Music, literature, and art have all been used to present ideas throughout history. There have been many instances in America’s history where music has represented social, political, and cultural issues. American history has seen its darkest moments, but creating beauty out of the worst is a commonality. The Civil Rights movement was one of America’s most significant movements. It was born out of the continuing racism after the Emancipation Proclamation. Many inspirational works were created. Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit” was one of the two such works. Sam Cooke’s song “A Change Is Gonna Come” also showed the struggles faced by African-Americans in both those decades. The 20th century saw the brutality of racism against blacks, as well as people’s views and experiences.
Billie Holiday’s 1939 novel, “Strange Fruit”, is a disturbing tale about the racism in the American South. These areas are full of racist people who hang random people from different races and leave them to rot under the hot sun. The chilling story is brought to life by the singing. You can even see bodies hanging from trees. It is a timeless message that was very common in historical times. The “strange fruits” are used to refer to those who have been lynched and how they are treated. It seems like the topic is just a conversation. Here’s fruit for the crows, for the wind, and for the rains to gather. Here’s a strange and bitter crop (Holiday) that shows how poor these unfortunate souls were treated. Not only were African-Americans living in poverty treated badly, but the bodies of these poor souls were not removed from the tree where they died. The lynchings mentioned in the late-30s song didn’t cease for many more years. Ruby Bond, a farmer’s daughter, was interviewed in 1976 about her childhood and the decision to leave Mississippi. When asked about her parents decision, she said that “I knew” that they had moved north. She also stated that her mother and dad told her that if she returned to Mississippi, the tree would be named Bond. This is in line to the lyrics of the song. Jim Crow laws that separated the races were another injustice faced by African-Americans during this period. “Lynchings are public, often cruel, mob-led murders. Between 1882 and 1968, when reliable data began to be collected, there was a total of 4,730 lynchings. This included 3,440 women and men of color. Lynch Law was most popularly used to hang or shoot victims, but others were castrated, beaten, or dismembered. Whites were the predominant victims and perpetrators in the mid-1800s. However, the Jim Crow laws made blacks the most common lynching victims (Dr. Pilgrim). This idea allowed racism to flourish in the South. These laws allowed whites to believe that their actions were right regardless of circumstances. This led to overstepping boundaries like assault and murder. The 1950s saw the birth of the African-American civil Rights Movement, which forever changed history. Many African-Americans were subject to injustices every day and many tried to change them. These movements were led by many world-renowned rights advocates like Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King Jr. Expression became a large collaboration of literature, art, music, and e.t.c. during this period. Sam Cooke’s 1964 song, “A Change is Going to Come,” was released. Cooke repeats throughout the song, “But, I know a Change is Coming, oh Yes It Will.” Cooke’s voice can be heard expressing his passion and pain, which sets the mood for the entire piece. While words can seem a bit dull when written, the lyrics are filled with hope and meaning that can be understood by everyone. The movement for equality was a huge idea and was supported by all members of the African community. Martin Luther King Jr. is one example of such a member. In his speech, “I Have a Dream”, he shares his visions for a future where blacks and all other races are equal. “One day this nation is going to rise up.
These truths are self-evident, and all men are equal. (King Jr.). King Jr. hoped that America would see change and that all people would be equal. “Then I went to my brother and said, ‘Brother please.’ Cooke then knocks me back to my knees (Cooke). Cooke wants help to change society so that blacks and browns are equal. However, white men won’t help him. They will only endanger his cause. “We concluded that the public education doctrine of’separate yet equal’ is not appropriate. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal (Chief Justice Earl Warren). There were small victories for everyone during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, including the end of segregated schools. The song by Mr. Cooke seems to capture the struggle and hope of average African-Americans quite accurately. Martin Luther King Jr. repeated a similar message and so did many others in organizations such as the NAACP. This helped them believe that there was hope for a better future.
The vibrato on specific words is my favorite part of Billie Holiday’s piece. It emphasizes phrases that have more meaning. She also tells a more complex story by changing the volume and tempo. These elements are added to the phrasing and it transforms the entire piece. Sam Cooke’s piece is my favourite. I love the vivace rhythm when the trumpets sound. I didn’t love the andante pace in the middle of Cooke’s story about his struggle against the man who said he shouldn’t stay around and his “brother.”
There have been many changes since then. We also now have an insight into the thoughts of those who were affected. Non-whites face many injustices that can lead to a horrible treatment. Ms. Holiday’s song is a beautiful example of this. As Mr. Cooke proved, there is always hope. These ideas help others understand the feelings and thoughts of people who are going through the same time.