Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Billie Holiday / Strange fruit

Billie Holiday

‘Strange fruit’

by Abel Meeropol / Lewis Allan

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

"A magic song from a magic voice"

Abel Meeropol (February 10, 1903 – October 30, 1986) was an American writer, teacher and song-writer, whose works were published under his pseudonym Lewis Allan. His best-known song is "Strange Fruit" (1937), especially as recorded by Billie Holiday.

Meeropol wrote the anti-lynching poem "Strange Fruit" (1937), which was first published in the Marxist publication, The New Masses.He later set it to music. The song's best-known recordings and performances were by Billie Holiday and Josh White. Billie Holiday claimed in Lady Sings the Blues, that she co-wrote the music to the song with Meeropol and Sonny White, but Meeropol was the sole writer of both the lyrics and melody.

Meeropol wrote countless poems and songs, including the Frank Sinatra and Josh White hit, "The House I Live In." He also wrote the libretto of Robert Kurka's opera, The Good Soldier Schweik (1957), which was premiered in 1958 by the New York City Opera.

Meeropol published his work under the pseudonym of "Lewis Allan," in memory of the names of his two stillborn children. Later, he and his wife Anne adopted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg's two sons, Michael and Robert, who were orphaned after their parents' executions. Michael and Robert took the Meeropol surname.

According to son Robert Meeropol, the songs "Strange Fruit", "The House I Live In," and the Peggy Lee hit "Apples, Peaches and Cherries," provided most of the royalty income of the family. "Apples, Peaches and Cherries" was translated into French by Sacha Distel (French singer and sometime boyfriend of Brigitte Bardot) and has been especially popular. It became the number one hit in France under the title "Scoubidou." The song in France still earns royalties for Michael and Robert Meeropol. Abel Meeropol filed a copyright infringement lawsuit over Distel's plagiarism, as at first he claimed the song as his. After the case was settled, Meeropol started receiving the royalties.

Meeropol was born in The Bronx, New York City. He died on October 30, 1986, at the Jewish Nursing Home in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.

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