One of the great things about music is that it keeps coming at you through time, if you keep on living. Have you ever had the experience of hearing a song of your youth again for the first time, and finally understanding that lyric you never really could figure out, but you would somehow gloss-over it as you sang-along with it a thousand times? Have you ever known a song was a classic and not known why, except that the title and original singer commanded so much respect, that you followed the herd of homage until you just accepted it as a fact – again, not completely comprehending?
Such is the case with me (again, thankfully as I love to learn new stuff ), a tree that stands guard at my driveway and a Billy Holiday classic, “Strange Fruit”.
I learned that this is a (flowering) Poplar tree through the years I have lived here, and basically thought nothing of it except for the fact that it is obviously ancient, and frequently tosses its heavy branches down upon and close to my car and house with the stormy winds that usher-in storms from the northwest. I always heard the words “strange fruit” in combination, more like and idiom or phrase that had a hidden connotation – until this past Sunday when, while listening to NPR’s “Jazz Profiles” hosted by Ms. Nancy Wilson (who I love like an Aunt – a whole other post), I heard Billie Holiday sing it, and learned that she sang it first – and the historical significance that song has relative to the history of racial relations in America. My little known fact moment came when Ms. Wilson narrated that the “strange fruit” in the song so aptly interpreted by Ms. Holiday were actually lynched Black Americans of the slavery days, “swingin” under the branches of the that tree.
The idea of being dragged-off to be lynched by an angry mob of southern white men just because of the color of your skin is abhorrent to me and many, many people. It is one of those things that was swept under the historical rug in America and is “not spoken of” anymore – until some silly magazine editor does something like put a hangman’s noose on the cover of a magazine article about Tiger Woods, as happened a few years ago.
So now when I spy by eye this big lumber watching over me, I can almost see the ugliness and dry “blood” etched within those deep old vertical crevices. It is another of my life’s ironies, as from time-to-time I have the opportunity to drop the science that as recently as thirty or forty years ago, I could have been one of Poplar’s ornaments instead sharing this land with it – and praying that the next branch to fall finds only the ground. I remember once one of them decending like a spear, sticking deeply into the ground only feet from where I was tyring to upright my wind-scattered recycle bin as I returned home from work during a thunder storm.
[You have a standing invitation to COMMENT on any of my posts, Thank you]