Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Renee' Drummond-Brown writes

Black Bodies ‘Swangin’.

Abel Meeropol
strange fruit’s
the South.
But Father,
on this
very day
same ole
same ole

I’d say
any given
that ‘iz’;
black holes
strange fruit
its best
these days.

The more colored ‘thangs’
the more
strange fruit
black bodies
to ‘swang’.

A B.A.D. Poem

Dedicated to:

“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree” (Acts 5:30 KJV).

7 August 1930 lynching in Marion, Indiana -- Lawrence Beitler

American Nocturne depicts the crowd that gathered to watch an infamous 1930 lynching in Marion, Indiana. - MICHAEL SMART/SUN-TIMES MEDIA 
American Nocturne -- David Powers

1 comment:

  1. "Strange Fruit" was written by Abel Meeropol ("Lewis Allan" in memory of the names of his two stillborn children), an English teacher at DeWitt Clinton High School in New York, after he saw Lawrence Beitler's photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana. He published it as a poem, "Bitter Fruit," in 1937 in "The New York Teacher, " a teacher's union magazine. Then he set it to music and performed it with his wife Laura Duncan at Madison Square Garden and elsewhere. Robert Gordon, who was directing Billie Holiday's show at Cafe Society, in Greenwich Village, New York's first integrated nightclub, heard the song at Madison Square Garden and introduced it to her. Holiday (actually, Eleanora Fagan, but she adopted her stage name from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and the banjo player Clarence Holiday, who at 16 had impregnated her 13-year-old mother; at the beginning of her career she spelled her last name "Halliday," Clarence's birth surname, but then changed it to "Holiday," his performing name; her friend and music partner, tenor saxophonist Lester Young nicknamed her "Lady Day" and she endowed him with his "Prez" monicker) was already a successful recording artist for Columbia. She performed the song at Cafe Society in 1939, though she initially resisted out of fear of racial retaliation and because the song's imagery reminded her of her father's death in 1937; he had been exposed to mustard gas in World War I and fell ill with a lung disorder while on tour in Texas but was refused treatment at a local segregated hospital. Barney Josephson, the founder of Cafe Society, insisted that Holiday would close with it; the waiters would stop all service in advance and silence the crowd when the song began; during the song's long introduction, the lights were dimmed and all movement had to cease, and she stood with her eyes closed as ithough in prayer; as she began singing, only a small spotlight illuminated her face; on the final note, all lights went out, and when they came back on, Holiday was gone; and there would be no encore. When Columbia, and even her producer John Hammond, refused to let her record the song, her friend Milt Gabler agreed to record it for his alternative jazz label Commodore Records after her a capella performance moved him to tears. Columbia gave Holiday a one-session release from her contract so she could record it on 20 April 1939, with Frankie Newton's eight-piece Cafe Society Band. Because Gabler worried it was too short, he asked pianist Sonny White to improvise an introduction, and Holiday started singing after 70 seconds. Gabler then worked out a special arrangement with Vocalion Records to record and distribute the song. Though "Strange Fruit" did not get any airplay, its flip side, "Fine and Mellow" (written by Holiday) was a jukebox hit. In October 1939, Samuel Grafton of "The New York Post" claimed that "If the anger of the exploited ever mounts high enough in the South, it now has its Marseillaise." The song became Holiday's biggest-selling record, and she continued to sing it for the rest of her career. In 1978, Holiday's version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and in 1999 "Time" magazine named it "Best Song of the Century." Meeropol later adopted the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg after their 1953 execution for spying for the Soviet Union.

    Southern trees bear a 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.


Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?