STRANGE FRUIT

Protest Music Overview


Talkback

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02/28/2008
Maryellen Jones
Scotland Neck, NC

Strange Fruit is indeed haunting. It brings back memories of the era of racism and segregation during the time when I was much younger. This song inspired me about five years ago to put the visions that flooded through me on canvas. However, it took four of those years to finally bring it to life. My painting has brought about quite a bit of controversy as did the songe itself when Billie Holiday sang it in NY. It is shocking how many people say they've never heard these provocative lyrics.


10/10/06
Michelle Manzi
Howell NJ

"Strange Fruit" is a well-crafted documentary about this poignant protest song and the story behind it. The film combines information on the song, movement, and people involved in a way that captivates its audience. "Strange Fruit" is a compelling song that uses brilliant imagery to depict the terrible act of lynching. The accompanying score and vocals make this song emotively real. Hearing this song multiple times in the documentary allows the viewer to deeply grasp the message behind it and truly understand its importance. By discussing not only the song but also the author, Abel Meeropol and his life, the song is given more depth and meaning. The documentary paints a picture of the horrible history of lynching. The images and personal accounts of this terrible act make it hauntingly realistic. Through multiple interviews and discussions, the film shows the impact the song has made on various members of society in various time periods. This popular protest song was significant in the past yet still resonates today. Overall, the combination of images, music, and commentary of this documentary creates an emotionally moving film that leaves the audience speechless.



10/10/06
Rachael, Jess, and Allie
Ewing, NJ

The film Strange Fruit detailed the importance and impact of Lewis Allen�s song Strange Fruit. Strange Fruit expertly combined information about the song and its creator and performers as well as commentary from various activists and people who experienced the song�s release first hand. The film provided a blend of information and eerie entertainment as the somber and haunting message of the song was persistent throughout the film. The song covered an issue that people were afraid of and confronted lynching in a straightforward way. The film "Strange Fruit" made it clear why the song impacted so many people by giving first hand accounts as well as student discussions and opinions on the song. The incorporation of student discussion helped to relate the song to students and provided a basis for analysis of the song�s message. The combination of music, pictures and commentary held the audience�s attention and reinforced the powerful emotions behind the song. Overall we were impressed with the caliber of the film and found its subject to be interesting and captivating.



10/10/06
Liz, Dan, and Martin
Ewing, New Jersey

One of the most intriguing aspects of "Strange Fruit" is how the movie explores the depth and meaning of the emotions of the song. Through the song's eerie and emotional lyrics and melody of the song a deep and meaningful impact is created upon the listeners. The movie looks at the different adaptations of the song and how the effect of the song remains timeless. "Strange Fruit" links the lynching problems of the early 1900's with the lynching problems which still exist today. In interviewing various social figures of both different races and social classes, "Strange Fruit" serves to create a universal appeal amongst all people who have suffered from social injustices. Furthermore, the way in which the documentary incorporates the song writer's life story and religious and ethnic background further establishes how deeply the issue of lynching permeates all of society.



10/10/06
Taiwo and Carlie
Ewing, NJ

In the film, we learned that the song �Strange Fruit� was a powerful and deep song. It helped spread knowledge about lynching occurring in the south to the north. The song was sung slowly and fluently by Billie Holiday and many others. It helped pass out the message easily for those interested. Because it's a song of no entertainment, one has to have an interest in it to be able to realize how profound Abel Meeropol expressed his view on lynching. He did a good job using symbols to carefully carry out his message to his audience, without alerting the enemies themselves. For example Abel wrote,
"Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees."
We learned from the documentary that the strange fruit represents how many viewed African American people and that the blood on the leaves and at the roots was a sign of a lynching that occurred. It's a song that gets you thinking.
The film visually renders the history of lynching and what was going on at the time through video clips of performances, pictures of riots, art work of lynching, and first hand accounts of people who witnessed lynches.
The film was well organized and clear. It gave us a good understanding of the importance of the song and how it spread the word of lynching. We feel that the song helped us appreciate what many people had to go through to sing the song in public so it was an effective movement.



10/10/06
Cassy and Sean
Ewing, NJ

On first listen, the song "Strange Fruit" can be shocking, but yet really makes you think. It has an interesting effect because typically when we think of the word fruit, we associate life and the changing of the season, things which are happy. However, in this song, fruit is a dark symbol which represents death, torture, and murder: the worst of humanity, or lack thereof. Thus, the juxtaposition between what is expected and what is displayed moves the listener.

