“Strange Fruit” is a song originally recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939, based on a poem by Abel Meeropol. The song was a protest song about American racism and in particular, the lynching of black Americans. Such lynchings had reached a peak in the southern United States at the turn of the century and the song’s lyrics are an extended metaphor linking a tree’s fruit with lynching victims. You can read more about the background to the song’s lyrics here.
The song has been covered by numerous artists, including Nina Simone (whose version was sampled in Kanye West’s “Blood on the Leaves”), UB40, Jeff Buckley, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Robert Wyatt, and Dee Dee Bridgewater. On the 31st December 1999, Time magazine named “Strange Fruit” as the “Best Song of the Century”.
Eleanora Fagan (1915 – 1959), professionally known as Billie Holiday, was an American jazz singer who had an innovative influence on jazz music and pop singing.
Despite being written in the 1930s, the message of the lyrics is sadly still relevant today.