How humiliating for the President-Elect. He’s down to begging former overseas X-Factor contestants to sing at his inauguration. Sir Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, Garth Brooks, Celine Dion, KISS, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake — no thank you, Mister President. Not even when the Trumpster started offering ‘ambassadorships and commissions’ to music talent bookers could they get a gig. Quelle honte!
That’s not to say there aren’t musicians already lined up: the Mormon Tabernacle Choir are performing, minus Jan Chamberlin, a soprano who quit in protest following the announcement, saying: “I could never look myself in the mirror again with self-respect.” The same choir performed for Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard ‘Tricky Dick’ Nixon, Ronny Ray-gun, and both of the Bushes without any protest defections, so, as I say, poor Donny. Maybe he’ll have to grab the mic himself.
Hmmm, I wonder what he’d sing?
Hopefully we’re spared that, because Rebecca Ferguson hasn’t said no yet. Her ‘gracious acceptance’ is conditional, however, upon receiving permission to sing the 1930’s protest song ‘Strange Fruit‘ made famous by Billie Holiday. Very interesting choice of music, I think, given the much examined connections alleged between the Trumps and the Ku Klux Klan. Ferguson’s song-choice is undeniably provocative — awarded the status of ‘Song of the Century’ by Time magazine in 1999, it began life as a poem (‘Bitter Fruit‘ 1937) by Jewish schoolteacher Abel Meeropol and later popularised in song by Holiday, becoming her signature piece. It contains some of the most graphic lyrics you’ll ever hear, inspired by Meeropol’s horror at the real-life lynching of men of colour in the south. The text of the original poem remains that of the song:
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
People have asked why Trump doesn’t just ask his ‘buddy’ Kanye West to perform, but there’s been an uneasy silence from the West camp. I know he’s still tiptoeing around the place trying not to piss off KK, but it could be that he’s just following commercial advice. Steve Bannon, maybe, a cautionary word in the ear. I’d like to think it’s because Kanye would insist on perform ‘Blood on the Leaves‘ in which he samples (Nina Simone’s version of) ‘Strange Fruit‘. So let’s give the guy some credit for artistic integrity for feeling conflicted, maybe. Or it might be because The Donald’s already told him what he has to sing:
To me, Trump’s decision on Ferguson’s song-choice will be the only measure of the man I’ll need. Contrast and compare: in February 2016, the Trump campaign was publicly endorsed by David Duke, ex-Grand Wizard of the KKK. Trump refused to condemn Duke, saying he ‘doesn’t know anything‘ about Duke or white supremacy (an outright lie). Trump’s mantra became that he ‘disavowed’ Duke, meaning he denied any responsibility or support for Duke’s endorsement. Which is a load of shit.
Well done, Rebecca Ferguson, you have snookered the most powerful man in the world.