Billie Holiday Sings “Strange Fruit”

Before the weekend slips away, we want to remember Billie Holiday who was born 98 years ago today. To this day, Holiday is widely considered the greatest jazz vocalist of all time, known for her distinctive phrasing and melancholy voice. Above, we bring you her performance of “Strange Fruit,” a song recorded in 1939 that protested the lynching of African Americans in the South. The composition introduced Holiday to a mainstream audience, giving her career a big break. Down the line, Holiday closed every concert with the song, which continually grew in cultural importance. By 1999, TIME called “Strange Fruit” the song of the century, solidifying its place in the American songbook.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.