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Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”

Holiday toured with Count Basie in 1937 and Artie Shaw in 1938, and suffered racism on the road. By 1939 her recording contract was owned by Columbia, who allowed her to record for Milt Gable’s Commodore label that year because Columbia didn’t want to record “Strange Fruit,” a setting of a powerful poem by Lewis Allen about the lynching of African Americans; this was a jukebox hit and was backed with her own song “Fine and Mellow.”

From “Holiday, Billie [Harris, Elinore; Fagan, Eleanora; Lady Day]“ in The Grove Dictionary of American Music, Second edition on Oxford Music Online