The documentary paints a vivid and somewhat disturbing picture of the events which inspired the writing of "Strange Fruit". To us, it was surprising that the song was written by a white, Jewish man, who not directly impacted by the lynchings going on at the time. In addition to detailing the history and significance of the song, the documentary also creates a candid impression of Abel Meeropol and his life. Lastly, the documentary conveyed the importance of music in social movements, and showed that despite its dark content and banishment from radio, the song "Strange Fruit" climbed the charts. It was interesting to find out that this song not only motivated people to seek change at that point in history, but it was also laid the groundwork for many generations of protest songs that would later emerge during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.



10/10/06
Ariel Kaye and Truc-Lan Vu
Ewing, NJ

Without much prior knowledge of the song "Strange Fruit" by Billie Holiday, this documentary provided a comprehensive history of the song. The documentary gave us more of an appreciation and understanding of the song. Although the song is very eerie in its style, it still seems to pull you in and grab attention. "Strange Fruit" is a protest song that has spand many decades, social movements and countries. As a group of college students studying social movements and many protest songs involved with these movements, we found a liking to this documentary. We also found it very intriguing that so many artists have admired this song and made their own renditions of this song. This documentary demonstrates how much of an impact "Strange Fruit" has made on the world.



10/10/06
New Bedford, MA

I stumbled upon this website about your movie Strangefruit while surfing the PBS website for classroom material about the history of American songs.
Your research is great and the songs you chose are so moving. I agree that only using snippets of the songs is not as powerful as the full versions.
I am Jewish and grew up in Brooklyn NY. My schools, the subways, workplaces, thetare, college everywhere was always racially integrated. Since I moved to New England I am confronted with a racism that is sickening. It was sobering to me. I ow work in the public school and hope to have some impact and help build a more tolerant community.



8/11/06
Jenn
Louisiana

Did not have the opportunity to see the film Strange Fruit but learned about Billie Holliday's song version of the Strange Fruit poem after researching more information on the documentary of the killing of Emmett Till. Thought then about how all this hatred began. From an awful part of American history when people were stolen from their homelands and forced into slavery erupted the hatred that has been bred from generation to generation. History has shown that this hatred is not found in every man and like a disease has skipped a generation.



6/1/06
Baltimore, MD

I stumbled upon this show quite by accident one night. Though I knew who Billie Holiday was, I had never heard of the song. I was fascinated by everything about it - the melody, Billie's voice, the lyrics, and the man who wrote it. The special also taught me more about what happened during that period of time in history. I knew about lynching, but not about some of the more disturbing details. As a 38 year old white female, I consider myself well-educated, but this show truly enhanced my knowledge of both music and history. Thank you for providing me with that opportunity.



3/15/06
Gillia
Sydney

I chanced on your film late one night and was compelled to stay till the end. I was introduced to Holiday singing Strange Fruit many years ago, and assumed she had written it. It fitted her like a glove. So it was a fascinating journey intothe world of l930's dissidents in the US, and Meeropol and his wife in particular; their generosity and love for justice shone through.



2/27/06
Stephanie K.
Santa Cruz, CA

I learned much from this film. I had heard "Strange Fruit" many times but always assumed a black person wrote it...I was reminded by this film that we can all mourn human being's capacity for cruelty no matter what race or culture is being attacked.Assumptions aren't productive.

I just finished reading about Ida B. Wells and thought it good luck to run accross this on our PBS station. The more I learn about what we have done to others (US gov) the more I realize how naive I am. Now that I'm an "old lady" I want to fill in the gaps from an inadequate "middle class" educaton.

I believe music conveys our heart..our love, our hatred, our fear...I so appreciate those who are brave enought to express themselves through music...

I have always loved protest songs from Pete Seeger to Bob Marley...I am learning to hear what the young rappers are saying - a little difficult for a 60 year old...but they are trying to tell us something and I hope to hear it...sorry for going on so much - just thanks for the film...



2/21/06 Deputy Mike Towers
Bexar County, Texas

I use this song in teaching Cultural Diversity to fellow Texas Peace Officers. It never fails to move them--young and old.

After a brief discussion of what the song means, I follow it up with Jimmy Hendricks' version of the national anthem, "my" protest song from the Nixon days.

