Sunday, October 15, 2017

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: STRANGE FRUIT

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Welcome to my return to Battle of the Bands, hosted by Mr. Stephen McCarthy, who blogs at STMcC Presents 'Battle of the Bands'.



On the 15th of each month, I'll present two versions of the same song. You vote for the one you prefer in your comment, and I'll tell you the winner on the 21st. Voting remains open until midnight on the 20th.

Our song for this month is Strange Fruit. The "strange fruit" to which the song refers is that of "black bodies"––victims of the horrific practice of lynching.

I wasn't going to use Billie Holiday's rendition of the song for the battle because she made the song famous, but I find Nina Simone's singing so compelling that I decided to let the two compete against each other.

This week on my blog I'll provide more information about the song and its composer, who played a role––probably unknown by most people––in the story of a family torn apart because of the execution of the parents by the U.S. government.

Here's Nina Simone:





Here's Lady Day:



Now I turn the question over to you. Do you vote for Nina Simone or Billie Holiday?

 Please visit STMcC Presents 'Battle of the Bands' to find the list of participants in this bloghop.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

54 comments:

  1. This really is a tough choice. Simone's vocals are dramatic and, as you say, compelling. The arrangement of her version is so sparse and forlorn sounding.

    Holiday puts those jazzy little inflections that gives her version a bit of flair. The added instrumentation expands on the entertainment value of her presentation.

    Though I think I might prefer Holiday's vocals a little better, for overall performance in regard to the subject matter of the song I'm going to give my vote to Nina Simone. It was more real.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  2. This one is hard, very hard almost like asking you to pick a favorite kid.
    I have always loved Billie Holliday's version of this, both for her vocals and the instrumentals. The little brass riff is perfect.
    That being said I adore Nina Simone's voice especially the plaintive ending in her cover of this song.
    I guess I am going to have to vote for Simone, but only by a hair.

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    1. It is like choosing the preferred child. Good comparison, Anne.

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  3. It's definitely Billie Holiday for me. I can really imagine Amy Winehouse singing this track as well.

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    1. I loved Amy Winehouse. She would have been great on this.

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  4. Billie Holiday gets my vote. I prefer her vocals and, to my ears, the instrumental support adds more depth and power to the emotion. Have you listened to Beth Hart's version? It is also very powerful.

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    1. No, I haven't heard Beth Hart. I'll try to check it out. Thanks for the suggestion.

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  5. Love Billie Holiday and her version, but for this song and this particular subject matter I actually was surprised that I preferred Nina Simone's spare and haunted interpretation. Sorry Billie--I do love you!

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  6. For me it's Nina Simone. Everything is in the service of the words (I know the context, and if I didn't I'd get it from her rendition.)

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  7. Tough choice here. Nina Simone has such a powerful voice, yet Billie Holiday is smooth and velvety. Both versions are very well done. I think I'm going to go with smooth and velvety today. Billie Holiday gets my vote!

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  8. Oh- What a hard choice!!!! I guess I would have to go with Billie Holiday---something in me says first is best--but that is must me. xo Diana

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  9. Well, I like Nina Simone really well on some songs, but I love Billie Holiday on MOST songs -- including this one.

    Nina's version, compared to Billie's, is almost a "recitation" more than a song. Gotta go with all that gritty heart and heartbreak in my gal Billie's recording.

    ~ D-FensDogG
    STMcC Presents 'Battle Of The Bands'

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    1. I know Billie is pleased that you think of her as your gal.

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  10. Oh Nina Simone all the way! I loved her version: it was perfectly matched to the lyrics. This is a rare song where the music is secondary...almost non-essential, for Nina's vocals powerfully carry the story, haunting the listener with the disturbing image.

    For sure this song belongs to Billie Holiday as it's best associated with her and her version is powerful as well. But Nina's had a greater effect on me emotionally and therefore she gets my vote.

    Excellent battle Janie.

    Michele at Angels Bark

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  11. Close, but Lady Day gets my vote!!

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  12. So you had to start off with a tough one, hmm? As tough as it is to choose, I'm going to have to go with Billie Holiday!

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    1. Thank you for voting. Billie Holiday appreciates it.

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  13. Definitely Nina Simone. I'd only ever heard Halliday's rendition and was never that keen on it, although I appreciate the lyrics and the background to the song. Hearing Simone's version made me go, Ahhh-now that's perfect for that song. These things are so personal and made up of so many factors, aren't they?

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  14. Billie Holliday. But I admit to a very big bias because I remember studying about Billie Holliday in college and Strange Fruit just belongs to her.

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  15. Janie-poo, it's gotta be Lady Day on this one. No disrespect to Nina, but I've always loved the Lady herself doing this song.

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  16. Janie,

    This is the first time for me to hear this song. I really didn't care too much for Nina's vocals. Billie's vocals are easier on my ears and I loved the brass lead in, so my vote goes to Billie Holiday. Thanks for visiting and voting in my BoTB round yesterday!

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    1. You're welcome. Thank you for voting in my battle.

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  17. I have spent 15 minutes trying to decide, and I haven't come to a decision. But I think today I would have to go with Billie Holiday. Ask me tomorrow, and it might be Nina Simone. Depends upon the mood I'm in. :-)

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    1. The vote is cast. You must keep your choice, but you can always write eloquently about either artist.

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  18. I should probably disqualify myself, because I would automatically vote for Billie Holiday without even bothering to listen to any other version.

    I read somewhere that some night club patron approached Billie Holiday and told her how much she liked that song about "the Negroes swinging." She evidently didn't listen well and thought it was a song about dancing!

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  19. I love both of these, but Nina's is so haunting, which to me feels like the point of this song. Though it's close for me, give my vote to her.

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  20. I admit that I have not heard this song before. Those horns at the beginning of Billie Holiday's version...and then her voice!!! My vote!

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  21. This is so hard! I want to choose Billie because she made it famous, but Nina's voice is so powerful. I'm going to go with Nina.

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    1. Another vote for Nina, but plenty are for Billie. I think this battle will be close.

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  22. Hard choice but Nina's is just a bit more.

    cheers, parsnip

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  23. Both are powerful.
    My vote goes (by a whisker) to Nina. Billie's sounds more like (very skilled entertainment) and Nina's a lament from the heart.

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  24. I really wish I would have started with this post then read the other two because now I'm hyper-depressed listening to these amazing singers. Sigh. I guess I'll go with both. Don't make me choose. They both put an amazing amount of themselves and their feelings into it. Not a fair choice. They are both winners.

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  25. I'm going with Billie Holiday. I like the arrangement better and I like her voice better.

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  26. Nina Simone. Billie Holiday never quite does it for me.

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  27. I'm going with Billie Holiday. Such a sad song.

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  28. I'm going with Nina Simone. It's stark and nothing distracts from the horror. This song is so important, but it always leaves me nauseous.

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