Strange Fruit (5:47)

Cover of The Jazz Ladies Volume 3

From The Jazz Ladies Volume 3 and 412 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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  • ffg

    Sadly apt, even in August 2014.

    19 Aug 5:08pm Reply
  • Phaeton

    Forgot to say Abel Meeropol also wrote the music. What a guy.

    10 Jun 11:05pm Reply
  • Phaeton

    As asked below somewhere- it was written as a poem by Abel Meeropol, a white Jewish high school teacher from the Bronx , sometime Communist, in 1937. Two years later someone, (unclear who) introduced the poem to Billie Holiday, who made it her own.

    10 Jun 11:04pm Reply
  • dust456


    3 Jun 7:15pm Reply
  • bohemian_chic

    One of the saddest and most influential songs in music history.

    16 Apr 4:00pm Reply
  • forgottenjazz

    reminds me of nina simone deep emotion authenic

    8 Feb 6:02pm Reply
  • ella67-67


    28 Jan 4:43pm Reply
  • shangoyal

    on most days, this is too heart-breaking to endure.

    14 Oct 2013 Reply
  • Storchel


    31 Aug 2013 Reply
  • ashiwan


    31 Aug 2013 Reply
  • lihei

    Interesting lyrics

    16 Aug 2013 Reply
  • Zeropresence

    Hey, I have a great idea. Someone should take this song and remake it as an anthem about how much it sucks to see your ex at a Lakers game. That would be super.

    12 Jul 2013 Reply
  • supermediadave


    8 Jul 2013 Reply
  • moanin


    1 Jul 2013 Reply
  • slushie360

    words escape me

    12 Jun 2013 Reply
  • KarlaBeatles


    24 May 2013 Reply
  • devonalex

    Surely one of the most powerful and difficult songs ever written.

    8 Apr 2013 Reply
  • PennyTraition


    15 Mar 2013 Reply
  • HoweverFarAway_

    This song finished about 10 minutes ago and I'm still sitting here in stunned silence.

    20 Feb 2013 Reply
  • Roy1968Wood

    For those of us who grew up in the Jim Crow South, this song gave us chills with recognition. I had the good fortune of seeing Lady Day on the early (maybe first) telecast of the Grammy Awards. Her voice was shot from all the years of dope, but the emotion was still there.

    7 Feb 2013 Reply
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