We have many races and ethnicities here in San Antonio, and Anglos are in the minority. The main points I try to get across are tolerance and vive le differance! You don't have to adopt someone else's culture to appreciate it.



1/24/06
Tod
Sacramento, CA

I think that sadly missing the opportunity to include Diana Ross's performance in the film "Lady Sings the Blues" and at other black awareness events is a real shame. The story would have been richer, more relevant as it is sung today and after Billie Holliday sang it. To stop there is missing a big chapter of the songs continued performance in today�s culture.



9/19/05
Keondora Majette
Rich Square, N.C.

Because the song has so much meaning behind it about what the people went through during the times of the Civil Rights movement and slavery. It goes deep to a person deep within their hearts to know that the "Strange Fruit" that was hanging from the branches were blacks. Women children and men and to know that they were your ancestors just hurts as if ur mother had just all of a sudden died and you didn't know why God had done this. Its a very deep situation that words can't even begin to describe the half of it. The song dedicated to the tragedy of 9/11 by the famous people of hip hop, country r&b and many more types of music. It has tought me that every thing may be ok for a good 10 years but in the next 5 it may be hetic. I know look at life in a different aspect. Like what if that was someone that was in my family how would I feel. I even felt like it was some of my family when I saw and heard about it. They should take full responsibility and sing the song with so much meaning.



6/20/05
Shoshana Tell
Coral Springs, Florida

I first came across the song Strange Fruit at the "Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America" exhibit at the Martin Luther King Memorial Museum in Atlanta. I think the song is a testament to the power of music to bring Blacks/Jews together. For example, my Jewish great-grandfather lyricist Jesse Long (alias Stewart Arthur) wrote several songs with African-American J Rosamond Johnson (composer of Lift Every Voice and Sing). Two songs they wrote together are currently housed in the Yale University Library.
Also,at the lynching exhibit, I learned that an African-American was lynched in my very hometown, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, exactly 70 years ago this July. So now, I, an American Jew, am working with my high school's Black Students Association to put together a Tolerance assembly next fall commemorating the lynching.
As I said before, music such as Strange Fruit has the ability to bring different ethnicities (ie Jews and blacks)together for a common cause.



5/25/05
Mary Tuffen
Shimpling,England
I just watched "Cold Case" two nights ago &,at the end over the closing credits,they played this song.I was knocked out by it &,not knowing what it was called,went to Google & found it and this website.What a powerful song!This should be played to & discussed by every high school student,both here & in the USA and Canada---actually,anywhere that racial predjudice exists.Now that I know there's a film,too,I shall be on the lookout for it.

Another song which has greatly impacted me is Bob Dylan's "With God on Our Side".The line:"Did Judas Iscariot have God on his side?" completely made me rethink everything I had been taught religion-wise.

3/9/05
Andrew Kenen
Bainbrdge Township, Ohio
I've used this film for two years in a high school course about popular music. I'm always amazed that when the video ends the class is absolutely silent. The silence, in fact, is the beginning of our discussion.

1/27/05
Fort Wayne, IN
I went online looking for the song by Billie Holliday because it was introduced to me in by Sociology class studying race inequality. I had never heard of the song before today. I wrote the lyrics down. As I read through the lines I could see the black face hanging from a tree. I wondered "for what crime had he been hung?" It was very possible that his only crime was that he was black. He may have been a good man. He could have been a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a best friend. But, no matter to the hate that fueled the flames. He was black and he was bound to die, to face the ultimate treachery from man; to be murdered for no reason at all. This kind of honesty never made it to his (white man's) story book.

9/14/04
Jahlaune Hunt
Brooklyn NY
When I was about 12 years old two of the first songs I remember finding in the basement of our home in Long Island was Gloomy Sundy and Strange fruit. To this day even though the song is ancient stills evokes a sadness in me that is hard to shake off. Its agonizingly, haunting lyrics and Billie Holidays woeful, murnful voice complement each other like blue skies and sunshine. Abe merpool,for years Billie told people she wrote that song, or it was written especilly for her and you know what? Even if it wasn't it damn sure should have been!

5/26/04
Anne
As a teenaged jazz obsessee, i found it very interesting that Billie Holiday did not write this. It was so incredibly fascinating to hear the story behind the haunting song that i love so much. if only all teens could feel the power in that song as i do. I think it would make them quit denying that there is racism within our schools, and that inequality is something our country is still facing every day...no matter what our civics teachers say.

