Strange Fruit a song performed most famously by Billie Holiday, who first sang and recorded it in 1939.
Written by New York City public school teacher and Bronx native Abel Meeropol as a poem and published in 1937, it protested American racism, particularly the lynching of African- Americans. Meeropol cited this photograph of the lynching of Thomas Ships and Abram Smith, August 7, 1930, as inspiring his poem.
The lyrics are an extended metaphor linking a tree’s fruit with lynching victims. Meeropol set it to music and, with his wife and the Africn- American singer Laura Duncan, performed it as a protest song in New York City venues in the late 1930s, including Madison Square Garden.
The song continues to be covered by numerous artists, including Nina Simone and Annie Lennox and has inspired novels, other poems, and other creative works. In 1978, Holiday’s version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. 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.
Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit