Sunday, June 28, 2009

NPR Music's Evolution of a song: 'Strange Fruit'

Billie Holiday fashioned the haunting, poetic meditation "Strange Fruit" into a jazz landmark. She thus unwittingly invited scores of singers to try their hands at the song. Among those who did, Diana Ross, Nina Simone, Cocteau Twins, Cassandra Wilson, Sting and India.Arie

The story behind the song "Strange Fruit" is well-known in jazz circle. Shocked by a postcard bearing a photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abraham Smith in Marion, Ind., Bronx schoolteacher Abel Meeropol put pen to paper. Full of unforgettable imagery, his poem "Bitter Fruit" was published under the name Lewis Allan in 1936. He later supplied a melody so it could be sung at political rallies, but jazz icon Billie Holiday and her pianist Sonny White refashioned the simple tune.

Adapted from Jazz Notes, NPR Music

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