Annie Lennox: ‘Strange Fruit’

Annie Lennox says online criticism leveled at her remarks about the anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit” was hurtful and unfair.

“It was so painful. I can’t even begin to tell you. I’m the last person who would disrespect that history,” Lennox said.

In a TV interview last fall about her new CD, Nostalgia, and the “Strange Fruit” track it includes, Lennox didn’t mention that the 1930s song made famous by Billie Holiday was a direct attack on African-American hangings of the era.

Blogs and posts on Twitter accused her of “whitewashing” the song’s origins by referring generally to human violence and bigotry while speaking to PBS host Tavis Smiley last October.

Lennox, appearing Monday night at a Television Critics Association meeting to promote a spring PBS “Nostalgia” concert special, was asked about the controversy. She said she was glad to address it after initially remaining silent.

Because of one blog and what she called its “opportunistic swipe,” the “whole thing blew out of context,” said the Grammy-winning musician and activist. She didn’t respond at the time “because if I did that it would all get blown up again.”

“Let me just say that if I offended anyone – anyone – about not mentioning the lynchings, I wholeheartedly apologize. It was never intended and I was hurt” by the blog, she said.

A DVD released about the album includes her comment that “Strange Fruit” is about hangings in the Deep South and that they were “shameful,” she noted.

The Scottish-born Lennox, 60, who first gained success with Dave Stewart as the Eurythmics in the 1980s, has received numerous honors for her artistry and for her work against AIDS and poverty in Africa, including the Order of the British Empire in 2011.

“I’m a person who really, really cares about social injustice, and racism is so vile to me and it disturbs me, since I was a kid I’ve been distressed by this, this fact that there’s still so much injustice,” she said.