Who is Billie Holiday?
“She symbolizes freedom,” says Day. “She symbolizes equality. She represents not just civil rights, not just the black community, but the LGBTQ community. She represents almost every marginalized group of people. She was the original ‘Fuck the police.’”
“Strange Fruit,” a horrific depiction of lynching in the Southern United States. The music was written just for Billie and it became the hallmark of her concerts. It’s considered by scholars to be the first protest song of the civil rights era. The lyric was so controversial that her record label wouldn’t record it. So she jumped over to the independent Commodore Records where she could record and sing as she pleased. “Strange Fruit”
One individual who was determined to silence Holiday was Federal Bureau of Narcotics commissioner Harry Anslinger. When Anslinger forbid Holiday to perform "Strange Fruit," she refused, causing him to devise a plan to destroy her.
Holiday didn't enjoy performing "Strange Fruit," but knew she had to. “It reminds me of how Pop died,” she said of the song in her autobiography. “But I have to keep singing it, not only because people ask for it, but because 20 years after Pop died, the things that killed him are still happening in the South.”
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