Essay, Pages 3 (593 words)
Hammond was responsible for getting Billie Holiday to record with an up and coming musician band leader Benny Goodman. They recorded many tracks together like Billie’s first “Your Mother’s Son-In-Law” and “Riffin’ the Scotch. In 1935, Holiday’s singing career got a big push when she landed a recording contract after singing some popular hits like “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” and “Miss Brown to You. ” She recorded numerous master tracks that ultimately became the foundation of early American jazz.
Later in 1937, Holiday joined Count Basie followed by Artie Shaw in 1938. Billie Holiday became one of the first black women to accompany a white orchestra; this was a very impressive accomplishment of her time. Holiday started performing at the New York Cafe Society.
It was here that she started to develop her signature stage trademarks such as wearing gardenias in her hair and singing with her head tilted back. During the 1930’s while Billie Holiday was working with Columbia Records she was introduced to a poem called “Strange Fruit written by Abel Meeropol” “Strange Fruit” was an emotional piece about the lynching of a black man.
Columbia Records would not allow Holiday to record this piece because of its sensitive subject matter. However, Billie Holiday decided to record the piece under an alternative label, Commodore.
The Commodore Master Takes Billie Holiday; “Strange Fruit” piece last for 3:13, with the first 1:10 with presence of the orchestra only. A trumpet, saxophone and piano are the main sounds that are heard. Starting at 0:30 the piano is the only instrument that plays.
The piano plays a soft tune that doesn’t seem neither lively nor dull. At 1:11-1:40 Billie holiday sings the first phase of the poem. Her voice is remarkably clear with pronunciation of every word. 1:41 Billie Holiday takes a rest and the piano continues with a solo.
At 1:50 Billie joins the piece once again to finish with the rest of the lyrics. Her voice has become more intense since the first verse. It’s obvious that the lyrics have become dark and more emotional. The piano mimics the same theme. At 2:35 Billie Holiday’s Voice has become very loud and seems to crescendo with each word. It all comes to a soft end right before the last word. The word “crop” is the last word and it’s sung very loudly and too almost the point not being distinguished. Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black body swinging in the southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees, Pastoral Scene of the gallant south, The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth, Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh, And the sudden smell of burning flesh! Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck, For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop, Here is a strange and bitter crop. Billie Holiday sang these words and regretted it- at least momentarily.
As she wrote in her book “There wasn’t even a patter of applause when I finished, and then a lone person began to clap nervously. Then suddenly everybody was clapping. ” From this day forward “Strange Fruit” became a nightly ritual for her. The haunting lyrics and melody made it impossible for white Americans and politicians to continue to ignore the southern campaign of racist terror. When Holiday performed her rendition of “Strange Fruit” she would moan the singing of black bodies as if it was the metaphor for fruit.