Strange Fruit: A brief history of Billie Holiday's tragic and haunting song

One of the most powerful protest songs of all time turns 80 years old this month. We explore the importance of Strange Fruit with the help of Miami University musicologist Dr. Tammy Kernodle.

This month marks the 80th anniversary of Billie Holiday's recording of the song

Portrait of Billie Holiday, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Feb. 1947. (William P. Gottlieb Collection)

Originally published on April 25, 2019

One of the most powerful protest songs of all time turns 80 years old this month. Strange Fruit began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol and was later introduced to jazz singer Billie Holiday, who recorded her version in April of 1939.

The tragic and haunting song is about lynching and racist violence in the U.S., and its lyrics are graphic, unapologetic and stark.

We explore the history and importance of this song with the help of Dr. Tammy Kernodle, a professor of musicology at Miami University in Ohio.

Produced by Ben Edwards

Miss an episode of CBC q? Download our podcast.



To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?