07.04.10

Strange Fruit

(I first heard the song several months back, but the 95th anniversary of Billie Holiday‘s birthday today presented a convenient excuse to prerecord a post for now.)

Disturbing, depressing, haunting:

While it's certainly worthwhile to see Holiday herself singing Strange Fruit, I think I prefer the audio from the studio recording

Via the excellent Night Lights Jazz Program, at around 26:35 (make sure to check out their archives of weekly broadcasts dating back to 2004, some great stuff in the back-episodes I’ve enjoyed). The song later went on to be called the song of the century by Time magazine. According to the broadcast, when Billie Holiday performed Strange Fruit at the Café Society nightclub, it was as her last number of the night; its owner, Barney Josephson, couldn’t imagine her following it with anything else (quite understandably, I think). I’d never heard it before now, and while I can’t quite say I’m glad to have heard it, it was worth hearing. Anyway, something to think about.

(Apologies for disrupting your day if you find you can’t get the song or its topic out of your mind. For some reason, at least for me personally, it feels like historic treatment of racism in the South is rather more clinical and sparse than, say, treatment of the Holocaust during World War II, which is probably why I find the song and lyrics so disturbing — they’re fresh and novel. Emphasis is certainly important concerning history of this nature, but relentless repetition [if nowhere else, I think I got that with respect to Nazi Germany in my high school German classes] desensitizes one to emotional impact. It’s unfortunate we don’t treat topics such as these more carefully — neither excessively nor sparingly, and with the right amount of gravity and eloquence.)

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