“The enemy is a mode of seeing which thinks it knows in advance what is worth looking at and what is not.”
– Norman Bryson
Abel Meeropol wrote “Strange Fruit” in 1937 after seeing a photograph of a brutal lynching. Set to music, those words were sung famously and boldly at Café Society by Billie Holiday in 1939. More than 80 covers have been recorded since. Each one desperately announces itself through more vibrato, more solos, more flash, more repetition. Each cover muffles Holiday a little more. We just keep singing beautifully as subjects die.
We no longer know how to listen.
It is commonly accepted that a jazz song becomes a “standard” when it is widely known, performed, and recorded. "strange Fruit" is now included in volume 4 of the infamous jazz “real book” for compositional reference.
“Strange Fruit” has become a standard.