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What Can Purge My Heart Of The Song And The Sadness?

The music industry heralded Billie Holiday, aka Lady Day, as the definition of Jazz. She shimmered on stage like the legend she was during the 1930s going unto the 50s. An enigmatic performer, she had received no formal education in music as records show. However, her remarkable hits like 'Strange Fruit', 'Fine and Mellow', 'The Man I Love' and many others speak volumes of the genius streak she possessed.

Southern hanging trees bear a strange fruit Blood on the leaves and blood at the root Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees Pastoral scene of the gallant South The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck For the rain to gather For the wind to suck For the sun to rot For the tree to drop Here is a strange and bitter crop

~ Strange Fruit, lyrics by Lewis Allan, vocals by Billie Holiday

Copyright: Edward B Marks Music Company, Marks Edward B. Music Corp.

The white folk received Billie's song, Strange Fruit, with mixed emotions. It sang about the lynching of Black Americans when racial discrimination and black hatred (dominant truths to date) were rampant and not stamped as social evils. The song compared the victims to fruits. Billie felt close to the song for her father was denied medical help for his lung cancer just for being black. The federal government started targeting Billie after the release of her sensational song. They were convinced she was a dangerous influence on society.

Billie's songs cocooned her life in words and played with notes. Sexually abused as a mere 10-year-old, followed by prostitution to survive, a bank full of toxic relationships and a lifelong heroin addiction, haunted Billie. Liver cirrhosis led her to an early grave at 44 years. Langston Hughes, the true Jazz poet, had dedicated a poem to the harsh life Billie had endured.

Song for Billie Holiday

What can purge my heart

Of the song

And the sadness?

What can purge my heart

But the song

Of the sadness?

What can purge my heart

Of the sadness

Of the song?

Do not speak of sorrow

With dust in her hair,

Or bits of dust in eyes

A chance wind blows there.

The sorrow that I speak of

Is dusted with despair.

Voice of muted trumpet,

Cold brass in warm air.

Bitter television blurred

By sound that shimmers–


~Langston Hughes

The United States vs. Billie Holiday, with Andra Day starring as Billie, premiered in February 2021. A Hulu original movie, based on Johann Hari’s bestseller Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, mainly focuses on the FBI's pursuit to convict Billie and rid her of her growing influence on society. Day's brilliant portrayal as the Jazz singer was much appreciated by the audience. Unlike Diana Ross's starring movie, Lady Sings The Blues, based on Billie's autobiography, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, evidently muses over the life after the release of her controversial song Strange Fruit. No matter what her personal life unfurled, there is no denying that Billie was and will be an evergreen star of the music world.

Copyright: Hulu, YouTube


Music Source~ Spotify

Video Source~ YouTube

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