Strange Fruit, the first song to crash headlong into the horrors of racism in the USA:-
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body 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 magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning 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 a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
This was a poem written by a New York Jew by the name of Abel Meeropol, who wrote it in 1937 as a reaction to seeing the photo of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana.
Seeing this image of those two dead men so upset him that he couldn’t sleep or function for days after seeing it, so he had no choice but to write the poem as a sort of catharsis. He first published it in a Teacher’s Union magazine (he was a teacher), and then felt he needed to take it further, and wanted someone to set it to music, but no one was game to take on such a sensitive and potentially dangerous task, so he did it himself.
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