British singer/songwriter Rebecca Ferguson says she’s been invited to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration, according to the Guardian—but unlike the other musicians, celebrities, and ex-presidents who don’t want anything to do with the president-elect, she’s said yes. On one condition. As she explained in a tweet on Monday (which linked to a statement on Twitlonger), she’ll appear only if she’s allowed to perform Abel Meeropol’s anti-lynching anthem “Strange Fruit,” most famously recorded in 1939 by Billie Holiday. Here’s her complete statement:
I’ve been asked and this is my answer. If you allow me to sing “strange fruit” a song that has huge historical importance, a song that was blacklisted in the United States for being too controversial. A song that speaks to all the disregarded and down trodden black people in the United States. A song that is a reminder of how love is the only thing that will conquer all the hatred in this world, then I will graciously accept your invitation and see you in Washington. Best Rebecca X
In the unlikely event Trump took Ferguson up on her offer, it wouldn’t be the first time she performed a song popularized by Holiday: She recorded an entire album of Holiday covers in 2015, though “Strange Fruit” wasn’t among them. The song was originally written as a poem inspired by a gruesome photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith and paints a nightmarish vision of the American South:
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
It’s unclear if Trump is much of a Billie Holiday fan—he’s never tweeted about her—but he did express his love and admiration of violent mobs several times during the campaign, earned the enthusiastic support of white supremacists, and carried every state of the old Confederacy except Virginia. He has yet to tweet a response to Ferguson’s offer.
Here’s Ferguson’s original audition for The X Factor, in which she performed another civil rights anthem, Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”: