Song Analysis Of 'Strange Fruit' By Billie Holiday

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‘Music is more than an object of study: it is a way of perceiving the world. A tool of understanding’ (Haynes 2012, p.g 31).
The power of music is indisputable. It can completely reshape not only the way we view the world, but our everyday thoughts and actions. It has the power to inspire great revolutions, to be the catalyst to social and political change and to ignite the spark of social consciousness even within those who live apolitically. Billie Holiday is an artist whose work had the capacity of not only reflecting cultural and social developments of her time and exploring the themes of social injustice and racism, but of sparking a new level of social consciousness within society with her performance of the song ‘Strange Fruit’, which …show more content…

The song spoke as a metaphor for anyone who had suffered the pain and destruction at the hands of lynch mobs and became "a declaration of war… the beginning of the civil rights movement’ (Ayre 2013) The song weaves a tapestry of the ‘gallant south’(Holiday 1939) with the ‘scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh’(Holiday 1939) in the air. This image of a balmy summer’s evening in the South is tainted and marred with horrific images of brutal lynchings. Holiday mournfully cries out about the ‘sudden smell of burning flesh’(Holiday 1939), the ‘black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze’(Holiday 1939) and the ‘bulging eyes’(Holiday 1939) and ‘twisted mouth’(Holiday 1939), of the dead bodies, left as ‘fruit for the crows to pluck’(Holiday 1939). This deeply graphic, and quite frankly, stomach churning portrayal of the murderous and horrific lynching scenes, in contrast to the idyllic images of the South, shocked audiences to their very core. ‘Do you applaud, awed by the courage and intensity of the performance, stunned by the grisly poetry of the lyrics, sensing history moving through the room? Or do you shift awkwardly in your seat, shudder at the strange vibrations in the air, and think to yourself: call this entertainment?’(Lynskey 2011). This song is not a mellow love ballad designed to soothe audiences, it is a chilling protest song, mourning the lives …show more content…

In conclusion, no other quote sums up the impact and legacy of a song like Strange Fruit quite like this one: ‘Art never achieves greatness through transcendence of sociohistorical reality…..As Herbert Marcuse has pointed out, it is at its best when it fashions new perspectives on the human condition, provokes critical attitudes, and encourages loyalty ‘to the vision of a better world, a vision which remains true even in defeat” (Davis

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