Artist # Billie Holiday
Year # 1939
Genre # Jazz,Blues
“Strange Fruit” was originally written by Abel Meeropol, a high-school teacher and writer from the Bronx. Possibly, Meeropol wrote the poem after having seen Lawrence Beitler’s photograph of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith lynching in Marion, Indiana. It was first published as a poem under Abel’s pseudonym Lewis Allan.
In early 1939 Meeropol asked Billie Holiday to sing the lyrics that would soon impact Jim Crow’s America, exposing racism and the lynching mob-execution. After the release of the song as a B-side of “Fine and Mellow” at Commodore Records- a small company that agreed after the refusal of Columbia Records – and Billie Holiday’s performances at Cafe Society, New York’s first integrated nightclub, “Strange Fruit” emerged as a symbol of political awareness. Notwithstanding the virtual banning of the song from the radio and the witch-hunting political practices in 1940s-1950s America, “Strange Fruit” effectively became one of the first songs to express the civil rights movement.
Read: Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an early cry for civil rights, David Margolick, Running Press (2000)
See: Strange Fruit, Joel Katz (2002)