A song that ‘Kills’ !

A pair of ears and an a sensible heart is all you need to enjoy a good Music. Who wouldn’t love to listen to a good music that touches the chords of the heart. Music has profound impact on human emotions. Music can make you lough, it can make you feel relaxed or it can make you cry. But can a music lead to more than a hundred suicide deaths?

The ‘Song’ and the ‘History’

The song “Gloomy Sunday” is believed to be the one, claiming at least a hundred lives over the years. It was composed by a Hungarian pianist Rezső Seress in early 1930s  and sometimes referred to as “Hungarian suicide song” because of its notorious nature.

At the end of World War 1 when the planet was battered and brushed and saddened by the death of millions, Rezso Seress composed the original melody of the song, with his own lyrics, titled Vége a világnak (The world is ending). The song ends in a quiet prayer about people’s sins. This song described the despair of the war and apocalypse and the uncertainty of the planet. Poet László Jávor  was greatly moved by his pianist friend’s melody.

Later in the year when Javor lost his beloved girlfriend, all his sorrow and sadness was put into his own lyrics titled Szomorú vasárnap (Sad Sunday) – in which the poet wants to commit suicide and be with his ‘beloved’ once again in the afterlife. Rezso’s melody along with Javor’s lyrics gave birth to the song known as ‘Gloomy Sunday’.

The first recorded version of the song was published in Hungarian, by Pál Kálmar in the year 1935. Later translated to English by Desmond Carter. Sam M. Lewis also wrote  his English translations with a tweak in the verse to allow a ray of hope. The song was recorded in 1936 by Hal Kemp and his Orchestra and became the most successful translated version of the song.


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Lure to the ‘Other Side’

The song didn’t make any flash until two years later in 1935 when it was connected to a chain of suicides. Just after it was published. At least a dozen suicide deaths were reportedly linked with the song Gloomy Sunday.

A ‘Time’ article titled as “Music: Suicide Song,” reported a series of suicides and attempts –  a worker committed suicide leaving a note at the scene of his suicide quoting some lines from Gloomy Sunday. Several bodies were found in the city of Danube with song’s sheet music in their hands; few people shot themselves while attending a band playing the song.

This misfortune of the song was not isolated to Hungary only. The New York Times also reported suicides and attempted suicides in the US connected to the song.  Outlets in the US refused to play the song, fearing it was somehow responsible for suicides and deaths.

The song was banned in England and BBC deemed the song ‘too upsetting’ in the early ‘40s. It remained banned for more than four decades until 2002 when it was lifted. Only instrumental versions of the song was allowed to be played on Radio.

Seress wrote of his conflicted emotions towards his morbid masterpiece – “I stand in the midst of this deadly success as an accused man. This fatal fame hurts me. I cried all of the disappointments of my heart into this song, and it seems that others with feelings like mine have found their own hurt in it“.



Gloomy Sunday Lyrics
[Verse 1] Sunday is gloomy, my hours are slumberless
Dearest the shadows, I live with are numberless
Little white flowers will never awaken you
Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you
Angels have no thought of ever returning you
Would they be angry if I thought of joining you
Gloomy Sunday

[Verse 2] Gloomy is Sunday, with shadows I spend it all
My heart and I have decided to end it all
Soon there’ll be candles and prayers that are sad, I know
Let them not weep, let them know that I’m glad to go
Death is no dream, for in death I’m caressing you
With the last breath of my soul I’ll be blessing you
Gloomy Sunday

[Bridge] Dreaming
I was only dreaming
I wake and I find you asleep
In the deep of my heart, dear

[Verse 3] Darling I hope that my dream never haunted you
My heart is telling you how much I wanted you
Gloomy Sunday

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Seress attempted suicide several times and finally succeeded in 1968 when he jumped from a Budapest apartment window.


Following quote from The New York Times summarizes the cause of this suicidal wave.

“Budapest, January 13:

Rezsoe Seress, 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. Seress 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. Seress, 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. Seress complained that the success of “Gloomy Sunday” actually increased his unhappiness, because he knew he would never be able to write a second hit.”

Please comment below to make sure you didn’t listen to the song or even you did, you survived like me.

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