The Sucide Poem,The Suicide,The Suicide Song

October 26, 2008

T h e S u i c i d e S o n g

Gloomy Sunday – the notorious ‘Hungarian Suicide Song’ – was written in 1933. Its melody and original lyrics were the creation of Rezső Seress, a self-taught pianist and composer born in Hungary in 1899.

The crushing hopelessness and bitter despair which characterised the two stanza penned by Seress were superseded by the more mournful, melancholic verses of Hungarian poet László Jávor.

When the song came to public attention it quickly earned its reputation as a ‘suicide song’. Reports from Hungary alleged individuals had taken their lives after listening to the haunting melody, or that the lyrics had been left with their last letters.

The lyricists Sam M. Lewis and Desmond Carter each penned an English translatation of the song. It was Lewis’s version, first recorded by Hal Kemp and his Orchestra, with Bob Allen on vocals (1936), that was to become the most widely covered.

The popularity of Gloomy Sunday increased greatly through its interpretation by Billie Holiday (1941). In an attempt to alleviate the pessemistic tone a third stanza was added to this version, giving the song a dreamy twist, yet still the suicide reputation remained. Gloomy Sunday was banned from the playlists of major radio broadcasters around the world. The B.B.C. deemed it too depressing for the airwaves.

Despite all such bans, Gloomy Sunday continued to be recorded and sold.

People continued to buy the recordings; some committed suicide.

Rezső Seress jumped to his death from his flat in 1968.


LITERAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION:

It is autumn and the leaves are falling
All love has died on earth
The wind is weeping with sorrowful tears
My heart will never hope for a new spring again
My tears and my sorrows are all in vain
People are heartless, greedy and wicked…

Love has died!

The world has come to its end, hope has ceased to have a meaning
Cities are being wiped out, shrapnel is making music
Meadows are coloured red with human blood
There are dead people on the streets everywhere
I will say another quiet prayer:
People are sinners, Lord, they make mistakes…

The world has ended!

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