Annie Lennox Says 'Strange Fruit' Controversy Was Overblown

Illustration for article titled Annie Lennox Says 'Strange Fruit' Controversy Was Overblown

Annie Lennox is sad that The Internet chastised her for not acknowledging the real roots of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," which she covered on a latest album, Nostalgia.


According to Billboard, Lennox was recently asked about the controversy surrounding her odd comments about "Strange Fruit" during an interview with PBS host Tavis Smiley last October. When Smiley asked "When you hear Billie Holiday sing that, what do you hear?," Annie said a lot of things that didn't include lynching, about which the song was written. She said that were they friends, she and Holiday—a woman notorious for not suffering fools—would've gabbed about women's issues and clothes.

OK girl.

With each question, Lennox failed to mention lynching, or how widespread a practice this form of homegrown terrorism was in the American South. She could've shouted out Ida B. Wells, one of the largest crusaders against this specific form of brutality—but no. And now, Lennox feels bruised because The Internet publicly spanked her—she said one blog took an "opportunistic swipe" at her and blew it out of proportion—for not knowing, or acknowledging, her history.

"Let me just say that if I offended anyone—anyone—about not mentioning the lynchings, I wholeheartedly apologize. It was never intended and I was hurt" by the blog, she said. …

"I'm a person who really, really cares about social injustice, and racism is so vile to me and it disturbs me, since I was a kid I've been distressed by this, this fact that there's still so much injustice," she said.

Lennox said America's "shameful" history of lynching, the focus of "Strange Fruit," is mentioned on the Nostalgia DVD.

Image via Getty


Rich Juzwiak

I wish she would have explained, though, why she didn't actually use the word "lynching" when discussing that with Tavis Smiley.

Her explanation was weird. That's why I posted the clip—it's weird to discuss a specific song vaguely. It's telling to juxtapose a white British woman's relationship to "Strange Fruit" with that of the black woman born in 1915 who popularized it. And really, that's all my original post did: point out weirdness and contrast. Not a swipe or an accusation, just a heads-up on something that happened. I never called Lennox a racist or said she shouldn't sing whatever is in her heart. It's pretty insane what people extracted from something that I thought was straightforward and respectful, but hey, the internet works in all kinds of ways, I guess.