It needs to be able to frame those stories for widespread consumption. Abel Meeropol (February 14, 1903 – October 29, 1986) was an American songwriter and poet whose works were published under his pseudonym, Lewis Allan. Lynching was a practice that involved mob-style execution without trial, most often by hanging, and almost exclusively of … Their sons, Robert and Michael, were three and seven when their parents were arrested in 1950 after being accused of sharing nuclear secrets with the Soviets. “There was no regular job,” Robert Meeropol recalls. During their parents’ imprisonment, the boys lived with their grandparents, spent a brief period in an orphanage, and finally were sent out of New York City to the home of family friends in Toms River, New Jersey. People who grew up on the American left, and especially the Jewish American left, might feel a flicker of recognition at the mention of their birth names. Robert Meeropol recalls: They were at this study group reading Lenin or something and Abel raised his hand to the party functionary who was doing the teaching and he said, “I don’t know why I have to read all this stuff. He published it in a union publication in 1937 and then set it to music. The poet presents an image of a tree that bears strange fruit. He wrote "Strange Fruit" (1937), which was recorded by Billie Holiday. Hearing this story made me feel bound to my new community, and made me think how powerful a collective memory like this can be. First performed by Meeropol's wife and their friends in social contexts, his protest song gained a certain success in and around New York. Probably written for Spanish Civil War soldiers from the International Brigades, it was sung by Josh White for Franklin Roosevelt and by Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert in memory of Sacco and Vanzetti (two Italian anarchists framed for murder and executed in 1927). It was most famously performed by Billy Holiday, who first sang “Strange Fruit” in 1939. He wrote songs for left-wing reviews that were supported by or in the orbit of the Party. Robert Meeropol remembers Malvina Reynolds singing “Little Boxes” on their living room sofa. Directed by Joel Katz. The left would go crazy over Jewish American dissidents Abel and Anne Meeropol if they were alive today. The man behind "Strange Fruit" is New York City's Abel Meeropol, and he really has two stories.  LA Times noted that Siouxsie and the Banshees's version contained "a solemn string section behind the vocals" and "a bridge of New Orleans funeral-march jazz" which enhanced the singer's "evocative interpretation". Crowdsourcing funds for left-wing art won’t be an easy task either. Holiday recorded two major sessions of the song at Commodore, one in 1939 and one in 1944. His type of artistry was ideal for writing politically powerful songs. New York NY 10001-5304
Perhaps we can use the time alone to think collectively, to reflect together on how we might reconstruct the public realm of our cities. This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged. What are its downsides?” She did not learn these things. One version of events claims that Barney Josephson, the founder of Café Society in Greenwich Village, New York's first integrated nightclub, heard the song and introduced it to Billie Holiday. They were the famous sons of communist spies. Perhaps you already know what the Du Bois’, the Meeropols, and the Rosenbergs all had in common. However, its delusionally “pragmatic” messaging had a real effect on liberal political discourse and practice.  The song has been called "a declaration of war" and "the beginning of the civil rights movement". His show, The West Wing, is admittedly very bad art. Composed in 1937 by left-wing New York City school teacher, poet and songwriter Meeropol, it was a visceral call to action in a time when people of conscience fought for anti-lynching legislation. Thankfully though Abel Meeropol, a American songwriter, took the poem and turned it into something very distinguished. , "Strange Fruit" originated as a poem written by Jewish-American writer, teacher and songwriter Abel Meeropol, under his pseudonym Lewis Allan, as a protest against lynchings. Abel was a public school English teacher (he taught a young James Baldwin at Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx in the early 1940s) who gave half his salary to the Communist Party. I guess it was a pretty exciting and rich environment for a young kid growing up.” His parents were forever running off to rehearsals and performances of left-wing concerts. Germany draws another line in the sand for the U.S. Twitter’s ban on Trump will only deepen the U.S. tribal divide, Marxism and feminism – Marxism and Women’s Liberation extract, American capitalism’s endless military drive, were arrested in 1950 after being accused of sharing nuclear secrets with the Soviets, photographs of Robert and Michael Rosenberg, a real effect on liberal political discourse, International Commission of Inquiry to open hearings on racist police violence in the U.S. on MLK Day, “Your Economics Professor is almost Certainly a Charlatan”, The Continuing Korean War in the Murderous History of Bombing, Disability and Welfare under Monopoly Capitalism, Fighting the “Immigrant Threat” Narrative, New! To be sure, rebuilding those links in the chain of memory and teasing out the secrets of the American left won’t be an easy task. Monthly Review Foundation
