UNITED STATES VS BILLY HOLIDAY: 2021 (Available for streaming on Hulu).  Billie Holiday was one of the greatest jazz singers from the 1930s to the '50s. Her soulful, unique singing voice made her a superstar of her time. She is, perhaps, best known for her 1939 recording of “Strange Fruit” one of America’s earliest and most shocking protest songs. It is a haunting and horrifying description of the lynching of black Americans with lyrics that compare the victims to the fruit of trees. Following are a few graphic lines from that famous song:

                Southern trees bear a strange fruit                                         

                Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

                Black bodies swingin in the Southern breeze

                Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees      

The Hulu film makes the case that the Feds investigating the vocalist's heroin abuse really just wanted to silence her from singing "Strange Fruit, which the FBI saw as incendiary. The song has been called "a declaration" and "the beginning of the civil rights movement". Our history with human rights has not been a pretty one. “In 1937 a bill to finally ban the lynching of African-Americans was considered by the Senate.  IT DID NOT PASS. In February 2020, the Emmet Till Anti-lynching act was considered by the Senate. IT HAS YET TO PASS. Barbara and I were impressed by the work of Andra Day, who plays Billy Holiday. We wanted to love this film, but like many critics (It received only 56% on the Tomatometer) we were hoping for more from such a powerful story and talented cast. I’m trying to remember, but I don’t think there was a shred of humor or lightheartedness in the film. Barb thinks, and I have to agree, that the director, Lee Daniels, would have had a better film if he had tightened it to a running time of 1 hour 45 min instead of 2 hours 10 min. GRADE B

To hear Billie Holiday sing Strange Fruit

Click here or the Picture below.

Billie Holiday.jpg