Strange Fruit vs. Blood on the Leaves

In class on Wednesday we got into a pretty passionate discussion about the use of someone else’s work and turning it into your own. Amy generated the conversation when she led the class discussion on an article written about John Dowland perhaps taking selections from other poems and using them for his own compositions.

What Dowland may have done is likened to what today in the music world is called “sampling.” This is when an artist uses another person’s song within their own song.

We discussed whether or not this is an issue, and whether or not it takes away from his work. It is a matter of opinion and how the original work is used in the new one.

I mentioned that Kanye West uses a controversial sample on his latest album with the song “Blood on the Leaves.” The song samples Nina Simone’s 1965 version of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” This song was one of the first songs to speak about racial issues and it is an emotionally charged song for many people. It deals with the hideous act of lynching that was of common practice in the south during the late 19th and early 20th century. Holiday performed it as a protest to expose racism in American society.

Kanye’s song “Blood on the Leaves” deals with a painful breakup, sex and drugs. To many people, Kanye’s song is a desecration of one of the most famous songs about civil rights. Other people simple like Kanye’s version for what it is and appreciate his creativity. Here I have posted the link to both videos. I will let you form your own opinion.

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