Rebecca Ferguson has declined an invitation to sing at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration concert – hinting she was told she would not be allowed to perform the song of her choice.
The 30-year-old British singer had been approached to appear at the special ceremony taking place on January 20 in Washington and she agreed on the condition she could sing the track ‘Strange Fruit’, a song recorded and made famous by Billie Holiday in 1939 which deals with racism in America in the 1930s. It is based on a poem by Abel Meeropol.
Rebecca has now publicly come out to announce she has decided not to join in proceedings to welcome the 45th President to the White House, suggesting her song of choice was not accepted.
In a statement, the former ‘X Factor’ contestant revealed: "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. 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. 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 Black Lives Matter movement, I wanted to create a moment of pause for people to reflect."
Rebecca – who has Lillie, 11, and Karl, 10, from a previous relationship with Karl Dures and a third child, two-year-old Arabella with another ex-boyfriend – paid tribute to all her American fans and insisted she has "nothing but love" for the country, despite her decision.
Her statement continued: "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."
‘Strange Fruit’ contains lyrics detailing the lynchings of African Americans in the 1930s with one line being "black bodies swinging in the southern breeze". Following on from Holiday’s recording Nina Simone released her own version of the song in 1965 and Kanye West sampled Simone’s rendition for his 2013 track ‘Blood On The Leaves’.
Ferguson – who released her fourth studio album ‘Superwoman’ in 2016 – is the latest musician to snub an invitation to sing at President-elect Trump’s inauguration.
Sir Elton John, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli and Moby have all turned down invitations to perform and so far the only confirmed name is 2010 ‘America’s Got Talent’ runner-up Jackie Evancho, who is going to sing the America National Anthem ‘Star-Spangled Banner’.