R&B singer Andra Day delivered a striking rendition of the famous protest song “Strange Fruit” on The Daily Show Wednesday. The song was first made famous by Billie Holiday, but has also been performed by Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley, UB40 and Annie Lennox.
The sparse arrangement found Day partnering with just a guitarist, who unspooled blues riffs beneath her stunning vocals. Day began singing Abel Meeropol’s vivid lyrical poem about the lynchings of African Americans in the South at a low moan. Day also tied the song to ongoing social justice struggles such as mass incarceration, wearing broken handcuffs around her wrists and a hat lined with metal chains.
Day joined Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, for an interview with Daily Show host Trevor Noah. The pair discussed the issues of Southern heritage in the wake of Charlottesville, the debate about removing monuments to Confederate generals and the importance of discussing the most painful parts of American history, such as lynchings.
“You might want to stay away from it, but when you can see that truth and deal with those painful realities of our history … it’s the only way we can move forward and heal as a country,” Day said.
Day released her debut studio album, Cheers to the Fall, in 2015.