Advertisement

Strange Fruit31:04
Download

Play
Portrait of Billie Holiday singing at the Downbeat club in New York City on February 1947. (Library of Congress)
Portrait of Billie Holiday singing at the Downbeat club in New York City on February 1947. (Library of Congress)

Billie Holiday helped shape American popular music with her voice and unique style. But, her legacy extends way beyond music with one song in particular — "Strange Fruit." The song paints an unflinching picture of racial violence, and it was an unexpected hit. But singing it brought serious consequences.

In a special collaboration with NPR Music's Turning the Tables Series, how "Strange Fruit" turned Billie Holiday into one of the first victims of the War on Drugs.


If you would like to read more on the topic, here's a list:


We love to hear from our listeners! Tweet at us @throughlineNPR, send us an email, or leave us a voicemail at (872) 588-8805.

Photos: Lady Day

Portrait of Billie Holiday singing at the Downbeat club in New York City on February 1947. (Library of Congress)
Harry J. Anslinger, commissioner of the Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics, poses for a photo on September 24, 1930. (AP)
Portrait of Billie Holiday with her pet dog, Mister, at the club Downbeat in New York City. (Library of Congress)
President John F. Kennedy shakes hands with former Commissioner of Narcotics, Harry J. Anslinger, upon presenting him with an outstanding record citation. (Abbie Rowe/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library)

Copyright NPR 2021.

Advertisement

Advertisement