3/19/04
Dezzy
wrightstown, new jersey
this was a great way to express the civil rights at this time. It explains the confrontations between colored people and white people.

3/19/04
jack rider
willingboro New Jersey
the movie was great but it was graphic.

2/26/04
Carrie Stewart
Austin, Texas
What a film with so much packed into 60 minutes! The question that is throbbing in my head almost since the beginning is "How do we redeem ourselves of such brutality and inhumanity as whites? As non-Jews? As heterosexuals? As US-born?" Certainly this filmaker is helping us get there.

"Strange Fruit" is both literal and metaphoric in its simplicity. It represents so much about the way oppression manifests itself across various groups. Like Sweet Honey and the Rock's "Freedom", we are all trapped by injustice.

I was curious about the comment in the film description on this website about "The House I Live In" being politically opposite of "Strange Fruit." I don't see it that way at all, in fact it makes sense that it is by the same composer. As a Sinatra fan, his rendition (I believe he later recorded it in full) to me, has the pull of the American ideal which we have yet to reach. SF illustrates where we fall short.

2/11/04
mw madzura
Timely reminder of how the horrors of the past keep cropping up in the most unusual places: the degradation scripts are only that much slicker, sometimes cloaked in the most rational of discourses; rarely do we pause to think about state-sanctioned violence and modern formas of lycnhing through the most revered of our institutions- the criminal justice system, schools, work, play, and other cultural repertoires and representations. I am astounded that lynching discourses are a blur on the memories of many people, notwithstanding their continuing relevance. Ultimately, we are talking about dehumanization scripts which allow us to engage in the most unimaginable cruelties against fellow humans; a common conception of humanity is absent, hence the proliferation of special interests and claims (and lies) touting one exceptionalism after another.

2/3/04
Rita
St Paul, MN
Wonderful, wonderful documentary! Joel Katz is a master storyteller and historian. I like the hour-long format of this documentary--just long enough for school teachers (of social studies and American history) to include in their curriculum. I also enjoyed learning about the sidebar of WEB DuBois introducing the Rosenburg children to such wonderful adoptive parents and how glowingly the two sons speak of their now deceased adoptive parents.

Strange Fruit has spawned more than just an increased awareness of the horrors of lynching and racism--it spawns the "seeds" of learning so eloquently displayed by the DeWitt Clinton students who gave their critical intrepretations of the lyrics. I also enjoy hearing Amiri Baraka's comments--those who would be so narrow as to not listen to those whom they would not agree with are just as you said "limited" and "frightening." Excellent job! Peace

1/12/04
Frank
I want to thank Joel and all involved in the production of the film, and UNCTV for airing it in the Asheville area. The reason for the song is a gruesome part of U.S. history, which still needs telling. But I don't understand why the local PBS station consistently saves such programs for 11 PM on Saturday night. It seems to be afraid of airing controversial topics earlier.

Frank

12/16/03
Virpi Anita Kantonen
The Documentary was recently shown on Finnish television. It was a wonderful lesson of human history.

I found it a fascinating example of how popular culture can portray important issues. Knowing more about this particular song helps me, as a teacher, to get that message across to my own studens. Thank you.

Virpi Kantonen

12/16/03
Joe
Kansas City
Here in Kansas City, a woman has successfully* opened the restaurant she calls "Strange Frut".

Apparently, the name was intended to be a play on the various kinds of fruit drinks and foods offered. But, instead, her restaurant has sparked immeasurable controversy. This is partly because it is located in the historic 18th & Vine area. So, in the middle of the black historic neighborhood (no offense to anyone) is this restaurant named after a song about lynching black people. A lot of people are angry at her. She claims that she knew what the song meant and still defends the title of the restaurant.

In an even more strange twist, UMKC, University of Missouri - Kansas City, has created a new department that replaces the Affirmative Action department. They are calling this deparment "Diversity in Action" and will do "diversity training" for all employees and staff at the university. One of the heads of this deparment, Joe Seabrooks, has selected this restaurant to provide catering to the diversity training meetings.

In all, it's a PR nightmare that is getting worse. If you were going to do diversity training, would you choose a restaurant that had the same name as a song that talked about lynching the very people you are trying to encourage awareness of?

12/10/03
Sonya
Houston, TX
Why is it that in history text books, the only time of protest that is looked at is the 60's? I never knew about the other times. As a student in a public high school, I feel as though I was robbed of education.

