"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 unsubstantiatedurban 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, though, Billie Holiday's version was banned by the BBC.[3
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 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: