According to a recent tweet, British Singer Rebecca Ferguson, the runner-up from 2010's X-Factor season, says she was approached by the organizers of Donald Trump's inauguration to perform on Jan. 20. She replied that she would agree to the request if she could sing one particular song—"Strange Fruit."
— Rebecca Ferguson (@RebeccaFMusic) January 2, 2017
"I've been asked and this is my answer," Ferguson wrote on Twitter. "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 down trodden 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"
"Strange Fruit" was originally written by Abel Meeropol ("a white, Jewish guy from the Bronx,") in response to some photos of lynching he had seen. "I wrote Strange Fruit," Meeropol said, according to The Guardian, "because I hate lynching, and I hate injustice, and I hate the people who perpetuate it." It was first recorded by Billie Holiday, and is an evocative protest of the horrors of racial violence, such as the lynching and burning of black Americans in 20th century America. The song was named "Song of the Century" in 1999 by TIME Magazine and considered by producer to be a "declaration of war" and the spark of the Civil Rights movement.
Below are the lyrics:
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
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop
Watch Billie Holiday sing "Strange Fruit":
In 2015 Ferguson released Lady Sings the Blues, a cover album of Billie Holiday songs.
This song choice is likely due to America's deeply entrenched problems with racism—especially the racism that made an appearance during the presidential campaign. We'll see how Trump's people respond to this one.