Blues Hall of Fame legend Bettye LaVette has released a timely cover of Billie Holiday’s standard “Strange Fruit” in conjunction with ongoing protests against systemic racism and violence toward black Americans.
LaVette chose to share the song ahead of schedule due to the current state of the country.
Written by Jewish poet Abel Meeropol and originally recorded by Holiday in 1939, “Strange Fruit” was inspired by a photo of two black men lynched by a crowd of white people who are seen smiling and pointing out the men’s bodies to the camera.
“It really is horrifying that nearly 80 years later, through Billie’s lifetime and now my 74 years, the meaning of this song still applies,” LaVette said. “It might not be men and women hanging from trees, but these public executions are now on video and it feels like they’re doing it for sport. I hope the song will be a reminder that we have had enough, and I support the Black Lives Matter movement.”
LaVette’s version of “Strange Fruit” will appear on her upcoming album Blackbirds, set for release on August 28th via Verse. The LP will also contain covers of Dinah Washington’s “Drinking Again,” Nina Simone’s “I Hold No Grudge” and Nancy Wilson’s “Save Your Love for Me.”