Friday, November 4, 2011

"Strange Fruit" by Billie Holiday

There is so much I want to write about this recording by Billie Holiday. The documentary video above will answer most questions about the song. About the only thing missing here is that Commodore Records was owned by Billy Crystal's Uncle, and that Billie Holiday was a frequent dinner guest in their home while Mr. Crystal was growing up.

It was only through Commodore Records that this song saw the light of day when it did. For a more insightful view of that story read Billy Crystal's "700 Sundays", which is the story of his relationship with his father, and also encompasses the story of Commodore Records and Abe Meeropol, the New York City school teacher who wrote the song in 1937 after seeing a photograph of the lynching of two black men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. The photograph haunted Mr. Meeropol for days. He wrote a poem about it under the pen name of Lewis Allan. It ranks alongside Louis Armstrong's "Black and Blue" for sheer poignancy and painful lyrics.

Both songs represent an era in American history in which there can be no pride, as there are no real winners in a struggle that should never have happened in the first place.

Interesting note; Abe Meeropol and his wife, adopted the children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg after they were electrocuted for espionage in 1953. Whether or not the Rosenberg's were guilty of the crime made no difference to this extraordinary couple.

If you have never heard this dark and foreboding song in its entirety, here it is - sung live by Ms. Holiday;

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