From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Gloomy Sunday" is a song composed by Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress in 1933 to a Hungarian poem written by László Jávor (original Hungarian title of both song and poem "Szomorú vasárnap" (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsomoruː ˈvɒʃaːrnɒp]), in which the singer reflects on the horrors of modern culture.
Though recorded and performed by many singers, "Gloomy Sunday" is closely associated with Billie Holiday, who scored a hit version of the song in 1941. Owing to unsubstantiated urban legends about its inspiring hundreds of suicides, "Gloomy Sunday" was dubbed the "Hungarian suicide song" in the United States. Seress did commit suicide in 1968, but most other rumors of the song being banned from radio, or sparking suicides, are unsubstantiated, and were partly propagated as a deliberate marketing campaign. Possibly due to the context of the Second World War, Billie Holiday's version was, however, banned by the BBC.
Szomorú vasárnap száz fehér virággal
Vártalak kedvesem templomi imával
Álmokat kergető vasárnap délelőtt
Bánatom hintaja nélküled visszajött
Azóta szomorú mindig a vasárnap
Könny csak az italom kenyerem a bánat...
Utolsó vasárnap kedvesem gyere el
Pap is lesz, koporsó, ravatal, gyászlepel
Akkor is virág vár, virág és - koporsó
Virágos fák alatt utam az utolsó
Nyitva lesz szemem hogy még egyszer lássalak
Ne félj a szememtől holtan is áldalak...
— László Jávor original Hungarian version
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. However, most of these claims are unsubstantiated.
In 1968, Rezső Seress, the original composer, jumped to his death from his apartment. His obituary in the New York Times mentions the song's notorious reputation:
||Budapest, January 13. Rezsoe Seres, whose dirge-like song hit, "Gloomy Sunday" was blamed for touching off a wave of suicides during the nineteen-thirties, has ended his own life as a suicide it was learned today.
Authorities disclosed today that Mr. Seres jumped from a window of his small apartment here last Sunday, shortly after his 69th birthday.
The decade of the nineteen-thirties was marked by severe economic depression and the political upheaval that was to lead to World War II. The melancholy song written by Mr. Seres, with words by his friend, Ladislas Javor, a poet, declares at its climax, "My heart and I have decided to end it all." It was blamed for a sharp increase in suicides, and Hungarian officials finally prohibited it. In America, where Paul Robeson introduced an English version, some radio stations and nightclubs forbade its performance.
Mr. Seres complained that the success of "Gloomy Sunday" actually increased his unhappiness, because he knew he would never be able to write a second hit.
—The New York Times, January 14, 1968, 
Gloomy Sunday with a hundred white flowers
I was waiting for you my dearest with a prayer
A Sunday morning, chasing after my dreams
The carriage of my sorrow returned to me without you
It is since then that my Sundays have been forever sad
Tears my only drink, the sorrow my bread...
This last Sunday, my darling please come to me
There'll be a priest, a coffin, a catafalque and a winding-sheet
There'll be flowers for you, flowers and a coffin
Under the blossoming trees it will be my last journey
My eyes will be open, so that I could see you for a last time
Don't be afraid of my eyes, I'm blessing you even in my death...
The last Sunday
literal English translation
In 1997 Billy Mackenzie, vocalist with Scottish band The Associates (who recorded a cover of Holiday's version in 1982), committed suicide near his father's home in Dundee.
The codifying of the urban legend appears in an article attributed to "D.P. MacDonald" and titled "Overture to Death", the text of which has been reproduced and disseminated countless times online. According to the website of Phespirit the article was originally published by the 'Justin and Angi' site to augment their now defunct "Gloomy Sunday Radio Show". Their introduction to the article reads:
||This message was forwarded to us by a visitor to our web site. There is some good historical information on the song intermixed with some information of more dubious repute. The accounts begin to take on the feel of a satiric e-mail chain letter after a while, but then, sometimes truth is indeed stranger than fiction. The story does read a little bit like the script of a segment from Strange Universe! So take this with a grain of salt ..... The text was [supposedly] quoted from the Cincinnati (sic) Journal of C…
There are two English-language versions of the lyrics. The first, by Desmond Carter, was used in the 1935 Paul Robeson recording and a few others. Most English-language recordings have used the Sam Lewis lyrics made famous in Billie Holiday's 1941 recording. That recording added a third verse, not in the original Hungarian song, indicating that the singer was only dreaming about her lover's death. See links below for the lyrics.
