My latest video for YouTube.
(best viewed in full-screen)
I was about twenty years old when I first discovered Billie Holiday. I bought some of her old albums in an obscure used record shop in downtown Los Angeles. I remember listening to the records late at night, by candlelight, while sipping a glass of wine. I'd listen to the songs over and over, mesmerized by her entrancingly unique vocal style.
The music and lyrics of Strange Fruit were written by Abel Meeropol (1903-1986), who was an American teacher, writer, and musician. Meeropol often used the pseudonym Lewis Allan - in memory of his two deceased children who were stillborn.
In the early 1930's Meeropol was deeply moved by a photo he happened to see, which depicted the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. Shipp and Smith were two Indiana black men who were arrested on August 7, 1930, as suspects in a robbery, murder, and the rape of a white woman.
The photo that inspired the song Strange Fruit
taken by Lawrence Beitler on August 7, 1930
Abel Meeropol, who was a life-long activist for human rights, wrote a poem inspired by black lynchings entitled Bitter Fruit. It was published in the New York Teacher in 1937. Meeropol later changed the title to Strange Fruit and set the poem to music.
and his wife Anne
Abel Meeropol, his musician wife Anne, and black singer Laura Duncan, performed the song in numerous places throughout New York, including Madison Square Garden. The song was later introduced to singer Billie Holiday, who incorporated it into her concerts. She recorded it in 1939 and 1944 and the first recording sold a million copies. Meeropol later wrote numerous other songs, for such popular singers as Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee.
There's an interesting side note to Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne. In the 1950's they adopted Michael and Robert Rosenberg, who were the children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg - the infamous American couple who were executed in 1953 for conspiracy to commit espionage.
I made the video Strange Fruit last night, and I used the current MovieMaker on Windows 8 - which I'm not at all familiar with (all of my other videos were made with the old Vista Windows MovieMaker).
Despite my initial apprehensions, I caught on quickly and did a fairly decent job. Unfortunately I eliminated all the transitions and visual effects that I usually use, because - for some reason - they messed up the audio synchronization.
I hope this makes sense, because I haven't slept in 24 hours and I'm a bit groggy.
I'll probably post the lyrics later but I'm too tired to do it now.
Here are the lyrics to Strange Fruit
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.