February 14, 1903|
New York City, New York. U.S.
|Died||October 29, 1986
Longmeadow, Massachusetts. U.S.
|Other names||Lewis Allan|
|Occupation||actor, song writer|
|Known for||"Strange Fruit"
"The House I Live In"
Abel Meeropol (February 14, 1903 – October 29, 1986) was an American writer, teacher 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.
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. 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." 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.
- 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.
- Blair, Elizabeth, "The Strange Story Of The Man Behind 'Strange Fruit'", NPR, 5 September 2012.
- Cook, Joan (October 31, 1986). "Abel Meeropol, 83, A Songwriter, Dies". 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....
- 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.