Singer Rebecca Ferguson has said she would accept an invitation to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration on 20 January on one condition: she be allowed to sing Strange Fruit.
First recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939 and covered by Nina Simone in 1965, Strange Fruit is one of the nation’s most famous songs about racism. The lyrics by Abel Meeropol graphically describe the lynchings of African-Americans:
Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Ferguson – a British singer who became well-known after appearing on 2010’s X Factor in the UK, memorably performing Sam Cooke’s civil rights anthem A Change is Gonna Come – called Strange Fruit “a song that speaks to all the disregarded and down trodden black people in the United States” in a Twitter statement introduced with the words “inauguration ceremony” explaining that she would appear at Trump’s inauguration only if she could sing that song:
I’ve been asked and this is my answer. If you allow me to sing Strange Fruit, a song that has huge historical importance, a song that was blacklisted in the United States for being too controversial. A song that speaks to all the disregarded and downtrodden black people in the United States. A song that is a reminder of how love is the only thing that will conquer all the hatred in this world, then I will graciously accept your invitation and see you in Washington. Best Rebecca X