Strange Fruit (5:47)

Cover of The Jazz Ladies Volume 3

From The Jazz Ladies Volume 3 and 385 other releases

“Strange Fruit” is a song performed most famously by Billie Holiday. It condemned American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans that had occurred chiefly in the South but also in all regions of the United States. Holiday’s version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978. It was also included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.


“Strange Fruit” began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish high-school teacher from the Bronx, about the lynching of two black men. He published under the pen name Lewis Allan. Meeropol and his wife adopted Robert and Michael, sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of espionage and executed by the United States.

Meeropol wrote “Strange Fruit” to express his horror at lynchings after seeing Lawrence Beitler’s photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana. He published the poem in 1936 in The New York Teacher, a union magazine. Though Meeropol/Allan had often asked others (notably Earl Robinson) to set his poems to music, he set Strange Fruit to music himself. The song gained a certain success as a protest song in and around New York. Meeropol, his wife, and black vocalist Laura Duncan performed it at Madison Square Garden.


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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

MetroLyrics Full lyrics at MetroLyrics


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