As a musician in the Modernism era, Eleanor Fagan, otherwise known, as Billie Holiday became a renowned African American jazz singer who is best known for her contributions as a singer and songwriter. Her work has not only inspired and influenced jazz music and my singing today, but has transcended through the cultures [NeilS]. Strange Fruit, written by Abel Meeropol and sang by Billie Holiday references racial hatred in an era that still practiced segregation. The song is an idea and collection of words that explains the lingering disapproval against the viciousness of racism [Eli12], My initial reaction to the song Strange Fruit is that it expresses a sense of darkness and melancholy.
This song made me feel uncomfortable and the tone and lyrics created an atmosphere of sorrow. I couldn’t help but notice that at the heart of this composition Holiday tells a story that confronts racism. The turmoil created by segregation during this era radiates from the song.
The opening words allude to and create an image of a lynching, Racial hatred is a subject that interests me, but I do not understand it, primarily because this concept seems absurd to me, Although I know it exists, and always has, I find it to be foolish when scientifically and genetically we are essentially all the same The historical and cultural context of this song is focused on Holiday singing a song about intolerance, during the pre Civil rights era. Strange Fruit is a musical plea, asking for equality and justness from the listener, when it was culturally still at a time when society did not appreciate or tolerate integration but rather focused on discrimination [DwaOO].
This was a perilous move on Holiday‘s part, to sing a song that was considered a political hot topic, which carried social and moral issues, Her performance of this song allowed a dangerous taboo to be discussedrUanlO]. Holiday‘s song leaves an unforgettable impression, generating various responses from the listener.
It is also historically ironic that the author of the song, Abel Meeropol is Jewish, as this culture was also experiencing anti-Semitic violence and discrimination at the time in Nazi Germany [Eli12], Both artists are referencing a linage of history, The composition allows the listener to draw parallels between both cultures, which were experiencing similar racial intolerances. it appears Meeropol’s lyrics were intentional, which provides a platform for social and political reflection. Strange Fruit can be correlated to today’s society in the fact that racism is still alive and present today, It comes in many forms, including religious, ethnic, political, cultural and gender discrimination The song portrays a macabre correlation to nature. A fruit tree bears fruit hanging off its limbs, when in essence the song interprets the lynching of people as being fruit hanging from a tree. Examples of racism in todays modern era are seen everywhere Turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or scroll through the lnternet, many issues are made out to be racial issues.
From the removing of the Confederate Battle flag on state buildings and flags, to the refugees from various civil wars, to salary discrimination amongst gender, and persecution between religions. The media assist in propagating these concepts by spotlighting these issues. The song blatantly alludes to the political and racial tension and conflict that were current in 1939 and that are still present in today’s society. The Civil Rights era may have been the movement to disperse equal rights for African Americans, however, have we really evolved, or has racism just taken on a different form? Racism has been present through the ages, it is a war waged on many fronts. A conflict that has always been and is still present today.
My analysis of this song has not changed from my original thoughts I still am confused about racism and its existence. However, the masked irony of the song provides insight into the intolerance towards mankind, the filtered lenses placed on society through the media, and the masked absurdity of racism that have been influenced by political, social and religious figures. In the end I believe we are all the same regardless of color, race, or religion We all desire to be accepted and loved for who we are. Not only was Strange fruit a song that spoke to the cultural intolerance of the modernism era, its lyrics are still pertinent today.