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Abel Meeropol

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Abel Meeropol

Abel Meeropol
Born (1903-02-14)February 14, 1903
New York City, New York. U.S.
Died October 29, 1986(1986-10-29) (aged 83)
Longmeadow, Massachusetts. U.S.
Other names Lewis Allan
Occupation actor, song writer
Years active 1944–86
Known for "Strange Fruit"
"The House I Live In"
Religion Jewish
Spouse(s) Anne Meeropol
Children Robert Meeropol
Michael Meeropol

Abel Meeropol (February 14, 1903 – October 29, 1986)[1] was an American writer, teacher[2] and song-writer, whose works were published under his pseudonym Lewis Allan. His best-known song is "Strange Fruit" (1937), especially as recorded by Billie Holiday.

He and his wife Anne cared for and adopted Michael and Robert, the two young sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were orphaned after their parents were executed for conspiracy to commit espionage -- the government accused them of having stolen the secret of the Atomic Bomb. The boys took the Meeropol surname to gain some privacy.[3]

Biography

Meeropol wrote the anti-lynching poem "Strange Fruit" (1936), which was first published as "Bitter Fruit" in a Teachers Union publication. He later set it to music. The song's best-known recordings and performances were by Billie Holiday and Josh White.[4] Billie Holiday claimed in Lady Sings the Blues, that she co-wrote the music to the song with Meeropol and Sonny White, but Meeropol was the sole writer of both the lyrics and melody.

Meeropol wrote countless poems and songs, including the Frank Sinatra and Josh White hit, "The House I Live In."[5] He also wrote the libretto of Robert Kurka's opera, The Good Soldier Schweik (1957), which was premiered in 1958 by the New York City Opera.

Meeropol published his work under the pseudonym of "Lewis Allan," in memory of the names of his two stillborn children. Later, he and his wife Anne adopted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg's two sons, Michael and Robert, who were orphaned after their parents' executions. Michael and Robert took the Meeropol surname.

According to son Robert Meeropol, the songs "Strange Fruit", "The House I Live In," and 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 (French singer and sometime boyfriend of Brigitte Bardot) and has been especially popular. It became the number one hit in France under the title "Scoubidou." The song in France still earns royalties for Michael and Robert Meeropol. Abel Meeropol filed a copyright infringement lawsuit over Distel's plagiarism, as at first he claimed the song as his. After the case was settled, Meeropol started receiving the royalties.[6]

Meeropol was born in The Bronx, New York City. He died on October 29, 1986, at the Jewish Nursing Home in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.[3]

References

  1. ^ Baker, Nancy Kovaleff, "Abel Meeropol (a.k.a. Lewis Allan): Political Commentator and Social Conscience," American Music 20/1 (2002), pp. 25-79; see especially note 3.
  2. ^ Blair, Elizabeth, "The Strange Story Of The Man Behind 'Strange Fruit'", NPR, 5 September 2012.
  3. ^ a b Cook, Joan (October 31, 1986). "Abel Meeropol, 83, A Songwriter, Dies".  
  4. ^ Margolick, David, Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2000), pp. 16-70.
  5. ^ Moore, Edwin (18 September 2010). "Strange Fruit is still a song for today".  
  6. ^ Meeropol, Robert, An Execution in the Family: One Son's Journey (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2003), pp. 47-48.

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