Analysis And Review Of Billie Holiday’s Song “Strange Fruit”

Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”, a jazz ballad, can be attributed both to blues and jazz. Abel Merropol wrote the original poem which Billie Holiday later turned into a song. This poem was in response to lynchings occurring due to Jim Crow Laws and racism. Many Afro-Americans were lynched during this period. The “Strange Fruit” that hangs from the trees has the same meaning. Billie Holiday was an Afro-American woman who struggled for money prior to her jazz career. Billie Holiday struggled to record the song because of the racism and political division in the South.

They refused to record the song. Milt Gadler, a close friend of the singer’s, allowed her to record her song at Commodore. This song was a masterpiece in the civil right movement after its recording. Strange Fruit has 4 different types instruments, including a Piano, Trumpet, Double Bass, and Sax. I think the piano is the dominant instrument. In this song, Billy Holidays vocals are the main focus, and the instruments serve to darken the song. This song is a jazz-blues ballad. Billie Holidays vocals and dark instrumentation create the perfect atmosphere for the song’s sad theme. The tempo is slow, so the song has a very sad tone. The piano key in this song is B-flat. This is much lower pitch than Billy Holidays. There’s a nice contrast between low and high pitches. It’s shortness is due to the fact that this song started as a verse. The original poem contained 12 lines and 3 stanzas. Due to this, there are many “breaks” during which only saxophone/trumpet or piano is heard. The layout of the song was created to allow the listener time to process what she had just heard. This song’s meter can be described as quadruple. Holiday sings in a single tone throughout the entire song, focusing on specific words. For instance, Holiday’s last word is very lengthy. The song ends perfectly, giving the listener goosebumps when they think of the pain that the Afro-American family had to endure. The song ends with a cry for assistance before the music is stopped. Sadly I was unable to find out more about the artists that played the instruments. And since “Strange Fruit”, a song, is not an album, it’s hard to get any information. This song was a personal favorite.

Billie Holiday’s song was unfamiliar to me when I first heard it. Even though I didn’t know the subject matter, it was still easy to sense this song’s dark and sad tone. Then, I looked into the history of lynchings. After listening to the song with this new knowledge, I literally got goosebumps. Billie Holiday captured the emotions of many with the help her beautiful voice. Billie Holiday produced a musical work of art that captured political events at the time. This song is also a piece of history. It is one thing to read about such tragic events but another to hear the song that captures their emotions.


  • joaquincain

    Joaquin Cain is a 39 year old school teacher and blogger from the United States. He has a passion for education and is always looking for new and innovative ways to help his students learn. He is also a big believer in the power of technology and its ability to help improve education.