Abel Meeropol (February 14, 1903 – October 29, 1986) was an American songwriter and poet whose works were published under his pseudonym, Lewis Allan. He wrote "Strange Fruit" (1937), which was recorded by Billie Holiday. Meeropol was a member of the American Communist Party, but would later quit.
|Died||October 29, 1986 (aged 83)|
|Other names||Lewis Allan|
|Known for||"Strange Fruit"|
"The House I Live In"
Meeropol was born in 1903 to Russian Jewish immigrants in The Bronx, New York City. Meeropol graduated from Dewitt Clinton in 1921; he earned a B.A. degree from City College of New York, and an M.A. from Harvard. He taught English at DeWitt Clinton for 17 years. During his tenure he taught the notable author and racial justice advocate, James Baldwin.
Song writing and poetryEdit
Meeropol wrote the anti-lynching poem "Strange Fruit" (1937), which was first published as "Bitter Fruit" in a Teachers Union publication. He later set it to music. The song was recorded and performed by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone among other artists. Holiday claimed in the book Lady Sings the Blues that she co-wrote the music to the song with Meeropol and Sonny White.
Meeropol wrote numerous poems and songs, including the Frank Sinatra and Josh White hit "The House I Live In." He also wrote the libretto of Robert Kurka's opera The Good Soldier Švejk (1957), which was premiered in 1958 by the New York City Opera.
According to his son Robert Meeropol, the songs "Strange Fruit" and "The House I Live In," along with the Peggy Lee hit "Apples, Peaches and Cherries," provided most of the royalty income of the family. "Apples, Peaches and Cherries" was translated into French by Sacha Distel and became a number one hit in France under the title "Scoubidou." Abel Meeropol filed a copyright infringement lawsuit over Distel's plagiarism, as at first Distel had claimed the song as his. After the case was settled, Meeropol started receiving the royalties.
Meeropol published his work under the pseudonym of "Lewis Allan" in memory of the names of his two stillborn children.
Meeropol was a communist and sympathetic to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Later, he and his wife Anne adopted the Rosenbergs' two sons, Michael and Robert, who were orphaned after their parents' executions for espionage. Michael and Robert took the surname Meeropol.
- Baker, Nancy Kovaleff, "Abel Meeropol (a.k.a. Lewis Allan): Political Commentator and Social Conscience," American Music 20/1 (2002), pp. 25–79, doi:10.2307/3052242; see especially note 3.
- Cook, Joan (October 31, 1986). "Abel Meeropol, 83, A Songwriter, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
Abel Meeropol, a songwriter and composer who adopted the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, died of pneumonia yesterday at the Jewish Nursing Home in Longmeadow, Mass. He was 83 years old and had lived in South Miami, Fla., before entering the nursing home....
- legendary-song/ Forward March 27, 2012
- Blair, Elizabeth, "The Strange Story Of The Man Behind 'Strange Fruit'", NPR, 5 September 2012.
- Margolick, David, Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2000), pp. 16–70.
- Moore, Edwin (18 September 2010). "Strange Fruit is still a song for today". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
- Meeropol, Robert, An Execution in the Family: One Son's Journey (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2003), pp. 47–48.