Billie Holiday and Strange Fruit

I  listen for environmental references in lyrics. The first to come to mind is Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit.”

Billie Holiday

The lyrics go like this:

Strange Fruit — Composed by Abel Meeropol (aka Lewis Allan)

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves
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
The scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
for the rain to gather
for the wind to suck
for the sun to rot
for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

Abel Meeropol

Abel Meeropool, a Jewish New Yorker, wrote the lyrics because he was horrified when he saw an image of two black men who were brutally lynched. In the song, the tree, in my estimation, represents lynching and its strange fruit are racism, violence and death during the first half of the early twentieth century in the United States.

Listen to:

2 responses

  1. “Character is like a tree, personality like it’s shadow.”
    ~ Abraham Lincoln

    We all have a historical past. I even enjoy reading history, but, for the life of me . . . God knows I don’t want to live in the past! Got to keep looking ahead . . . working for a better future . . . amen ?

  2. My blog on Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit” stirred up some feelings for some people. The lyrics are a metaphor for lynching, often from trees in the woods. What do you think? Should we forget the past? Not remember? Move on? Or embrace what can often make people stronger? And even learn from past mistakes?

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