This project was truely wonderful.

5/1/03
Strange fruit applies to Jews too. Jews were lynched in Europe, and some in North America, by so-called civilized people. Jews and Blacks have a lot in common.

5/1/03
i belive that the song strange fruit has such a dark presence that the idea of putting able's words to music is a dimm idea. for any musicians out there here is an idea. put the poem strange fruit to non music (total dissonance) with a lack of time and lots of uglyness because strange fruit hanging in poplar trees dosent deserve music it deserves the uglyness it portrays

4/23/03
Stephen graves
Conshohocken, Pa.
My question is from one scene there is a painting of a boy in a red shirt sitting on the bank of a lake next a tree with a noose hanging from a branch. Who is the artist and can I get a copy? 25 years ago, I bought a print but the tree was missing, only the boy looking at the lake remained. I bought that day because I had a red shirt on and I sitting along the Delaware river. For some strange reason I always thought there was something missing in the print. When I watched you show, I said there it is.

<< Filmmaker Joel Katz's response >>
The image you refer to is from "The Migration Series", a group of paintings done by Jacob Lawrence between the late 1930's and early 40's. For more information, refer to: http://www.whitney.org/jacoblawrence/art/migration_series.html

4/23/03
Ralph Dumain
Washington, DC
I tuned in partway through an unannounced local broadcast. I wish I had seen the whole documentary and I hope it will be broadcast again. I wonder if this was based on the book on the same subject. In any event, it was a truly outstanding historical document,and I'm grateful to see this as well as many other superb documentaries on PBS (esp. on black and Jewish history) over the past several years. As to your questions: (1) "Strange Fruit" is an especially haunting song both in music and lyrics and that is why it has lasted, in combination with Billie Holliday's unique talent. (2) I'm not sure a song has impacted my beliefs, but I would say Bob Dylan in the '60s was most noteworthy, as were other people's songs and interpretations of him and others, e.g. Nina Simone. (3) Political or protest songs are a dime a dozen. My advise to would be songwriters would be to use your imagination and not just report on what's going on in the hood or the headlines. For something to last, it has to be imaginative enough to lift the particular to universal proportions, capturing the essence of a phenomenon. That way it will last, and may even make a greater impact on the present moment, when people won't look past the ends of their noses. America has a rich cultural heritage; dare to raise your standards to the level of dedication of your forebears who sacrificed to make a better world.

4/23/03
Robert Adelman
Malakoff, Texas
An excellent, and hopeful film, in the sense that the universality of human suffering, which made the creation of the song possible, can build a bridge of understanding to so many. The sidestory of the author's adoption of the Rosenburg children was also fascinating, and underlined the authenticity of his humanism. Would like to know when this will air again.

4/23/03
Saw this on a bad TV with rabbit ears, but it made my day, I've always been a fan of Billie's, and the song... there's nothing else like it, especially today... and it poses a question that every person I've ever known has a different answer for, especially before they've seen or heard the pro's opinions.

Two other songs strike my mind, if my memory serves me correctly John Newton (this particular song writer) always wanted to be a captain of a sailing vessel, he went to all the right schools, did all the right things, and finally became a ship captain only to have his first ship sink... then he couldn't find a another ship to sail, finally he did obtain a ships captain job, but on a slave runner from Africa... He wrote the popular spiritual song, AmazingGrace. As the song says, "I was blind but now I see."

Secondly, it was Nat Adderly's son in his teen years wrote, "Compared To What!" If you've never heard it before, there is one line that will stir you, I'm sure.. let me know what you think.

God's peace....
Ozzie

4/23/03
kathy
grosse pointe mich
I was deeply touched by this story regarding this musical compostion. The terror that reigned in the south and probably at times still can. The hatred that can still spawn. This song chilled me to the bone! This song should never be forgotten.

4/14/03
Just finished watching the PBS presentation of ITVS "Strange Fruit". It was outstanding. How can we get a copy to see?

<< Video copies of STRANGE FRUIT can be purchased through California Newsreel - Phone: 877-811-7495 - Email: contact@newsreel.org >>

4/14/03
Ronn Mullen
St Petersburg FL
No one has mentioned the novel STRANGE FRUIT by Lillian Smith which was inspired by the song. It was a very controversial novel at the time of its publication and was adapted to the Broadway stage as well.

