More

When Billie Holiday performed this song live, she refused to come back for an encore.

Though it was originally written by someone else as a protest song of sorts, this is one of those gems that a singer just totally owns from the start.

"Strange Fruit" was shocking to many people when it came out in 1939. Even Ms. Holiday herself was initially reluctant to sing it, fearing retribution. Though many people knew that lynchings of African-Americans in the South were common, there was much resistance to ending it, since it was an effective means of social control and political intimidation by Southern whites.

Holiday said she always thought of her father when she sang this song; he died at age 39 after being denied medical treatment at a Texas "whites only" hospital.


Because the song was so powerful and poignant for Holiday, there were some rules when she performed it: She would close the evening with the song, the waiters would stop service when the song began, and the room would be in total darkness except for a spotlight on Billie Holiday's face. And there would be no encore.

Her voice is strong and impressive in this clip, but just look at the incredible expressiveness in her eyes as she sings the haunting lyrics.

Trigger warning: lyrics about racial violence.

I live in Washington, the state with the first official outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. While my family lives several hours from Seattle, it was alarming to be near the epicenter—especially early in the pandemic when we knew even less about the coronavirus than we know now.

As tracking websites went up and statistics started pouring in, things looked hairy for Washington. But not for long. We could have and should have shut everything down faster than we did, but Governor Inslee took the necessary steps to keep the virus from flying completely out of control. He's consistently gotten heat from all sides, but in general he listened to the infectious disease experts and followed the lead of public health officials—which is exactly what government needs to do in a pandemic.

As a result, we've spent the past several months watching Washington state drop from the #1 hotspot down to 23rd in the nation (as of today) for total coronavirus cases. In cases per million population, we're faring even better at number 38. We have a few counties where outbreaks are pretty bad, and cases have slowly started to rise as the state has reopened—which was to be expected—but I've felt quite satisfied with how it's been handled at the state level. The combination of strong state leadership and county-by-county reopenings has born statistically impressive results—especially considering the fact that we didn't have the lead time that other states did to prepare for the outbreak.

Keep Reading Show less