Even decades later, the lyrics of “Strange Fruit” are sadly topical
It took a remarkable amount of courage for Billie Holiday to record and perform “Strange Fruit” as early as 1939.
“Strange Fruit” was a poem by Abel Meeropol about a lynching and, when Lady Day debuted it at Café Society, it immediately silenced audiences.
It became Holiday’s closing song because nothing could follow it.
This version, from late in Billie Holiday’s life, has her accompanied by pianist Mal Waldron and putting plenty of quiet emotion into the still-shocking words.
– Scott Yanow
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