British singer Rebecca Ferguson has accepted Donald Trump’s invitation to perform for his inauguration, though it’s unlikely he’ll accept her request.
Her full social media announcement is as follows:
“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 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”
The song “Strange Fruit” was popularized by Billie Holliday, and was originally a poem written by Abel Meeropol in response to a photograph of the Marion, Indiana lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith.
The lyrics of “Strange Fruit” are as follows:
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.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
The Trump transition team has yet to publicly respond, but huge amount would be difficult not to interpret the performance as a direct criticism of Trump himself.
You can watch Billie Holliday performance of “Strange Fruit” here:
Ferguson released a reinterpretation of Billie Holliday’s “Lady Sings the Blues” album in 2015, but “Strange Fruit” was not on it.
Trump’s team has been ridiculed for having extreme difficulty securing A-list talent to perform for his January 20th inauguration. Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration enjoyed performances by Aretha Franklin and Beyonce.
Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW