Billie Holiday: Strange Fruit


Strange Fruit


Billie Holiday (vocals)


The Commodore Master Takes (GRP 543272)

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Billie Holiday (vocals), Frankie Newton (trumpet),

Tab Smith (alto sax), Kenneth Hollon (tenor sax), Stan Payne (tenor sax), Sonny White (piano), Jimmy McLin (guitar), John Williams (bass), Eddie Dougherty (drums)


Composed by Lewis Allan


Recorded: New York, April 20, 1939


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

By the late 1930s, lynching of Negroes had declined in the U.S. but not disappeared, a fact white radicals exploited to foment revolutionary resistance among blacks. One such white radical, the Bronx communist Abel Meeropol (aka Lewis Allan), wrote this proxy protest song and persuaded the incomparable Billie Holiday, an actual Negro of all things, to perform it. On this landmark recording, Billie calmly sears a grisly indictment into our collective consciousness. Her "Strange Fruit" is the American equivalent of a liberated Nazi death camp through which townspeople were marched after World War II. We owe it to those lynched to periodically revisit this grim reminder of how short we've fallen of our national ideals. It will renew our commitment to justice for all.

Reviewer: Alan Kurtz

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Billie Holiday: Rare and Live by Ted Gioia
The Dozens: Twelve Essential Billie Holiday Performances by Stuart Nicholson
Billie Holiday by Stuart Nicholson (from The Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians)

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