Billie Holiday: Strange Fruit, the first protest song

The finest arts feature I have read for some time is this backgrounder to Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, which the Guardian’s Dorian Lynskey cites as the first great protest song. The technique in the feature is exemplary, note how Lynskey projects the atmosphere of the song’s first ever performance, through the clever use of the present tense, to describe a night at the infamous Cafe Society, a speakeasy in New York, in 1939.

The song was based on a poem by Abel Meeropol in response to the lynching of two black men in Indiana in 1930. It is harrowing to say the least.

Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit [via hypem]
Nina Simone – Strange Fruit [via hypem]
Sub Sub – Southern Trees [YouTube]