A Land Grant in Maine: The Gift That’s Been Giving Since 1767, Let’s Get Serious About Inequality and Socialism, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Transcript: James Baldwin’s ‘Little Houses’ and Abel Meeropol’s ‘Strange Fruit’ Paul Gilroy: My name is Paul Gilroy, I'm the Director of the Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the study of Racism and Racialisation at University College London.  Holiday's 1939 version of the song was included in the National Recording Registry on January 27, 2003. "Strange Fruit" originated as a poem written by Jewish-American writer, teacher and songwriter Abel Meeropol, under his pseudonym Lewis Allan, as a protest against lynchings.  It was also included in the "Songs of the Century" list of the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. ‘Strange Fruit’ by Abel Meeropol is a poem on the genocide of black people in America. Southern trees bear a strange fruit, While Hollywood isn’t going to tell the real story of the Meeropols anytime soon, if I were to make that TV series, I would open it on a party scene in the front parlor of a Brooklyn brownstone.  When Holiday's producer John Hammond also refused to record it, she turned to her friend Milt Gabler, owner of the Commodore label. “Strange Fruit” is a poem written by American-Jewish songwriter and poet Abel Meeropol in 1937, and was famously covered and recorded by Billie Holiday (Eleanora Fagan) in … Abel Meeropol's biography and life story. In 1953, when he was six years old, the United States government executed his parents for "conspiring to steal the secret of the atomic bomb." The song's best known recordings and performances were by Billie Holiday and Josh White. "Strange Fruit: the first great protest song", Bettye LaVette Unleashes Cover of Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’, "Video: Listen To Edward W. Hardy's Haunting String Quartet Arrangement Of 'Strange Fruit'", "Strange Fruit: The most shocking song of all time", "Music Is Love! Strange Fruit. (15 Tracks That Changed The World) CD", "100 Songs of the South | accessAtlanta.com", "Strange Fruit: A protest song with enduring relevance", https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Strange_Fruit&oldid=997228600, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 30 December 2020, at 15:36. I felt rejuvenated and included. Holiday approached her recording label, Columbia, about the song, but the company feared reaction by record retailers in the South, as well as negative reaction from affiliates of its co-owned radio network, CBS. Perhaps you’ve already guessed the secret behind this odd convergence of people.  Holiday first performed the song at Café Society in 1939. He also attended a socialist reading group that the Communist Party ran for Hollywood screenwriters. ‘Strange Fruit’ has often been described as a dirge-like ballad.  Because of the power of the song, Josephson drew up some rules: Holiday would close with it; the waiters would stop all service in advance; the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday's face; and there would be no encore.  The group's rendition was selected by the Mojo magazine staff to be included on the compilation Music Is Love: 15 Tracks That Changed The World . "Strange Fruit" is a song recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939, written by Abel Meeropol and published in 1937. It is also not an impossible one, as the existence of independent left media (like this magazine) proves. , Billie Holiday's performances and recordings, Last edited on 30 December 2020, at 15:36, Review: Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights, "Strange Fruit is still a song for today", "The Strange Story of the Man Behind 'Strange Fruit, "Strange Fruit: Anniversary Of A Lynching". Later, his song was popularized by Billie Holiday and became well-known for confronting racism in America head-on. There she first sang his song “Strange Fruit” to hushed and astonished audiences. Does it really help people in developing countries? Because Gabler worried the song was too short, he asked pianist Sonny White to improvise an introduction. The song was highly regarded; the 1939 recording eventually sold a million copies, in time becoming Holiday's biggest-selling recording. It’s a story so fantastical, and containing so many celebrated names, that it’s hard to believe it hasn’t stuck better into the mainstream. Here, Abel wrote television scripts.  Though Meeropol had asked others (notably Earl Robinson) to set his poems to music, he set "Strange Fruit" to music himself. If you didn’t know their back story, they would appear much like the other “red diaper babies” of their generation—that coterie of diehards who protested Vietnam, kept the faith through the dire neoliberal period, and even sent their kids to socialist summer camp. Diana Ross recorded the song for her debut film, the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues (1972), and it was included on the chart topping soundtrack album. With Dorothy Thigpen, Milton Gabler, Farah Jasmine Griffin, C.T. But there was only so much protection a network of friends could provide each other. In 1937 Abe Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from New York, saw a photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. Pollution Makes It Worse. It is this part of the story, the part about the left showing deep care for their own, that I might seize on for my imaginary prestige TV show. Billie Holiday was so well known for her rendition of "Strange Fruit" that "she crafted a relationship to the song that would make them inseparable". As lefty public school teachers, the Meeropols were both heavily involved in the New York City Teachers Union. Abel Meeropol writing rhythm and rhyme Injustice inflicted on fellow men Jewish poet formed by events of his time Razor-sharp lines flowing out of his pen His thoughts wandering to the news of the south Whites lynching blacks on barren southern trees Strange fruit harvest as related mouth to mouth Democracy swings on a killing breeze  In the poem, Meeropol expressed his horror at lynchings, inspired by Lawrence Beitler's photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana.  Journalist Lara Pellegrinelli wrote that Jeff Buckley while singing it "seems to meditate on the meaning of humanity the way Walt Whitman did, considering all of its glorious and horrifying possibilities". It was through the union that they came to know teacher and Party member, Alice Citron. In 1940 Meeropol, a socialist, was called to testify before a committee investigating communism and asked whether the US Communist Party had paid him to write Strange Fruit. 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