With all the political and civil discord, it almost seems as if the experiment that is America is ready to come apart at the seams. Of course, for those of us for whom this country has never been a safe space, this news is nothing new. In fact, it’s pretty old hat, with songs like “Strange Fruit” documenting the atrocities that have been a constant feature of life for marginalized groups in the country. Perhaps that’s why the song keeps coming around over the decades as new voices opt to wield its power. The latest in the line of singers bringing their own take to the song is Vivian Sessoms, who uses the song and an accompanying music video to explore injustices both past and present.
To illustrate just how long we’ve been dealing with the issues stemming from systemic racism in the U.S., Vivian dons garb from several different eras — including the turn of the 20th century, the 1920s, the 1960s and present day. They help tell the tale of her soulful, modern take on the track backed by the emotive piano playing of Shedrick Mitchell. Interspersed within the clip are also clips of news reports, protests and Martin Luther King Jr.‘s “I Have A Dream” speech. We also see Vivian acting out a few images of our painful past, including portraying a mourner dressed in black and a particularly provocative scene of her lying face down on the ground with her arms behind her back.
Along with giving us the video to premiere, Vivian also told us a bit about what inspired her to cover the song and the direction of the video. “To be honest, ‘Strange Fruit’ was not a song I ever thought I would record but after performing it for the first time four years ago, I realized I had to do it,” she told us. “My aim was to choose songs from the ’60s and ’70s and even as far back as the ’30s and ’40s that speak to what’s happening now, to show a timeline of how long we have been talking, singing and writing about the atrocities we have faced and had to live with and survive as a people. Not many songs tell that story better than ‘Strange Fruit.'”
Further elaborating, she said, “We’ve watched so many of us succumb to violence, absolutely unnecessarily so. We are looking at one of the most politically dividing times in our lifetime and possibly in our history, the racial divide seems to be widening instead of closing. Women’s rights are under attack, LGBTQ rights are under attack, voting rights are under attack and everyone is feeling the stress. People are experiencing PTSD.”
You can find “Strange Fruit” on her new album, Life, which finds her collaborating with Casey Benjamin, Keyon Harrold, Donald Edwards and others as she takes on songs from yesteryear to reinterpret them for modern audiences. Watch our exclusive world premiere of the video for “Strange Fruit” below and pick up Vivian Sessom’s latest album Life via Bandcamp now.