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“Amigos lectores que leerán este libro blog, | despójense de toda pasión | y no se escandalicen al leerlo |
no contiene mal ni corrupción; | es verdad que no encontrarán nada de perfección |
salvo en materia de reír; |
mi corazón no puede elegir otro sujeto | a la vista de la pena que los mina y los consume. |
Vale mejor tratar de reír que derramar lágrimas, | porque la risa es lo propio y noble del alma. Sean felices!
--François Rabelais (circa 1534) [english]

sábado, 29 de enero de 2011

Lynch's law and Billie Holiday

As Ralph Ginzburg put it in100 Years of Lynching, “the headlines told the story. Blood Curdling Lynching Witnessed by 2,000, “Bumps Into Girl – Is Lynched, Negro Vet Lynched for Refusing to Doff Uniform, Lynched After Refusing to Dance on Command, Negro Youth Mutilated for Kissing White Girl, Black Lynched for Remark Which May have been Hello, Boy Lynched for no Special Cause, An Innocent Man Is Lynched, Harvard Professor Favors Legalized Lynchings, Governor Commends Lynching, Lynching Bad for Business and Lynch Leader Declares Lynching as Humane are just some of his examples.
The lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, August 7, 1930.

The distinguished author of the seminal study of race in America, Gunner Myrdal: “Couldnt find a single case in which the grand jury had indicted a white man for participating in a lynch mob, although some lynchers were named, even caught by newspaper photographers as they stood a few yards from the dangling feet of lifeless bodies.”
That same year a New York City schoolteacher, union activist and composer named Abel Meerpool showed a song he had written to Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagen), who was already a well-known jazz vocalist.
Strange Fruit was a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish high-school teacher from the Bronx, about the lynching of two black men. He published under the pen name Lewis Allan.[3][4]
In the poem, Meeropol expressed his horror at lynchings, possibly after having seen Lawrence Beitler's photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana. He published the poem in 1936 in The New York Teacher, a union magazine. Though Meeropol/Allan had often asked others (notably Earl Robinson) to set his poems to music, he set "Strange Fruit" to music himself. The piece gained a certain success as a protest song in and around New York. Meeropol, his wife, and black vocalist Laura Duncan performed it at Madison Square Garden.[5] (Meeropol and his wife later adopted Robert and Michael, sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of espionage and executed by the United States.)[6]
Barney Josephson, the founder of Cafe Society in Greenwich Village, New York's first integrated nightclub, heard the song and introduced it to Billie Holiday. Holiday first performed the song at Cafe Society in 1939. She said that singing it made her fearful of retaliation, but because its imagery reminded her of her father, she continued to sing it. She made the piece a regular part of her live performances.[7]
Holiday approached her recording label, Columbia, about the song, but the company feared reaction by record retailers in the South, as well as negative reaction from affiliates of its co-owned radio network, CBS.[8] Even John Hammond, Holiday's producer, refused. She turned to friend Milt Gabler, whose Commodore label produced alternative jazz. Holiday sang "Strange Fruit" for him a cappella, and moved him to tears. In 1939, Gabler worked out a special arrangement with Vocalion Records to record and distribute the song.[9] Columbia allowed Holiday a one-session release from her contract in order to record it.
She recorded two major sessions at Commodore, one in 1939 and one in 1944. "Strange Fruit" was highly regarded. In time, it became Holiday's biggest-selling record. Though the song became a staple of her live performances, Holiday's accompanist Bobby Tucker recalled that Holiday would break down every time after she sang it.
In her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, Holiday suggested that she, together with Lewis Allan, her accompanist Sonny White, and arranger Danny Mendelsohn, set the poem to music. The writers David Margolick and Hilton Als dismissed that claim in their work, Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song. They wrote that hers was "an account that may set a record for most misinformation per column inch". When challenged, Holiday—whose autobiography had been ghostwritten by William Dufty—claimed, "I ain't never read that book."[10]
Strange Fruit
Southern trees bear 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,
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.

Holiday’s label, Columbia, refused to record the song, so she recorded it under another label. Some radio stations refused to play it, but Holiday continued to sing it for the rest of her life—some say to the detriment of her career.

Live Footage of one of the firtst anti rascism songs ever

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