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Strange Fruit

by Frank Schnittger Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 06:59:51 AM EST


(Version by Nina Simone)

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 popular trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter cry


Strange Fruit was written by Bronx school teacher Abel Meeropol (under pseudonym Lewis Allan) in 1936. He and his wife later adopted Robert and Michael, sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg after their execution. The song was first popularised by Billie Holiday who sang it as the closing song of her set:
Strange Fruit - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

When she was ready to begin it, waiters stopped serving, the lights in the club were turned off, and a single pin spotlight illuminated Holiday on stage. During the musical introduction, Holiday would stand with her eyes closed, as if she were evoking a prayer.

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Not much I can add...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 07:07:21 AM EST
this song was the first that made me connect the blues i was enjoying as entertainment, with its roots in social conditions from its birthplace, with its horrifically inhumane treatment of african americans and their descendents born into that vilest of institutions, slavery. then nina simone with 'work song', spencer davis with 'take this hammer'.

what a wake-up call!

how a cry of pain united with others can help to transcend that pain, and even create a force field of its own to strengthen and nourish a spirit of justice with a sense of ultra-dry humour, that's the redemptive message in the blues, and it's contaminated its cousins, folk, jazz and rock too.

helluva combo...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 08:20:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So let melo add some perspective. and me?

Such haunting voices singing of a gruesome culture, how strong it resonates over the years. Ahhh, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Thankfully, we have such Artists to remind us of our potential.

(and understanding management to dim the lights.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 09:27:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the greatest songs.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 12:04:23 PM EST
I recently learned about this song from a History of Jazz series on a Spanish radio station. The lyrics are herrowing and the delivery by Billie Holiday in the original version is just amazing.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 9th, 2012 at 07:22:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yes, harrowing is the perfect term for the lyrics, especially connected to the indigo hue of the progression, and the hauntingly brutal simplicity of the melody, so direct, yet so mournful in its traditional cadence of regret and heartbroken acceptance.

the detached way the vocal pours out of her, with no stress or strain, laconic and mysteriously underplayed, all the better not to distract from the terrible truth the song journals, one of the the nadirs of the human experiment whose shadow still stretches over the nation, and the world already bloodstained with secular and religious bigotries countenancing and exhorting hatred of the other.

the dialogue with our perceived shadow, as mankind laboriously raises itself from unthinking amoeba, through grunting ape to enlightened compassionate empath... anim-angel.

the blues is the greatest living witness to the journey from barely imaginable agony alchemising to blissful, untrammeled ecstasy that all humanity can identify with, personally and socially.

and i'm guessing that the 1-4-5 12 bar sonic template is the furthest-reaching language form, or meaning-cluster-meme that has ever graced this planet, and likely ever will, in its power to uplift, console and unify people of all races and backgrounds.

watching bb king a couple of years ago drove this home once and for all for me. it was like meeting a musical moses... billie holiday is the same level, a great soul, old as time, and fresh as dew on a gardenia.

i miss gaianne... she really shared her love for blues. hi if you're lurking! there's another bonnie raitt fan aboard too, damn ram, i can't recall who it is any more ;)

full moon on white snow tonight, can't sleep for poetry in the air, nice to have diaries like this to let it out, thanks!

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Feb 9th, 2012 at 09:55:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by rootless2 on Sun Feb 5th, 2012 at 10:18:50 AM EST
Good, but musically perhaps not as good as her rendition of Strange Fruit.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Feb 5th, 2012 at 05:03:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not as powerful, agreed. Her version of Ship with Black Sail is, I think, at the level of Strange Fruit.
by rootless2 on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 09:21:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I learnt that song from Judy Collins



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 12:17:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7awW5nrDHk

Killer version.

Can't figure out how to embed.

by rootless2 on Thu Feb 9th, 2012 at 07:18:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
New User Guide: How do I embed a video?

Thusly: ((*youtube V7awW5nrDHk))



tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 9th, 2012 at 07:20:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Minor lyrics quibble:  I believe the fruit was hanging from POPLAR trees, not POPULAR trees, although I see some of the lyrics versions on the web have the word as you've written them.  I think it's it's a typo there too, however.
by santiago on Sun Feb 5th, 2012 at 05:15:12 PM EST
I agree with you, but I copied the text as written on some lyrics sites. Also had I written the lyric, I would have written "for the wind to mock" rather than "for the wind to suck", but then I would love to have written the rest of the lyric...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Feb 5th, 2012 at 07:35:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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