Monday, November 1, 2021

Music to Die For

It is interesting how much music influences our mood. It makes us remember times gone by, loved ones that have passed, and of course sing along to as loud as you can, no matter how bad you sound. But can music make you want to die, and may it even lead to it? Perhaps. Originally composed by Hungarian pianist Rezső Seress, in 1933, the original name for it was “Vége a világnak” or The World is Ending. László Jávor, a poet, penned his own lyrics to it to portray a protagonist that contemplates suicide after his lover’s death. This piece would become immortalized under the name of “Szomorú vasárnap” or Sad Sunday. It would be recorded in 1935.

In 1936, an English version of the song would be recorded by two different performers, but it would be Billie Holiday and her recording of it in 1941 that would make it famous as The Hungarian Suicide Song. A Time magazine article published in March 30, 1936 outlines the series of deaths that the song had on the public after its release. Several shot themselves while others jumped into the Danube clutching the sheet music to the song. 

I couldn’t find any references to people committing suicide due to the English version performed by Holiday but it was banned by the BBC for an extremely long time. Did the British fear the power of this emotionally depressing piece, or was it that it was published in 1941 and would be bad for morale during the war? Either way, Sad Sunday or Gloomy Sunday as it is also called, will go down in history as the song to die for. Oh yes, Rezső Seress? Committed suicide.

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

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