Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song Paperback – 1 Feb 2001
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|Paperback, 1 Feb 2001||
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"Show-stopper. To hear Billie holiday sing 'Strange Fruit' was to be forever haunted. Like Holiday's performance, Margolick's book is understated but intense, suffused with grace, power and dignity. It works on several levels: as tribute, elegy, homage andcultural history."--"New York Times Book Review"Margolick recreates the tense web of bitterness, guilt, denial and anger that surrounds Holiday's charged performances of 'Strange Fruit.' With thorough research and the smooth writing of a journalist, Margolick has produced a superb piece of cultural history."--"Publishers Weekly"["Strange Fruit], written by an outstanding journalist, David Margolick (New York Times; Vanity Fair), is a fast and fascinating read. It is written with great sincerity and dedication. This book will evoke stirring images of Ms. Holiday and the emerging jazz scene. It will also provide another link showing how modern jazz emerged in tandem with the Civil Rights movement, and how music can be a powerful political statement."--"allaboutjazz.com"With reportorial finesse, Margolick also restores 'Strange Fruit' to its deserved stature in the public consciousness as a piece of shocking reportage--a dispatch from battlesfields where the price of racism and ignorance was tallied in blood."--"Boston Globe"Margolick has nonetheless performed a valuable service: by illuminating the importance of this one song, he has captured an era in microcosm."--"The Providence Sunday Journal"For jazz buffs and anyone interested in popular culture, this slender book by Margolick offers several surprises and revelatons within its pages...This is indeed a job well done."--"Book Page"Strange Fruit explores how just 12 lines of lyrics andan unobtrusive score captivated nightclub audiences, terrified promoters and radio stations, and inspired activists in the 1940s...The effect of Margolick's storytelling technique is nearly as powerful as the song itself, employing the veneer of art to convey a very harsh reality."--"Baltimore City Paper"David Margolick's brief account of how 'Strange Fruit' came to be written and first performed is timely and illuminating."--"Ottawa Citizen"David Margolick takes us back to that time and makes a persuasive case for the importance of that performance--not just musically but socially as well. Small though it is, "Strange Fruit is an outsized piece of reporting and a satisfying work of history."--"Legal Times"The biography of a song is an intriguing project, and David Margolick carries it off, fitting great masses of musical and social history into a tiny volume."--"City Paper"Margolick presents a quick, fluent survey of the times and characters that formed 'Strange Fruit'--a song that inspired and enraged many listeners int hsoe days before the Civil Rights movement and changed Holiday as a performer."--"Library Journal"Margolick does an admirable job of disentagling the myths Holiday wove about herself."--"National Review"Strange Fruit sets the record straight with some fascinating background to go along with it...it is a quick read of a story that has to be told.--"Billboard"David Margolick offers an absorbing history and analysis of the song."--"Sunday Sun, Toronto"David Margolick's exceptional book, "Strange Fruit, is a biography of an extraordinary work, the singer who made it famous and its sustaining impact as one of the great protest songs of the 20th Century."--"MiamiHerald"Margolick has actually created a snapshot of a particular moment in time when jazz, social discontent, and fashionable liberalism came memorably together."--"Sunday Record
About the Author
David Margolick is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair and the author of Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink.
Al Kennedy worked as a communications coordinator in the public information office of the New Orleans Public Schools for 21 years.
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Top Customer Reviews
a top song for every generation also
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Unfortunately, there is little analysis of the song's impact on the African-American community or on American society in general. While the narrative is presented well, the commentary is often superficial: "Some African Americans...disliked the song because it portrayed blacks as victims. Others literally feared the song, thinking that far from enlightening people, it would stir up racial hatreds and actually lead to a new wave of lynchings." But which of the many views was dominant? Margolick provides some educated guesses but no real evidence. We see how the song affected particular individuals but not how it influenced the cause of civil rights.
Moreover, the purpose and scope of the book are never made clear. As a biographical essay, STRANGE FRUIT omits much of the context we would need to understand Holiday and her life. As a social commentary, it fails to marshal evidence in a cogent or convincing way. The author presents no critical evaluation of the song itself, and the book is ultimately more a tribute than anything else.
The unusual length of the book also makes it hard to categorize. It's more than a conventional essay yet less than a full-length biography. While the comments of those who knew Holiday are generally interesting, Margolick's attempts to synthesize the material -- to make sense of it all -- often seem forced, incomplete or even contradictory.
STRANGE FRUIT is strangely unsatisfying. Readers who want to understand the song's impact will be left wanting additional evidence and a more thoughtful commentary.
It seems like a bit of light reading, but since the song is an important one, the book is a gem.
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