British singer Rebecca Ferguson has pulled out of Donald Trump’s inauguration after a row about her performing a famous protest song about lynching.
The Liverpool-born star wanted to perform Strange Fruit – a track which was written in the 1930s to protest at racism and particularly the lynching of black people and was most famously performed by the late Billie Holiday.
The haunting song contains the lyrics: ‘Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.’
It appears the President-elect or people on his transition team have decided it did not set the right tone for his inauguration.
In an official statement today the 30-year-old singer said: ‘Due to circumstances beyond my control concerning the offer to perform at the Inauguration Concert, I was thrown into the middle of a political arena last week.
‘I wasn’t comfortable with the song choice made on my behalf, and although I’m very blessed to have a gift that gives me amazing opportunities, as a mother and an artist, I had to defend my stance. That is why I made the decision to sing Strange Fruit when I was invited. ‘
She continued: ‘I requested to sing Strange Fruit as I felt it was the only song that would not compromise my artistic integrity and also as somebody who has a lot of love for all people, but has a special empathy as well for African American people and the #blacklivesmatter movement, I wanted to create a moment of pause for people to reflect.
‘I believe talent is a gift that should be used to heal the wounds of this world and make the world a better place to live in.
‘As music is so powerful, I wanted to try and help educate the people watching of where division and separation can lead to if not corrected. My aim was not to cause contention.’
She also said: ‘Pride and ego is what we need to conquer in this world. I was blessed to be invited to the Vatican last month and one thing I was left reflecting on, was all the things that separate humans from one another. It is often pride and the inability to accept people for exactly who they are. We are here to love, not judge, or bring people down.
‘I think love and standing firm in love against anything that separates us from each other, can heal us in these troubled times of unrest.
‘There are many grey areas about the offer for me to perform that I’m unable to share right now, but I will not be singing. However, I genuinely wish your nation nothing but love.
‘I would also like to pay homage to a few of your great female artists: Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and the brave and remarkable Eartha Kitt and her beautiful untold story.
‘I’ve a lot of love for the United States. It’s a constant source of inspiration to myself, if not the whole world. I genuinely wish you all well and hope I will still get to sing Strange Fruit for you one day. Take care and God bless xx.’
At the start of the year, Rebecca announced on her Twitter page she had been approached by the new President to sing at the ceremony in Washington, scheduled for 20 January.
However, the singer noted she would only go through with the appearance if she was allowed to sing Strange Fruit, which was written in response to the publication of an infamous photograph of two black men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, being lynched in Indiana in 1930.