Artists who have recorded or reinterpreted the song include:
- 1935: Pal Kalmar (in Hungarian)
- 1935: (UK): Paul Robeson (released in the US in 1936; Desmond Carter lyrics)
- 1935: Pyotr Leschenko (in Russian, under title "Мрачное воскресенье" ["Mrachnoe voskresen'e"])
- 1936: Damia (in French, under the title "Sombre Dimanche", recorded on February 28, lyrics by Jean Marèze and François-Eugène Gonda, music by Rezső Seress)
- 1936: Hal Kemp
- 1936: Paul Whiteman
- 1936: Spree-Revellers (in German, as "Einsamer Sonntag"; Polydor 2293A)
- 1936: Noriko Awaya (in Japanese, as "Kurai Nichiyōbi")
- 1936: Taro Shoji (in Japanese, as "Kurai Nichiyōbi")
- 1937: Mercedes Simone (in Spanish, as "Triste Domingo" [recorded in Buenos Aires])
- 1940: Artie Shaw, 3 March. Pauline Byrne vocal.
- 1941: Billie Holiday
- 1941: Mimi Thoma (in German, as "Einsamer Sonntag"; Polydor 47563)
- 1954: Laszlo Von Weimerth
- 1957: Josh White
- 1958: Mel Tormé
- 1958: Ricky Nelson (released posthumously)
- 1959: Eila Pellinen (in Finnish as "Surullinen sunnuntai")
- 1959: Orkesteri
- 1961: Sarah Vaughan
- 1961: Inger Qvick (in Swedish as "Sista Söndag")
- 1962: Lou Rawls
- 1967: Carmen McRae
- 1968: Genesis (U.S. band unrelated to the well-known British band)
- 1969: Ray Charles
- 1972: Viktor Klimenko (in Russian as "Ona pred ikonoi")
- 1972: Kai Hyttinen (in Finnish as "Surullinen sunnuntai")
- 1972: Kuoro (in Finnish as "Surullinen sunnuntai")
- 1977: Fredi (in Finnish as "Surullinen sunnuntai")
- 1978: Erik Cronwall
- 1979: Lydia Lunch (Queen of Siam)
- 1981: Elvis Costello & the Attractions (Trust)
- 1982: Associates (Sulk)
- 1983: Marc and the Mambas
- 1983: Swans Way
- 1983: Jacques Calonne (Ténor Mondain) (in French, under the title "Sombre Dimanche", lyrics credited to László Jávor, but probably the ones by Jean Marèze and François-Eugène Gonda)
- 1984: Peter Wolf (Lights Out)
- 1985: Harri Marstio (in Finnish under title "Surullinen sunnuntai")
- 1986: Christian Death
- 1988: Serge Gainsbourg (Le Zénith de Gainsbourg) (in French)
- 1991: Vlado Kreslin (Bela nedelja, in Slovene)
- 1991: The Singing Loins (Songs For The Organ)
- 1992: Diamanda Galás (The Singer) (Desmond Carter lyrics)
- 1992: Sinéad O'Connor (Am I Not Your Girl?)
- 1995: Gitane Demone
- 1996: Sarah McLachlan (Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff)
- 1996: Mystic (The Funeral soundtrack)
- 1998: Marianne Faithfull
- 1998: Satan's Sadists (On the compilation Their Sympathetic Majesties Request)
- 1999: The Smithereens (God Save the Smithereens)
- 1999: Björk
- 1999: Leena Calas (in Finnish as "Surullinen sunnuntai")
- 2000: Kronos Quartet
- 2000: Sarah Brightman
- 2001: Iva Bittová (The Man Who Cried)
- 2001: Heather Nova (South)
- 2002: Rob Coffinshaker (Live at the Cemetery) 7" EP
- 2003: Edvin Marton
- 2003: Hot Jazz Band
- 2003: Priscilla Chan (with changed lyrics, pop, Cantonese, titled "Gloomy Sunday")
- 2004: Branford Marsalis (Eternal)
- 2005: Yellow Spots (Psychobilly)
- 2005: Eminemmylou featuring Legs MC (raps added, turned into anti-suicide anthem)
- 2005: Venetian Snares under the Hungarian title "Öngyilkos vasárnap" (literally meaning 'Suicidal Sunday'), which incorporates a sample of Billie Holiday's 1941 rendition.
- 2006: Emilie Autumn
- 2006: Tsukimono (on Famousfor15mb.com)
- 2006: Angéla Póka (live) (performing Szomorú Vasárnap live during Megasztár)
- 2006: Red Sky Mourning
- 2006: Lucía Jiménez (for the movie the Kovak Box inspired by the song)
- 2006: Zaorany kytky (band from Czech republic)
- 2007: Candie Payne
- 2007: The Unbending Trees (live)
- 2008: Ghoul Recorded with altered lyrics for a split 7" record
- 2008: Ivana Wong
- 2008: The Unbending Trees UK only bonus track on their album.
- 2008: Paris Jones Canadian Singer
- 2008: Saori Yano Tokyo saxophonist, Billie Holiday tribute CD.
- 2008: Laïka Fatien French jazz singer on Album Misery; a tribute to Billie Holiday
- 2009 Aliyah Hussain
- Marc Almond
- Mickey Baker
- Anton LaVey - from "htmpl productions & pcl link dump - Christianity vs satanism" compilation
- 2009: Emilie Autumn
- 2009: Blackmailers
- 2009: Chance Calaway Trinidain Rap Artist - First ever Hip Hop edition of Gloomy Sunday
The Dead Milkmen quoted its lyrics in their 1987 song "(Theme From) Blood Orgy of the Atomic Fern". Emilie Autumn also refers to this song in her song "The Art of Suicide".
In popular culture
- Holiday's version was featured in The Simpsons episode “Treehouse of Horror XVII”.
- The song was covered by Björk at an AT&T promotional convention.
- There is a Swedish doom metal band from Gothenburg called Gloomy Sunday, and many of their lyrics deal with depression and suicide.
- The song inspired the Spanish movie The Kovak Box (2006). 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". 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 Japanese movie Densen Uta (2007) was also inspired by this song. In the movie, a high school girl and a magazine editor investigate a series of suicides linked to a mysterious song released 10 years back, including its possible connection to "Gloomy Sunday".
- The song and is featured on the Wristcutters: A Love Story Soundtrack. Performed by Artie Shaw
- The song and its surrounding legend play a considerable part in Phil Rickman's novel The Smile of a Ghost, linked to several apparent suicides.
- The song is featured at the start of the film Schindler's List. In the commentary appended to the full version one of the Jewish violinists who survived the war narrates that one of the SS officers—after asking for "Gloomy Sunday" to be played—indeed committed suicide.
- The song is featured at the start of the film The Funeral.
- The song is featured in the movie Gloomy Sunday - Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod.
- The song and its urban legends were a trivia answer on the British game show QI, during the fourth series' episode on death.
- In the film The Man Who Cried, Christina Ricci sings the song in the scene where she and Cate Blanchett are on the ship bound for America.
- Writer Charles Bukowski mentions the song changing its title to "Blue Monday" in the collection of his columns Notes of a Dirty Old Man, in a short story that recounts various experiences of his in relation to suicide.
- ^ http://www.phespirit.info/gloomysunday/lyrics_seress.htm
- ^ Brooks, Michael. notes for Lady Day" – the Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia, 1933–1944: "'Gloomy Sunday' reached America in 1936 and, thanks to a brilliant publicity campaign, became known as "The Hungarian Suicide Song". Supposedly after hearing it, distraught lovers were hypnotized into heading straight out of the nearest open window, in much the same fashion as investors after October 1929; both stories are largely urban myths."
- ^ The Times Online August 6, 2008 "The music the BBC banned" Retrieved 2008-12-15
- ^ Urban Legends Reference Pages: Gloomy Sunday Suicides
- ^ Microfilm scan of article over Seress' suicide. New York Times, January 14, 1968, page 84 in the Obituaries.