Jazz vocalist Billie Holiday would be 96 years old today, if she hadn’t passed at the young age of 44. Lady Day taught us many things about love–and lust–but not least of her lessons was the need for swagger. Her distinctive, raspy voice was matched by a brassy irreverent style that made her irresistible. She claims in her autobiography that she worked in a brothel when she showed up in Brooklyn in the 1928. She played Brooklyn and Harlem clubs until she got a break, recording her first songs in the early 1930s. But Lady Day’s notoriety really began when she put Lewis Allan’s haunting poem about lynching to music. (Lewis Allan was a pen name for Brooklyn school teacher Abel Meeropol.) "[Strange Fruit](http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/strangefruit/film.html)" is one of the most gripping tracks ever recorded, perfectly evoking the bizarre reality of a southern society in which mass murder was literally a high-society, spectator sport. The lyrics alone captivate: *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.
* Holiday’s rendition is neither macabre nor angry. Rather, it plays like a love song–not to the lynchings themselves, but to those black bodies and the lives they represent. She’s longing, almost sensual in her desire to know them. She makes you regret not having shared dinners and dances and loves with those men and women. She restores their lives, while simultaneously revealing the twisted brutality of America’s apartheid. *Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes adn the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweat and fresh,
The the sudden smell of burning flesh.
* Today’s love is in Lady Day’s music and the lives it restored. We’re ending the day as often as possible by celebrating love. We welcome your ideas for posts. Send suggestions to [submissions@colorlines.com](mailto:submissions@colorlines.com), and be sure to put [Celebrate Love](http://www.colorlines.com/celebrate-love) in the subject line. You can send links to videos, graphics, photos, quotes, whatever. Or just chime in to the comments below and we’ll find you. Be sure to let us know you’ve got the rights to share any media you send. To see other Love posts visit our [Celebrate Love page](http://colorlines.com/celebrate-love/).