<< In response to the comment above:

I knew of the Lillian Smith novel, but due to time considerations in structuring the program, I wasn't able to include that interesting story. In the early editions of the novel Ms. Smith acknowledges in the cover pages that she borrowed the title "Strange Fruit" from Lewis Allan. The book includes an episode of a lynching, and was banned from at least one book fair in Boston. The funding I had for the film version of "Strange Fruit" limited the program to a one hour length, which didn't allow me to include this and a number of other interesting tangential stories. >>

4/14/03
Robert Adelman
Malakoff, Texas
An excellent, and hopeful film, in the sense that the universality of human suffering, which made the creation of the song possible, can build a bridge of understanding to so many. The sidestory of the author's adoption of the Rosenburg children was also fascinating, and underlined the authenticity of his humanism. Would like to know when this will air again.

4/11/03
South Bend, IN
The show was haunting, just like the song. As an African-American it was for me most revealing that it wasn't written by Ms. Holiday as I had always believed. Unfortunately, there seem to be few non-Blacks left who can truly understand the sentiments of the type he expressed. The political songs of my generation--the Sixties--are well known. Everyone knows the words to "We Shall Overcome", "Blowin' in the Wind", "If I Had a Hammer", etc. But, few recall Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddamn" or anything recorded by The Last Poets who were rappin' long before P.Diddy or Eminem. I hear the young people today; I feel them. I know it must be terrible to have us in charge of your future, but their anger is to virulent and vicious; so misogenistic, racist, hate-filled. They must do what they must do. But, I pray they can find something hopeful to sing about in the near future.

4/11/03
Joy Moore
Phoenix, AZ
The music is a strong expression of struggle and injustice. The message very clear. I can remember when I was young, how my mother would be so change by listening to Billie Holliday. The music was always played in our home, and discussed as if a lesson of life. I am glad to have been influence by the music that was written and performed, by both artists. Strange Fruit, God Bless the Child, Good Morning Heartache, Lady Sings the Blues....wonderful and telling expressions of music.

4/11/03
This was an important film....With important artists of the day acknowledged, e.g. The Barakas..Abbey Lincoln etc... especially since too many of our children are only exposed to "rap". It is important also to credit the writer of this one song being "Jewish"/"white" ... Now I'd like to see some films that document how many Blacks/African American songs were ripped off from uneducated Blacks not paid royalties&publishing rights co-opted.Even Duke Ellington had to fight to be respected/paid. I'd like to see a sensitive portrayal of Black vulnerability due to the terrorism of enslavement (withno reparations)which made record companies rich and to this day have not been compensated

4/10/03
Bert Zackim
New York N.Y.
The haunting song, a signature song sung by the late great Billie Holliday is part of the American culture. Mr. Katz your film is quite a piece of film. There is one taint. in the latter part, one of the commentators was Leroi Jones ask Amira Baraka,(looking old and ragged) long an anti Semite and a Nemisis of the Jews....for some reason you could not cut his comment, but you did not identify him, why. And shame on you for not identifying him or cutting him...he does not belong in such a film...and if you needed him there, well at least you could have identified him as to who he is...it must eat his rotten guts to know a Jew wrote this great poem/song....

<< Filmmaker Joel Katz's response >>
In response to the comments of Bert Zakim of New York: Amiri Baraka was identified on screen -- you must have missed it. One of the reasons I was interested in interviewing Baraka -- which was filmed, by the way, long before 9/11 and his controversial poem about that -- was precisely because of his reputation as a sometimes anti-Semite. I was curious what he would say regarding a story of such clear Black/Jewish collaboration. Contrary to your supposition, he did not seem to "eat his guts" that "Strange Fruit" was written by a Jew. He fully acknowledged Meeropol's authorship of the song and praised the poetry of it. If one interviews only people with whom you're certain you agree with on every point, you can end up with a rather lifeless film. The tone of hatefulness I detect in your brief note frankly is far more frightening than anything I encountered during the several hours I spent with Mr. Baraka.

4/10/03
Eric Wallace
Tucson, AZ
More a question on a song in the film, although as always an intense, moving pleasure to stumble into one of PBS's excellent documentaries.

I would like to know the Cassandra Wilson recording (with band members) from the closing set. That was one, way gone, beat, jazz-funk-blues!!!!! I would like to track down this recording or a similar one with the same personnel. Thanks! eric.

