Two Versions of the “Strange Fruit” – by Billie Holiday and by Nina Simone

Subject: Art
Pages: 1
Words: 320
Reading time:
2 min
Study level: School

Strange Fruit is a song of rebellion against one of the most appalling kinds of discrimination – the racial discrimination. The poem, written by Abel Meeropol and originally performed by Billie Holiday, refers to the recurring cases of the Black Americans lynching, which occurred in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. The fruit in the poem symbolizes a victim, hanged on a tree of racial terror, while bloodied leaves and roots hint at the gruesome history of violence towards Black families. For Billie Holiday, the song became one of her number one hits, mainly because of the emotional involvement she placed in her first public performance of the song.

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It was no surprise when in 1965 a Black American singer Nina Simone, who was widely known for her fight against Black people discrimination, released her own cover of this song. The song indeed was a turning point in both singers’ careers, and for Nina Simone it was a shout out to stop the oppressive treatment of Black people, especially women. While Holiday performs Strange Fruit with a charismatic and bitter sarcasm typical for “Gallant South” without drawing out syllables and tunes, Simone takes a more gospel, sharp approach, using high-pitched tones and prolonged cantos.

Alex Ross has implied that with the rise of technology music becomes more and more of a faceless art of reproduction without originality, a constant influx of rearrangements of the old rather than new creations. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic music can be considered one of the most powerful sources of unity between people of the world. Famous and well-known songs, as well as songs with social meaning create connect people in a unique way, regardless of nation, race, gender or any other differences. Through the use of modern technology sharing with the world memories, impressions and feelings a certain musical piece caused became much easier than it ever was.