Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Musical Art Gallery, Part One: Strange Fruit

The CD, Myths & Fables by jazz singer-pianist Bett Butler, was reviewed here earlier this year. The painting that graces the cover of her disc is called "Strange Fruit" and it is named, of course, after the famous and luridly vivid Billie Holiday song about racism. The cover is a colorful depiction of the infamous lynchings of Holiday's and Butler's people from a not too distant bygone era. A cursory look at this modern painting may not immediately make its intentions clear. However, once you know the story behind Holiday's song, and you look more closely at this work by artist Courtney Reid, the full meaning of her effort becomes painfully apparent.

"Strange Fruit" would even be more majestic gracing the cover of a full sized 33 1/3 RPM record jacket because in that format the cover would be suitable for framing. When CDs are gone for good paintings like "Strange Fruit" will have one less outlet for public exposure and a song like Butler's "Nothin' To Be Proud Of," from Myths & Fables may not get it's point across as well as it should, and that will be a real shame.

For those people who are unfamiliar with the song here are the lyrics to "Strange Fruit."

Finally, with the kind permission of Bett Butler the lyrics to "Nothin' To Be Proud Of" are posted below.

"Nothin’ To Be Proud Of" (music & lyrics by Bett Butler)

©2003 Baby Junior Publishing (BMI)

Now I was born and raised here
And I love these people, and I love this land
And I’m proud of who we are and what we’ve made here
But certain things I’m finding hard to understand

Comes a time we have to question what you’ve always been taught
Seems like things aren’t always simple black and white
Seems we’ve treated certain people badly in our time
Seems we haven’t always done what’s right


Ain’t nothin’ to be proud of
Ain’t nothin’ to be proud of
Ain’t nothin’ to be proud of
Ain’t nothin’ to be proud of

Now we are young as a country
Sometimes we act with the carelessness of youth
We think that we’re invincible, we can do no wrong
We make decisions not entirely based in truth

And it seems we’ve treated certain folks unfairly
Even while we claim that God is on our side
But I can’t help but think that God has much more sympathy
For people to whom justice was denied


Now different things mean different things to different people
Like the meaning of a symbol or a song
But rubbing salt into the wounds of people’s painful memories
How can we ever learn to get along


And we find it really hard to say we’re sorry
So the shadow of injustice still remains
We build monuments to those who died in battle
But we seldom speak of those who died in chains


1 comment:

  1. I love album covers and this is a really good one. Makes you wish it was on 12" card eh?

    Btw - love the new-look blog layout.