Abel Meeropol

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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"
Spouse(s) Anne Meeropol
Children Robert Meeropol
Michael Meeropol

Abel Meeropol (February 14, 1903 – October 29, 1986)[1] was an American song-writer and poet whose works were published under his pseudonym, Lewis Allan. His best-known song is "Strange Fruit" (1937), especially as recorded by Billie Holiday. Meeropol was a member of the American Communist Party, but would later quit.[1]


Early life[edit]

Meeropol was born in 1903 to Russian Jewish immigrants in The Bronx, New York City.[2][3] Meeropol graduated from Dewitt Clinton in 1921; he earned a B.A. degree from City College of New York, and an M.A. from Harvard. He taught English at DeWitt Clinton for 17 years.[4]

Song writing and poetry[edit]

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 Nina Simone.[5] 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."[6] 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.

According to son Robert Meeropol, the songs "Strange Fruit" and "The House I Live In," along with 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 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.[7]

Meeropol published his work under the pseudonym of "Lewis Allan" in memory of the names of his two stillborn children.


Meeropol was a communist and sympathetic to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.[1] Later, he and his wife Anne adopted the Rosenberg's two sons, Michael and Robert, who were orphaned after their parents' executions for espionage. Michael and Robert took the Meeropol surname.


Meeropol died on October 29, 1986, at the Jewish Nursing Home in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Baker, Nancy Kovaleff, "Abel Meeropol (a.k.a. Lewis Allan): Political Commentator and Social Conscience," American Music 20/1 (2002), pp. 25–79, doi:10.2307/3052242; see especially note 3.
  2. ^ a b 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.... 
  3. ^ Forward March 27, 2012
  4. ^ Blair, Elizabeth, "The Strange Story Of The Man Behind 'Strange Fruit'", NPR, 5 September 2012.
  5. ^ Margolick, David, Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2000), pp. 16–70.
  6. ^ Moore, Edwin (18 September 2010). "Strange Fruit is still a song for today". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  7. ^ 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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