mob in the middle of the night, They were acceptable family outings. I can't remember much more about the article or the exibition - I think there might have been a book as well.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 01:58 PM

There are some good articles online about that exhibit on google, if you put in "southern lynchings photographs" in the search line.

While looking at them I came across a slideshow/movie, Without Sanctuary, of one man's collection of those types of photos with his own commentary. It is a stunning and vivid portrayal of how matter-of-fact the whole thing was. It takes a strong stomach to view. When I saw the back of a postcard which said "This is the barbecue we went to last night...your son, Joe" and then the front of the postcard, I had to turn away. This was America of those times.

If your modem is slow or you don't want to look at the pictures collected, I would urge you to read the full text of his commentary. It is excellent. This is a site which will haunt me for a long time. If you are interested, please click here

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Joe Offer
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 06:20 PM

Kat, you made me shudder when you described that lynching photograph. I think I've seen those pictures. It's good that you posted the link, but I didn't follow it. I just feel I have to wait a while before I see them again. The images are just too powerful. There aren't many things I can't handle, but those pictures really affected me.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 06:40 PM

Well, Joe, first I will take that as a compliment to my descriptive powers:-)Tks. Then, the first page, which I linked to, has a photo, but it is set-in small-like and you have to click on it or look very, very closely to see the horror. so it is worth the visit to click onto his text which is right there, too, bypassing the initial photo.

I thought I had seen them, too, Joe. I've viewed so many videos about hate crimes, etc., so I was prepared, I thought, until I got to the postcard and also read that photographers developed on the spot and printed them out for sale to send home to the "folks."

I don't understand it and I don't pretend to even want to understand it. I would have a hard time claiming any relation to anyone who may have taken part in any of it. as far as I know, I don't have to worry about that.

Thanks, Joe,


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Burke
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 10:17 PM

I thought the NPR site might have a sound file of it. Strange Fruit is not even in the NPR 100.

I have found it in a Fresh Air Program though. It's starts about 35:20 on the program. Here's a link straight to the RealAudio file. I'm listening to it now. And it turns out that Time Magazine named it Song of the Century.

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Callie at work
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 10:17 PM

Kat - that link to my threads is WeIrD!!

Now that Joe was generous enough to e-mail me some written music for Strange Fruit, I have set about arranging it for four parts in the hope that one of the vocal groups I sing with will be interested.

The whole subject is just so revolting, but I think it is one that is particularly relvant to Australians at the moment. Aboriginal deathsin custody ( including by hanging ) is such a grave concern and yet many folks, and the government, refuse to take notice. Sadly, just because the white fellas aren't wearing hoods and robes any more, doesn't mean the lynchings have stopped.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Burke
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 10:35 PM

I just finished listening to the Fresh Air program about Strange Fruit. It's a interview with DAVID MARGOLICK the author of the book. It also includes about half of the Josh White version & ends with part of another rendition by Billie Holiday. Part of the interview includes the article, but stay with it, there's more interesting information.

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: ddw
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 11:19 PM

Josh White also did a powerful version of Strange Fruit.

Something that always bothered me about the song though, is that it refers only to the south. While I would never try to argue that the south wasn't the scene of the MAJORITY of lynchings of blacks, it has always irritated the hell out of me to hear people from other parts of the U.S. and elsewhere refer to it like it was the ONLY place the atrocities happened. I've lived all over the south, in quite a few places in the northern U.S., in Japan and in Canada and EVERY ONE OF THEM has a history of this kind of thing.

When I was in university I got a book on the history of the Ku Klux Klan and was surprised to find that the state with the largest chapter in the U.S. was Ohio. It was also very strong in Oregan and for a while was very strong in south-central Ontario.

The point of this rant is: You can't regionalize bigotry — it's everywhere!


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Mark Clark
Date: 20 Feb 01 - 11:45 PM

The Guardian story is the same one that Ken Burns included in his recent U.S. television event, "Jazz."

      - Mark

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Roger in Sheffield
Date: 25 Feb 01 - 05:15 AM

Kat I could not get that slideshow link to work here. After days and days of trying and just getting a 'loading' screen, I went back to the main page and then to click then scroll down to without sanctuary
where you can view the pictures without loading the slideshow and also view the comments on the forum page
I haven't got very far yet and may have to give up, it leaves a dirty feeling viewing other peoples depravity, and wondering how far we really are from that kind of mob rule


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Suffet
Date: 15 Apr 01 - 07:41 AM

This discussion of "Strange Fruit" made me think of another song about lynching. In this case the victims were a black woman and her two children, one of them just a baby. The song, both haunting and frightening, was written by Woody Guthrie and appears in the "Hard Hitting Songs for Hard Hit People" anthology he compiled along with Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger around 1940. The collection was not published until 1966, by which time Woody was too ill to even comment upon the song, let alone perform it.

What is most interesting is Woody's written introduction. He claims that when he was 8 or 9 he heard "a wild and blood curldling moan" of the woman who was being kept in the Okemah jail and who knew that she and her children would been murdered by a mob. Woody further writes that "my dad told me the whole story." I doubt that! Why? Because in "Woody Guthrie: a Life," Joe Klein argues that the lynching took place in 1910, two years before Woody was born, and that Charley Guthrie, Woody's dad, participated in the lynch mob. The woman's name, by the way, was Laura Nelson, and the whole incident is well documented with photographs later made into post cards!

Woody loved his dad and apparently had a very difficult time facing the possibility that he had been part of a lynch mob. This song is an indication of how Woody dealt with those emotions.

The chorus to the song:

Oh, don't kill my baby and my son,
Oh, don't kill my baby and my son, You can stretch my neck on that old river bridge,
But don't kill my baby and my son.

© Stormking Music 1966

--- Steve

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: GUEST,ApparentDefense
Date: 15 Apr 01 - 01:55 PM

Josh White did indeed do a powerful version of Strange Fruit. He also performed at Cafe Society and probably picked it up there although I can't verify that. The story was that Josh had seen his uncle {I believe it was an uncle } lynched in Greenville, South Carolina. I remember he had to be coaxed into singin Starnge Fruit. Evidently the song took a lot out of him when he performed it.

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 Sep 03 - 05:57 AM

I note that the current DT entry STRANGE FRUIT appears to fudge the matter - it may be in the process of being clarified, I don't know.

The Permathread Attribution added: DT authors PermaThread notes it, but not very clearly AFAICS.

There was a TV documentary which went over exactly the same ground as the newspaper article cited herein. The article notes the book. The TV doco mentioned the book too. All mentioned the real name and pen name, and identified them clearly.

Apart from personal opinions, the authorship seems clear. I don't care if the DT notes who particular famous singers of a song were, but it would be nice for this one NOT to miss the bus in the next edition... :-)

The jewish closet communist writer is even thought to be a negro now, just the same way that Saddam is thought to be responsible for the Twin Towers business, even though now Bush is making statements allegedly to clear that up...



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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: InOBU
Date: 18 Sep 03 - 08:54 AM

Funny this comes up... I did a gig last Sunday night in Long Island. I rode back on the train with a ninety six year old friend of Meeropool. He was quoted in the most recent book about Billy Holiday, misquoted really, where they have him saying that she did not understand the song. What he really said, he told me, is that when they sang it in the years when it was sang by friends of Meeropol alone, they almost shouted blood on the branches blood on the root, and that many of their friends where not drawn to her way of crooning the song. But, they did not say whe did not understand it. I will have to ask what his name was again, he was a science teacher... facinating fellow.
Cheers Larry

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Felipa
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 04:15 PM

recent blog by Robert Meeropol

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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Strange Fruit' - article
From: Felipa
Date: 23 Apr 21 - 12:09 PM

notice from The Rosenberg Fund for Children

Tomorrow morning, CBS's This Morning: Saturday will broadcast a segment on Strange Fruit, which will include information on writer Abel Meeropol and interviews with his two sons, RFC Founder Robert Meeropol and Advisory Board member Michael Meeropol.

We’re told the approximate air time will be 7:45 AM EST [24 Apr 2021]and it will also be available to stream afterwards on the show’s website.

Abel wrote the song in the 1930s and Billie Holiday’s defiant performances cemented its place in civil rights history as well as popular culture. Strange Fruit’s macabre lyrics confronted the horror of lynchings; it has persisted in the public’s consciousness and reemerged as recent subject matter for the 2020 documentary, Billie, and the 2021 academy-nominated feature film The United States vs Billie Holiday.

Poems, chart-topping hit songs, and protest chants in support of Black Lives continue to evoke "strange fruit" as a metaphor. As each day Black Americans -- even children -- are murdered at the hands of police and far right-wing insurrectionists form a veritable modern-day lynch mob at the Capitol, the message of Strange Fruit sadly endures.

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