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Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song Paperback – 1 Feb 2001

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 01 edition (1 Feb. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060959568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060959562
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 705,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"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."--""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 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A haunting story, beautiflluy told about the darkest days of black american history
a top song for every generation also
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa44c2180) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa455c234) out of 5 stars STRANGE FRUIT is no more than an appetizer 14 Feb. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I was glad to see the announcement for this book, an essay on Billie Holiday's landmark song, "Strange Fruit." Margolick does a good job of describing the song's origins, its performance by Holiday and its initial reception by audiences and critics.
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa4397a98) out of 5 stars Short...But Worth the Read 7 Nov. 2011
By Franklin Johnson - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song' does a great job of dispelling the myths about the song and pinpointing the truth about one of the most famous American songs of the 20th century. Not only that but it also does a great job at pin-pointing why the song still has a shroud of mystery about it, and how it impacted generations of African-Americans and whites.
It seems like a bit of light reading, but since the song is an important one, the book is a gem.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa43a5c84) out of 5 stars Long Magazine Essay Padded into Book Form 23 April 2010
By Jon Bastian - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you've poked around enough online to know the real story of the writing of the song "Strange Fruit", and are more than a passing fan of Billie Holiday, then there's really nothing new here for you. This is a very slight volume, and about half way through I found myself annoyed that the author just seemed to be finding as many different ways as possible to give us variations on the themes -- "Billie was very emotionally drained by performing this song" and "Audiences frequently didn't know how to take it." Don't be fooled by the page length, either -- a good chunk of that at the back is padded by a discography of performers who have recorded the song. It's a useful reference but, again, nothing that you couldn't find by searching for the song on Amazon or any other music site. I was expecting more insight about the Café Society crowd, and more biography on the song's author, Abel Meeropol. Instead, it felt like "Lady Sings the Blues for Dummies" combined with a collection of quotes and anecdotes -- again, none of which added to what I already knew.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa43a5cb4) out of 5 stars Elegant Portrait 2 Aug. 2002
By Douglas S. Lavine - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is an elegant portrait of a song, the woman who sang it, and the man who wrote it. It is a poignant look at the interplay between them all.I am not a student of jazz, and yet I found this book to be fascinating. It is as much about civil rights and human dignity as it is about music. Margolick is an amazingly astute observer of events, and he has an uncanny ability to describe what he sees in beautiful, elegant prose. This book would make a wonderful gift to anyone interested in jazz; interested in the civil rights movement; interested in Billie Holiday; or just interested in a little known profile in courage. Read it and savor it!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa43a6168) out of 5 stars Tracking a legend 26 Jun. 2001
By Jayne MacManus - Published on
Format: Paperback
There are few songs in the world that stop you in your tracks and render you speechless of mind and heart. Billie Holiday sang one of them. The combination of her signature smoky vocals and the stark lyrics of the song written by Abel Meeropol, a white Jewish schoolteacher in the Bronx, proved to be spellbinding. Its emotional charge stirred activists and intellectuals and even popular notoriety. Margolick's biography of the song is a slim volume but full of interest, well-written and researched.
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