Rebecca Ferguson, a former X Factor UK contestant, has become the latest celebrity embroiled in President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration drama.
Ferguson released a statement this Monday saying that the Trump camp asked her to perform during the upcoming ceremony. Ferguson said she would accept, but on one condition: Only if she could sing “Strange Fruit.”
“I’ve been asked and this is my answer,” said Ferguson. “If you allow me to sing ‘Strange Fruit’ a song that has huge historical importance, a song that was blacklisted in the United States for being too controversial. A song that speaks to all the disregarded and downtrodden black people in the United States. A song that is a reminder of how love is the only thing that will conquer all the hatred in this world, then I will graciously accept your invitation and see you in Washington.”
“Strange Fruit,” originally written as a poem by Abel Meeropol in 1937, features vivid imagery of Southern whites lynching African-Americans in early 20th century America.
Billie Holiday first recorded it as a song in 1939, and Nina Simone helped popularize the song by covering it in 1965, the version Kanye West sampled for his 2013 hit, “Blood On The Leaves.”
Some of the song’s lyrics include:
“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.”
Now, if Ferguson performs at Trump’s inauguration, these are among the only lyrics she’ll agree to sing. And with few takers for the inauguration performance, we’ll now see how the Trump camp will respond to Ferguson’s pledge.
The Trump team recently attempted to downplay the reports of performers refusing to take part, even though there have been allegations the Trump camp has offered money and ambassadorships to any talent scouts able to find an entertainer willing to sing at the ceremony.
“This is not Woodstock. It’s not Summer Jam. It’s not a concert. It’s not about celebrities,” said Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn in an interview with CNN.