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“Strange Fruit” Shellac Record

Recorded by Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra

In 1939, African American jazz singer Billie Holiday (1915–1959) recorded "Strange Fruit" on the Commodore label after Capitol, her usual record label, refused to issue a song about lynching. It eventually sold one million copies. 

Sound recording, Strange Fruit

Strange Fruit; Fine and Mellow

slideshow with 2 slides
Sound recording, Strange Fruit
Sound recording, Strange Fruit
recording date
recording artist
Billie Holiday and her Orchestra
Allan, Lewis
Description (Brief)

Billy Holiday and her Orchestra. side 1: Strange Fruit; side 2: Fine and Mellow (Commodore 526)
78 rpm

Billie Holiday (1915–1959,) an African American jazz singer nicknamed Lady Day, emerged on the jazz scene after a difficult and impoverished upbringing. Known for her light, rhythmic singing, Holiday performed with some of the most famous American jazz musicians throughout the 1930s and 1940s. She first performed “Strange Fruit,” a song written by a Jewish poet about the lynching of African Americans, at the Café Society club in 1939. Her performances of the song were filled with emotion, and the recording reached number 16 on the charts. Holiday went on to release a number of other hits, but “Strange Fruit” remained the best-selling record of her career.

Currently not on view
place made
United States: New York, New York
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Entertainment
Music & Musical Instruments
Popular Entertainment
1939 exhibit
Related Publication
Rust, Brian. Jazz Records 1897-1942, Vol. 1
Credit Line
Gift of Robert B. Campbell in memory of Dorothy and William Campbell
Data Source
National Museum of American History
ID Number
nonaccession number
catalog number
label number
Object Name
sound recording
Physical Description
shellac (overall material)
overall: 10 in; x 25.4 cm
Record ID
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