<< Filmmaker Joel Katz's response >>
The footage of Cassandra Wilson singing "Strange Fruit" was licensed from the film "Traveling Miles", directed by Isaach de Bankole (Tougaloo Films, 2000; www.jazztrance.com). The personnel were Eric Lewis (piano), Marvin Sewell (guitar), Marcus Baylor (drums), and Lonny Plaxico (bass). Mr. Plaxico also plays bass on the Don Byron's originally composed score for the film "Strange Fruit" .

You can also find "Strange Fruit" on Cassandra's CD "New Moon Daughter". The personnel there are Chris Whitley (resophonic guitar), Graham Hayes (coronet), and Lonny Plaxico (bass).
Joel Katz.

4/10/03
Sue Bowes
This broadcast about lynching made me sad that in this day and age that African American are only a short swing from a white man's anger in the south. Anyone that would be an ostrich about this subject, is truly in denial about the horrific past and looming present that all African Americans face when in the company of angry white man. How can that much hate be habored in one's spirit?

4/10/03
Charmaine Whaley
"Strange Fruit" was a very touching documentary, I was filled with so much knowledge. From watching this film it has made me more aware that there is so much more black history that I need to know about. I really felt the song.

4/10/03
H. W. Ellerson
Hadensville, Va.
"Strange Fruit" was a powerful program with a powerful message. I did not know about the song or the story until this evening. It brings to mind my observation that the perfect form of democracy is a lynch mob: all persons present agree to the outcome except for one person.

In these times of zealous promotion of "democracy" and zealous adherence to Americanism, we might well remember that the greatest part of our Constitution is the Bill of Rights, which provides individuals protection from the tyranny of democracy.

4/10/03
Diane Trim
New Orleans, Louisiana
It is so strange that this song was so long ago and even to this day those same fruits are now being drug behind pickup truck instead of hanging from trees. Who ever said things have changed.

4/10/03
alma anaya
aloha, oregon
I caught the last bit of this program and reallly enjoyed it. I am 21 years old and have never heard anything about 'strange fruit,' not in school or college. I have no idea how I happened to miss this famous and important chunk of history. Will this program air again, I would like to see the entire program. Thanks, Alma

4/10/03
Alan Soffin
A wonderful job. So well put together. "Strange Fruit" dredged up a now ancient-seeming idealism that has no apparent place in a media world that now founds itself on stock market news and interpersonal freakishness. Rock on.

4/9/03
It was unpatriotic and un-American to be against the lynching of African Americans back then. Today it is considered unpatriotic and un-American to be against the murder of innocent civilians. Little has changed in that respect; Bible in one hand, devil in the other.

4/9/03
Claudia and Sam Zaslavsky
New York, NY
We agree heartily with the posted comments of Joel Katz.

4/9/03
Michael Barbano
West Allis, WI
Hi, I'm just writing to give you my thanks and to express how much I truly appreciate independent lens coming on the air (pbs). It was just yesterday that I was bemoaning the fact that there is hardly any adult television and so I fell asleep with the tv on. Then I woke a few minutes before 5 a.m. and independent lens came on. Terrific. Once again pbs comes through when nearly everyone else fails to. Thank you. I'm so grateful for something that isn't geared solely for the 6th grade intellectual level. Mike Barbano

4/9/03
Crystal
Long Island, New York
I thought that the program on Strange Fruit was very good as well as very informative, but I must admit that I was surprised to not hear any mention of Lillian Smith's book by the same title. I had moved away from the television for a few minutes, could I have missed it then? Or, was it really not referred to during the course of the program? I would love to hear feedback on this matter. Were the creators of this program not aware of Ms. Smith's book? Please let me know.
Thank you,
Crystal

4/9/03
In our fair city, there is a woman--a black woman, at that--who is opening a new restaurant, which she is naming "Strange Frut[sic]." Does anyone else find this as bizarre as I do? What can she possibly be thinking? Surely she knows the history of that title. Bizarre.

4/8/03
David Vaughan
Austin, Texas
The circumstances of how Billie Holliday collaborated to make a white Jewish composer's song immortal was not unique to "Strange Fruit." Some years ago I was an aquaintance of Arthur Herzog (Sr.) when he lived at the Parkstone Hotel in Detroit. Arthur originally wrote "God Bless the Child," claimed by many to have been written by Billie Holliday.





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