Happy May! ❤
This week, I wanted to write about COURAGE.
Life can be challenging, and to live life to the fullest, you need to have courage.
If you don’t have courage, you will just end up living your life for other people rather than being true to yourself.
Someone who had an IMMENSE amount of courage was Billie Holiday.
I was familiar with the name Billie Holiday, but I didn’t really know much about the singer. I recently watched the Hulu film The United States. vs. Billie Holiday, and that was the first time I had ever heard the song “Strange Fruit.”
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulgin’ eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burnin’ flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather
For the wind to suck
For the sun to rot
For the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop
To be honest, it was an incredibly emotional experience to listen to this song for the first time. After I listened to it, I sat still for a while, enveloped in sadness.
This is such an important song, and I felt so shocked that I had NEVER heard of this song before I watched the Hulu film. How is this possible?
I wanted to learn more about the song, and I came across Biography’s article
“The Tragic Story Behind Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit.'”
I learned that Abel Meeropol, a civil rights activist and teacher, wrote the poem “Strange Fruit” after seeing a photograph from the 1930s that showed two Black men being lynched in Indiana.
Abel Meeropol decided to make “Strange Fruit” a song, and he gave his song to the owner of a night club, who shared the song with Billie Holiday.
What did Billie Holiday think of the song when she heard it for the first time? “…she was deeply moved by [the lyrics] — not only because she was a Black American but also because the song reminded her of her father, who died at 39 from a fatal lung disorder, after being turned away from a hospital because he was a Black man.”
Whenever Billie Holiday performed “Strange Fruit,” it was a very difficult experience for her because it brought back unpleasant memories. Billie Holiday said, “It reminds me of how Pop died…But I have to keep singing it, not only because people ask for it, but because 20 years after Pop died, the things that killed him are still happening in the South.”
Although employees of the federal government did not want Billie Holiday to perform this song, she continued to do so, knowing fully that there would be consequences for this. (I highly recommend reading the article to learn more about Billie Holiday’s difficult life.)
Billie Holiday used her talents and her fame to speak up against injustice. ❤
Billie Holiday’s life was incredibly heartbreaking.
I am so glad that her courageous actions are now honored due to Time announcing in 1999 that “Strange Fruit” was the “song of the century.”
If this is the first time you have heard “Strange Fruit,” what is your reaction to it?
Billie Holiday was incredibly courageous, and I hope that her courage inspires you to have the courage to make a positive difference in this world. ❤