Today, April 7, is the birthday of the innovative African American, social activist, jazz and swing music singer Eleanora Fagan (April 7 1915 – July 17, 1955.) She was known professionally as Billie Holiday.
After a troubled life, Holiday died handcuffed to a hospital bed. Posthumously, she won four Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.
At the end of her show each night, the lights would go down, all movement and chatter stopped, and Holiday would sing the piece called "Strange Fruit." In 1999, Time magazine declared that song “song of the century.” The song was originally written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish school teacher, poet, and activist from New York City. A photograph of a lynching in Indiana some years earlier had deeply disturbed Meeropol, inspiring him to write “Strange Fruit,” and the song eventually made its way to the Greenwich Village nightclub where Holiday sang.
The lyrics of "Strange Fruit." Not a pleasant story but one that must not be forgotten!
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