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The Nina Simone Database
Strange Fruit
1939 Lewis Allan, Sonny White
Strange Fruit is one of the most haunting melodies and politically correct verses that Billie Holiday ever sung. It was written by Lewis Allan, a poet. But Columbia records, which interestingly had recorded "race music" and racial jokes, refused to deal with Allan's poignant prose because they didn't want to offend their Southern white customers by promoting the song's explicit and vivid exposure of the racist lynchings then rampant in the region.
Lady Day, however, was determined to make a profound statement against lynching by recording the torturous tune. Ignoring Columbia's advice, she cut a deal with Commodore Records, which first recorded the composition during a 1939 session. ...
Throughout the years, "Strange Fruit" has also been recorded by such other prominent African-American singers as the late Josh White and Carment McRae as well as the enigmatic, exiled Nina Simone -- all brilliant. Even as Diana Ross, the supreme Motown pop divacum-actress, gave her rendition in "Lady Sings the Blues," the slick, glamorized cinematic treatment of Billie's life, adapted from a less than reliable autobiography.

-Elmobe Brath, 'Strange Fruit': capitalism's bitter crop, New York Amsterdam News, 8 Apr 1995.

Recording sessions
1965 May 19-20: New York piano and vocal only
Southern trees bearing strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the roots
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
1965 July 24-25: Antibes (FR) 6th Jazz á Juan Festival
1969 June: Atlanta (US-GA) Morehouse College
2007 [3:31] DVD 7 College Concerts and Interviews Andy Stroud (US)
1970: USA
1971 January 8: Amsterdam (NL) Concertgebouw
Unknown recording session
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