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Strange Fruit

Among the selections screened this weekend (April 4-7) at the DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival will be Strange Fruit, a documentary about the song that became the anthem for the anti-lynching movement of the late 1930s. Widely known for Billie Holiday's rendition (the film notes that Holiday felt the song was written especially for her), "Strange Fruit" was actually conceived as a poem by Abel Meerepol, a Jewish-American school teacher from the Bronx, and was first put to music at a meeting of his New York teachers union. But it was when Billie Holiday began performing the song at New York's Café Society and when she later recorded it that "Strange Fruit" began to gain notoriety. The song reached Number 16 on popular music charts just months after being released, despite a ban by radio stations who labeled it subversive. Meerepol was questioned in 1940 by New York state officials, who asked if the Communist Party commissioned him to write the tune. The progressive Theatre Acts Committee mailed the lyrics to each member of Congress to promote anti-lynching legislation. Legislation was never passed, but the song has lived on, and has been recorded by dozens of other artists, including Abbey Lincoln, Sting, Cassandra Wilson, Nina Simone and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Visit www.ddff.com for details.

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