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The Berks jazz fixture was a composer and bandleader for weddings, parties and countless long-running events across the county.

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NPR's series Turning the Tables reinterprets the history of American music by putting women front and center; today the hidden story of one of Billie Holiday's biggest hits, as told by the hosts of NPR's history podcast Throughline, Ramtin Arablouei and Rund Abdelfatah.

The poem - because it is a poem - is full of imagery.

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Black bodies as the fruit on the lynching tree. The tree itself is imbued with this history of racial trauma and racial violence. It's a very explicit, difficult song.

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So she took it to a small independent label and recorded it. But pretty quickly, it began to attract negative attention.

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Billie Holiday got a lot of pushback from club owners who would tell her not to sing it. HARI: To have an African American woman standing in front of a white audience, singing a song against white supremacy and its violence, was viscerally shocking at that moment. One FBI memo quotes a source in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics saying, "Because of the importance of Holiday, it has been the policy of this bureau to discredit individuals of this caliber using narcotics.

Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Mr. Harry J. HARI: So Harry Anslinger was a government bureaucrat who took over the department of prohibition just as alcohol prohibition was ending. So he's got this government department that's part of the Treasury Department that's basically going to have nothing to do quite soon.

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And he wants to keep his department going, and he invented the modern war on drugs as the pretext for his department. She is an African American woman standing up to white supremacy in a stunningly brave way. I mean, he was so racist that he was regarded as a crazy racist in the s. His own senator for Pennsylvania said he should have to re because he used the N-word so often in official police memos.

And Billie Holiday had an addiction problem.

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I'm an American citizen. I'll sing what I damn well please.

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And at that point, Harry Anslinger resolves to destroy her. And her career took a big hit. In fact, "Strange Fruit" became her ature song. She would demand silence. She wouldn't sing it if it wasn't silent. There'd be, like, this kind of pinpoint light on that beautiful face.

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She understood the import of the song and had become identified with it. She said, they're going to kill me in there.

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Don't let them. She wasn't wrong.

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Anslinger's men come into the hospital and arrest her on her hospital bed. She called Yolande her daughter.

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And I said to Yolande, what would you say to Billie Holiday if you could speak to her now? And she told me how Billie Holiday, right at the end, thought that Anslinger had destroyed her, that no one would remember her. Nobody forgot you, baby.

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Your eyes in stars above. It's just the thought of you, the very thought of you, my love.

Jazz & friends national day of school and community readings is less than ten days away

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Oh jazz, you magnificent and beautiful genre.
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Doria

The Berks jazz fixture was a composer and bandleader for weddings, parties and countless long-running events across the county.
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Events will be taking place all over the country.
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This is an A—Z list of jazz standards.
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