7 Days In The Arts
In Joel Katz's intriguing new documentary about the anti-lynching ballad, "Strange Fruit," an African American poet says she always assumed the songwriter was black.
Katz shared the same misconception before making his film, also titled "Strange Fruit," in the late 1990s. After all, the haunting 1938 tune was first performed by jazz diva Billie Holiday and soon became the anthem of the anti-lynching movement.
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.
David Margolick, writer of books and articles on legal issues for The New York Times and Vanity Fair, has hit a raw nerve with his haunting book, "Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Cafe Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights" (Running Press). The book is an account of the scalding impact of one song - a song about a lynching - on scores of Ameri-can activists, writers, musicians, artists and intellectuals.