Strange FruitWords & Music by Lewis Allen
Recorded by Billie Holliday, 1939
Am Em7 Am A9 Am E7 Southern trees bear a strange fruit Am Em7 Am A9 Am E7 Blood on the leaves and blood at the root Bm7-5 E7-9 Fdim E7 Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze Am Em7 Asus4 A9 Am Strange fruit hanging from the pop - lar trees. | Am | G/B - E7 | Am - Em7 | Am | Am Em7 Am A9 Am E7 Pastoral scene of the gal - lant south -- Am Em7 Fdim E7 The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth; Am Em7 Bm7-5 Em7 A9 Am E7 Smell of mag - no - li - a, sweet And fresh, E7-9 Bm7-5 Fdim E7 Then the sudden smell of burning flesh. Am Am+7 Dm Dm7 E7 Here is the fruit for the crows to pluck, Am E7 Gdim F E7 For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, Em7-5 A AM7 Gdim Fdim E7 For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop, Am A9 Am E7 Bm7-5 Em7-5 E7 Am Here is a strange and bit - ter crop.
This one is subject to a lot of interpretation, musically, mostly because Holiday's vocal style. She allowed her voice to slid into, and out of, the melody in a way which was unquestionably emotive and personal -- but by definition, equally imprecise from a coldly musical point of view. Often, the note she was singing was nowhere to be found in the accompaniment in the version I transcribed, so determining what chord to specify can be something of a coin flip between being true to the vocal line, or being true to the accompaniment heard behind it.
Suggested by several visitors, most recently Taylor Ashton. For a long time, I've deliberately avoided doing the chart -- it is, after all, a profoundly distubting subject. But Holiday deserves the recognition, and so does the song, so it's finally here.