Critical Analysis of Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday
“The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth.” captures the whole idea of the song “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday. The song was originally written and published as a poem called “Bitter Fruit” in 1937 by Abel Meeropol, a member of the American Communist Party. Sparking the Civil Rights Movement, “Strange Fruit” is widely known as one of the most powerful protest songs.
The song is simple in its structure, having only three stanzas and 12 lines. The lines follow a rhyme pattern, wherein each consecutive pair of lines has their endings rhyming with each other. The poem was composed by Meeropol after seeing a picture of a brutal lynching in the South of Black Americans. After Meeropol added melody to the poem, in 1939, Billie Holiday, a famous Black American jazz singer, recorded the song.
The song describes the scene of a lynching of a Black American and its resemblance to a fruit hanging from a tree. The bodies were described as “strange fruits” that Southern trees bear, for most lynching in America were done by hanging people on trees. In the first line of the poem, Billie sang, “Southern trees bear strange fruit,” and this was so because of the frequency of lynching of the Black Americans. Holiday sang, in the third line, “Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,” because most of the bodies, after they are horrifyingly tortured, are just left to rot and decay. In the second stanza, the juxtaposition of the lines in the song indicates obvious racism against blacks. The fifth line of the song describes the beauty of the place, followed by the short yet vivid illustration of the faces of the Blacks while being lynched. This comparison embodies the way the Blacks were differentiated from the Whites; White was beauty and Black was the figure of everything monstrous and gawky. In the last stanza, the author describes the aftermath of the horrifying act of racism against blacks and how it is treated like any other fallen fruit.
This protest song was praised for its concise yet strong description of the brutal treatment given to Black Americans. Holiday’s rendition decorated it with such beauty and power that caught the attention of White Americans. This ignited the Black’s desire to fight for their rights.