Gloomy Sunday

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For the film Gloomy Sunday, see Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod.

"Gloomy Sunday", also known as the "Hungarian Suicide Song", is a song composed by Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress and published in 1933.

The original lyrics were titled Vége a világnak (The world is ending) and were about despair caused by war, ending in a quiet prayer about people's sins. Poet László Jávor wrote his own lyrics to the song, titled Szomorú vasárnap (Sad Sunday), in which the protagonist wants to commit suicide following his lover's death.[1] The latter lyrics ended up becoming more popular while the former were essentially forgotten. The song was first recorded in Hungarian by Pál Kalmár in 1935.

"Gloomy Sunday" was first recorded in English by Hal Kemp in 1936, with lyrics by Sam M. Lewis,[2] and was recorded the same year by Paul Robeson, with lyrics by Desmond Carter. It became well-known throughout much of the English-speaking world after the release of a version by Billie Holiday in 1941. Lewis's lyrics referred to suicide, and the record label described it as the "Hungarian Suicide Song". There is a recurring urban legend which claims that many people have committed suicide while listening to this song.[3]

Writing and background[edit]

The song was composed by Rezső Seress while living in Paris, in an attempt to become established as a songwriter in late 1932.[4] The original musical composition was a piano melody in C-minor, with the lyrics being sung over it.[5] Seress wrote the song at the time of the Great Depression and increasing fascist influence in the writer's native Hungary, although sources differ as to the degree to whether his song was motivated by personal melancholy rather than concerns about the future of the world. The basis of Seress's lyrics is a reproach to the injustices of man, with a prayer to God to have mercy on the modern world and the people who perpetrate evil.[6] There are some suggestions[7] that the words of "Vége a világnak" were in fact not written until World War II itself and not copyrighted until 1946.

Seress initially had difficulty finding a publisher, mainly due to the unusually melancholy nature of the song. One potential publisher stated:

The song was published as sheet music in late 1933,[9] with lyrics by poet László Jávor, who was inspired by a recent break-up with his fiancée.[4] According to most sources, Jávor rewrote the lyrics after the song's first publication, although he is sometimes described as the original writer of its words.[10] His lyrics contained no political sentiments, but rather were a lament for the death of a beloved and a pledge to meet with the lover again in the afterlife.[8][11][12] This version of the song became the best known, and most later rewritings are based around the idea of lost love.[13]

Urban legends[edit]

There have been several urban legends regarding the song over the years, mostly involving it being allegedly connected with various numbers of suicides, and radio networks reacting by purportedly banning the song.[14] However, most of these claims are unsubstantiated.[15]

Press reports in the 1930s associated at least nineteen suicides, both in Hungary and the United States, with "Gloomy Sunday",[3][4][16] but most of the deaths supposedly linked to it are difficult to verify. The urban legend appears to be, for the most part, simply an embellishment of the high number of Hungarian suicides that occurred in the decade when the song was composed due to other factors such as famine and poverty, as well as the rise of Nazi Germany's influence in Europe. No studies have drawn a clear link between the song and suicide.[15]

In January 1968, some thirty-five years after writing the song, its composer did commit suicide.[17]

The BBC banned Billie Holiday's version of the song from being broadcast, as being detrimental to wartime morale, but allowed performances of instrumental versions.[3] However, there is little evidence of any other radio bans; the BBC's ban was lifted by 2002.[15]

Later recordings and notable performances[edit]

The song's notoriety contributed towards many other notable artists later recording the song, including:

Legacy[edit]

The song is featured in several scenes of Steven Spielberg's 1993 film Schindler's List.

The 1999 German-Hungarian film Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod tells a fictional story about the creation of the song, depicting a love triangle during World War II. Heather Nova covers the song in the closing credits.

The song inspired the 2006 movie The Kovak Box, in which a writer is trapped on the island of Mallorca with people who are injected with a microchip that causes them to commit suicide when they hear "Gloomy Sunday".[26] The song plays during the movie, sung by the actress Lucía Jiménez. A music video from the cover was released as part of the movie promotion. The song also features on the soundtrack of Wristcutters: A Love Story, performed by Artie Shaw.[27]

In 2008, Belgian artist Marieke Van Wuytswinkel used a sample of Gloomy Sunday in her work A Natural Morning.[28][29] The song and urban legend appeared in the Taiwanese drama Gloomy Salad Days. Actress Serena Fang recorded a version of "Gloomy Sunday" that was included in the soundtrack released on 19 November 2010. Gloomy Sunday was featured in a 2012 television episode of Dark Matters: Twisted But True.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Sheet music : Gloomy Sunday (442×694)" (JPG). Mutablesound.com. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  2. ^ "Gloomy Sunday - Sam M. Lewis Lyrics". Phespirit.info. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  3. ^ a b c [1][dead link]
  4. ^ a b c "Gloomy Sunday". Theblues-thatjazz.com. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  5. ^ There Are Places I Remember: "Gloomy Sunday". Accessed 7 November 2011
  6. ^ "Gloomy Sunday - Rezso Seress Lyrics". Phespirit.info. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  7. ^ "Rezső Seress' Gloomy Sunday - Board - Collected Gloomy Sunday knowlage". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  8. ^ a b "Gloomy Sunday - Overture To Death". Phespirit.info. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  9. ^ Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State: Combining the Fact with the Folklore, "The Hungarian Suiceide Song". Accessed 7 November 2011
  10. ^ Harry Witchel, You Are What You Hear: how music and territory make us who we are, Algora Publishing, 2010, p.106. Accessed 7 November 2011
  11. ^ "Gloomy Sunday - Laszlo Javor Lyrics". Phespirit.info. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  12. ^ "Szomorú Vasárnap.: world_of_poetry". World-of-poetry.livejournal.com. 1968-01-11. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  13. ^ Bill DeMain, "This Song’s a Killer: The Strange Tale of 'Gloomy Sunday'", MentalFloss, August 16, 2011. Accessed 7 November 2011
  14. ^ "Gloomy Sunday - Music to Die for? - A14150477". H2g2.com. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  15. ^ a b c "Gloomy Sunday Suicides". Snopes.com. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  16. ^ "Dark Matters: Twisted But True | Discovery Science". Science.discovery.com. 2014-04-07. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  17. ^ Microfilm scan of article over Seress's suicide. New York Times, January 14, 1968, page 84 in Obituaries.
  18. ^ "Leander Rising - Szomorú Vasárnap / Gloomy Sunday". YouTube. 2010-10-03. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  19. ^ Video on YouTube
  20. ^ Video on YouTube
  21. ^ Video on YouTube
  22. ^ Video on YouTube
  23. ^ "Gloomy Sunday (remix) by Epikurian | Epikurian null | Free Listening on SoundCloud". Soundcloud.com. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  24. ^ Video on YouTube
  25. ^ AmazingFilmStudio (2016-07-27), 《樓下的房客》MV:電影配樂 Gloomy Sunday 黑色星期天, retrieved 2016-08-17 
  26. ^ Variety Film Reviews: The Kovac Box. Accessed 9 November 2011
  27. ^ Katherine Fulton (2007-10-30). "Wristcutters: A Love Story - Original Soundtrack | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  28. ^ [2][dead link]
  29. ^ 6 years ago (2010-04-15). "A Natural Morning, 2008 on Vimeo". Vimeo.com. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 

External links[edit]