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Strange Fruit

In: Film and Music

Submitted By liqiuchen
Words 997
Pages 4
Written project: “strange fruit”

At the time I was choosing which music to be the topic of my paper, I pulled the scroll bar to lowest and I saw this music: “strange fruit”. The first time I reading the title of song I was thought about may be this song is singing about a labor working in the plantation or the singer put his life or love story metaphor as “a strange fruit”. But when I start listen the music, I realized I was wrong.
The first time I listen to the music, one thing I am sure about is that I can feel the singer’s emotion is so bitter and sad. That emotion I even don’t need to understand what the lyrics meaning, the music’s melody and singer’s tone start to make me feeling heavy and depressed. The type of this song is early Jazz - Blues. Musical melody starts with trumpet and then piano follows. The rhyme of trumpet and piano are both negative and singer’s sound is sadness, and sometimes the voice is lowering. The music includes many depressed melodies and blues that make the music listener feeling the singer is singing about a tragedy. At this time I learned that why the music is a universal language for communication without boundary.
The second time I listen to the music, I can understand what the lyrics saying. This song is singing about the lynching movement at the southern America. By reading and studying, I start to know this song is a typical representation of Anti-lynching movement.
The original title of this song was "Bitter Fruit," and the song started as a poem wrote by Abel Meeropl. The singer of this song is Billie Holiday. [1] In the David Margolick’s book, has said: "Strange Fruit" marked a watershed, praised by some, lamented by others, in Holiday's evolution from exuberant jazz singer to chanteuse of lovelorn pain and loneliness. Once she began to sing it, some of the [*93] song’s sadness seemed to cling to her. In its own small way, it might have helped propel her along the downward spiral her life became. Surely it did not win her any friends in high places who might have helped when her life fell into a pit of substance abuse and brushes with the law. "I've made lots of enemies, too," she told Down Beat in 1947. "Singing that ["Strange Fruit"] hasn't helped any.” Holiday is really brave composer to face and sing out this situation of persecuting black people at that time. In the Margolick’s book, "When she recorded it, it was more than revolutionary," the drummer Max Roach said of Holiday. "She made a statement that we all felt as black folks. No one was speaking out. She became one of the fighters, this beautiful lady who could sing and make you feel things. She became a voice of black people and they loved this woman." Such is "Strange Fruit's" enduring power, though, that to this day it is performed almost gingerly. "It's like rubbing people's noses in their own shit," Mal Waldron, the pianist who accompanied Holiday in her final years, has said. [1]
When she was singing that song, many people start to attention on the inequality human rights of the black peoples. However, at that time, only a few people dare to against the South black tenant peasant system. Most of black sharecroppers tended to keep quiet. However, after a period of time, this song shocked the society and even caused a political movement. Holiday’s song broke silent of unequal treatments to the colored people. This song is not only one piece of music record, but also a weapon to fight back the unequal society and lynching movement and that made her became an idol of this political movement.
As same as the original poem, the first stanza in its lyric, “Southern trees bear strange fruit”, “Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze”, the “strange fruit” is meaning that there were black bodies hanging on the poplar trees during the black sharecroppers was killed by lynching movement period in South America. In the second stanza, “Pastoral scene of the gallant south” and “The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth” ; “Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh” and “The sudden smell of burning flesh”. There is such a huge inverse between the beautiful views of southern land and the torment of the black sharecroppers, it is so ironic that the black people are dead as sharecropper by lynching , but the Southern black tenant peasant holder’s pastoral are such gallant and beautiful. In the last part of the lyric, that stanza describe the Situation of the black people who is suffering the lynching movement is hopeless and they are living in a racial discrimination community which is nothing about hope、fair、justice and the right to survive. Due to these three stanzas of this music lyric, we can image the whole song is painting a picture of the miserable and desperate life of the black sharecroppers. I do not know how other people think in 1940s. But in 1940s, the musician make a miracle, a single spark start a prairie fire, peoples who suffering lynching are not tend to silence because they start understand that they will break out in silence or perish in it. | In modern society, we are enjoying the success of the freedom and equal right fighter such as Billie Holiday. But the ghost of the lynching movement and racial discrimination is still wandering around the earth and seeking any opportunity to be fresh again. We must unite all the people who seek the freedom and equality to stay alert at this ghost and make sure the poplar trees not bear “strange fruit” anymore.

Bibliography

[1] Margolick, David. “Performance as a Force for Change: The Case of Billie Holiday and "Strange Fruit "” 11 Cardozo Stud. L. & Lit. 91. (Summer, 1999 ): 6799 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2014/10/06.

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