Sunday, September 16, 2012


I was in France with friends a couple of weeks ago and for some reason I asked a question - not unheard of in Pipology -  the question was::
'STRANGE FRUT - what name comes to mind?'
I received all sorts of feedback. The names of fruits and other intelligent answers far outstripping my allergic-ness towards all things quiz and crosswords puzzles.
I asked the same question on Twitter yesterday and received all sorts of answers
'Billie' someone tweeted.
'Nina' another plus some obscure comments as usual for those thinking out of the box.

What I was thinking was the name of Billie Holiday who first sung this powerful and emotional song.
Nina Simone did another powerful version later.
Both artistes I never saw live.
I have seen UB40 do it live. It was on their 'Signing off' album.
I guess you may have other versions - iTunes would tell me that!

The song triggers tears outwardly and inwardly in me.
ALSO gives me motivation for Justice.
We gained Civil Rights in the USA.
But we still need to work for HUMAN RIGHTS it seems to me - where I am coming from.
That applies to here at home and world wide.

I asked Liz if she could write a paragraph because she actually saw Nina sing this live in London town

Here it is::

A chance conversation on twitter this afternoon took  me back to a time long past in my life.
What do the words Strange Fruit make you think of asked twitter (in the form of Pip Wilson)? Nina Simone I immediately tweeted back. The answer was correct and I went on to reveal that I had been fortunate enough to see Nina Simone perform live over two decades ago. What can I recall of that evening? Well it’s a bit hazy…. I wish it were clearer but some things are very  clear and in particular the feeling of the intensity of the performance is very real. I know that I didn’t buy the ticket myself – it was a work colleague of mine who had a spare ticket so I agreed to go….some things haven’t changed too much over the years – I still love the opportunity of a live performance! The gig was at the Town and Country Club in Kentish Town – it’s been called The Forum now for quite a while and it’s been refurbished recently so it’s a bit posher but I’m sure it’s still pretty similar to all those medium sized venues that London has lots of, like the Academy at Brixton (where I first saw U2 in 1984) or the Troxy in East London,  a favourite of Billy Bragg, with a capacity of  maybe 3 or 4000 people at most. They’re  a bit grimy but great for live music.
I hadn’t been to too many live music events at this point in my life and it felt quite intimate and raw. I don’t think I was even a massive fan although I knew who she was, as I said it was random spontaneous invitation by  a work colleague. But it was a great gig – Nina Simone centre stage with a huge piano – I love a piano player - , the darkness, the closeness, the voice, the songs, many of which were so familiar. I don’t have lots of detailed memories it’s more like a frozen frame photograph of Nina and the piano and the darkness and the feelings of being in the presence of a legend. I think I found my way quite close to the front, my photograph memory is a close one, and I know that after the show I went out and bought several tapes (those were the days) and they appeared regularly as the soundtrack to various parties and events that I hosted.
Thanks to a search of the internet and a site called the Nina Simone database – I believe that the date of the concert was 13 January 1991. It’s reassuring to know that it wasn’t a dream and that it did happen. The woman at the piano with the glorious voice and the incredible presence - I’m so pleased that I was there that night to hear the legend that is Nina Simone sing and play for us.
Thank you Liz.
I picked this up from the web::
The song has  been recorded dozens of times. 
Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller did an instrumental version, with Miller evoking the poem on his mournful bass clarinet. 
Miller says he was surprised to learn the song was written by a white Jewish guy from the Bronx. 
"Strange Fruit," he says, took extraordinary courage both for [composer Abel] Meeropol to write and for [Billie] Holiday to sing. 
"The '60s hadn't happened yet," he says. 
"Things like that weren't talked about. They certainly weren't sung about."

Powerfully moving videos for you here too.

A disturbing documentary about it::