British singer Rebecca Ferguson has reportedly been asked to sing at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. The 2010 X-Factor runner-up said she would gladly accept the invitation on condition that she be allowed to perform Billie Holiday’s 1939 protest song “Strange Fruit.”
The controversial lyrics of the song were written in 1930 by Jewish communist Abel Meeropol to draw attention to racism in America’s southern states. The eponymous fruit refers to African Americans left to hang from trees after lynching and was later sampled by Kanye West for his track “Blood on the Leaves.” Originally Billie Holiday’s label, Columbia, refused to release the song but later gave her a one-time contractual release which allowed for “Strange Fruit” to be recorded independently. By the end of 1939, the song had sold millions of copies and quickly became one of Holiday’s biggest hits.
Rebecca Ferguson took to Twitter to fully explain her position:
“[“Strange Fruit” is] a song that has huge historical importance, a song that was blacklisted in the United States for being too controversial,” Ferguson wrote. “[It’s] a song that speaks to all the disregarded and downtrodden black people in the United States.”
Read her entire statement and watch the original below: