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Gloomy Sunday - The Legend of the Most Dangerous Song in the World - Chris Dolley's Journal

About Gloomy Sunday - The Legend of the Most Dangerous Song in the World

Previous Entry Gloomy Sunday - The Legend of the Most Dangerous Song in the World Oct. 31st, 2006 @ 03:39 pm Next Entry
Last weekend I almost died.

I heard the opening two words of Billie Holiday singing "Gloomy Sunday" and it was touch and go for a few seconds but I survived. Hundreds of others haven't been so lucky. According to the New York Times 'Gloomy Sunday' has caused more deaths than any other song - over a hundred suicides - leading to the song being banned in the UK, the US and France.

It's an amazing story. And one needing to be told.

It starts in 1933 when Hungarian composer Rezso Seress broke up with his girlfriend on a Sunday. In utter despair he pens 'Gloomy Sunday.' The first publisher rejects his song as too depressing. The second commits suicide. But the third sees the potential and publishes 'Gloomy Sunday' throughout Europe.

People start dying immediately. In Berlin a man shot himself after telling relatives he couldn't get that damn song out of his head. In Rome, an errand boy heard a beggar humming the tune, got off his bike, gave the beggar all his money and jumped from the nearest bridge. In one year alone in Hungary seventeen suicides were found with notes quoting the 'Gloomy Sunday' lyrics.

Of course sceptics dismiss these claims as anecdotal, quoting the rather strange fact that Hungary was so well known for its high suicide rate that seventeen people found dead in one year clutching the lyrics to a song was 'par for the course.'

In 1936 the song reached New York and was marketed as 'The Hungarian Suicide Song.' Within a week a typist had gassed herself, requesting 'Gloomy Sunday' be played at her funeral.

As the death toll mounted, a third verse was added to the song. A happy verse that was intended to counter the depressive urges of the first two. A verse that said: wait, it was all a dream, she's not dead, there's no reason to commit suicide and, look, the sun's coming out!

It didn't work. The power of 'Gloomy Sunday' wasn't confined to the lyrics. It was the dirge-like melody. As the BBC found out when they banned 'Gloomy Sunday' but allowed an instrumental version. A recording was made and released on a 78. Which caused panic in North London when a woman kept playing the record over and over. Neighbours banged on her doors, the police were called, the door forced open and ... she was found dead inside - of an overdose.

With the BBC, the US and France all banning the song, another attempt to rehabilitate 'Gloomy Sunday' came in 1978 when English psychologist, Sir Edmund Hendricks, suggested an alternative third verse. Sir Edmund was a controversial figure in the world of psychology and a strong proponent of stiff upper lips and 'tough love.' His third verse went along the lines of: pull yourself together! You think Sunday's bad wait until Monday and you have to go back to work!

This re-released version sparked the infamous 'I don't like Mondays' California school shootings.

So, urban legend or frightening fact? The jury, what's left of them after four hung themselves, is still out.

But judge for yourself. Here's a short sample of the song and here, below, are the English lyrics as translated by Sam Lewis. To cut the death toll (this is a responsible blog) I've added a new, and very happy, third verse with a tempo change in the middle and a singalong ending.

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

Happy are bunnies, with white furry fluffy tails
Dolphins are laughing and playing with big blue whales
So put away the noose, flush the tablets down the loo
Slam that oven door and put the gun back on the wall
Always look on the bright side of life...


Singers who have recorded this song include Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Bjork, Sarah McLachlan and Elvis Costello. Some are still alive. Not composer Rezso Seress however. In 1968, you guessed it, he committed suicide.

So, what's your saddest song? Mine isn't 'Gloomy Sunday' or even 'Honey' by Bobby Goldsboro or 'Seasons in the Sun' by Terry Jacks' or any song by Leonard Cohen. It's the last verse of 'Puff the Magic Dragon' which should have been banned years ago. Even today I have to run from the room before it gets to that last verse.

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From:brownkitty
Date:October 31st, 2006 03:03 pm (UTC)
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I think you know a different last verse to Puff than I do.
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From:chrisdolley
Date:October 31st, 2006 03:22 pm (UTC)
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Dragons live forever but not so little boys...

I can't type any more than that it's too ... too tragic, thinking of that poor dragon with no one to play with...

(rushes off in search of chocolate)

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From:cailleanlarkin
Date:October 31st, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC)

Puff!

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UGH! I cannot, under any circumstances whatsoever, listen to that song. It is utterly tragic and horrifying to me and I sob every time I hear it. I shudder just thinking about it.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 8th, 2006 10:43 pm (UTC)

Re: Puff!

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I COMPLETELY agree with you, and get this--my grandmother requested that Puff be played AT HER FUNERAL. OMG, talk about the most horrific combination of sad things ever....
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From:orejen
Date:October 31st, 2006 03:12 pm (UTC)
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"Cat's in the Cradle" often makes me cry, dangit, as does "When She Loved Me" by Sarah McLaughlin.

For years, and I have no idea why even now, America's "Sister Golden Hair" is an instant downer song. *shrug*
From:anothernathan
Date:October 31st, 2006 03:55 pm (UTC)
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Pretty much anything by Lionel Richie makes me want to shoot myself.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 1st, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC)
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Rolf Harris's "Two Little Boys" always makes tears stream down my face. Should I seek treatment?
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From:chrisdolley
Date:November 1st, 2006 03:29 pm (UTC)

Re:

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Definitely. I recommend listening to Rolf's version of 'Stairway to Heaven.' It's a tad 'kill or cure' but effective.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 5th, 2006 07:58 pm (UTC)
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If anyone posts anything about a dog called Shep that dies, I aint coming back to this website no more...

Shep
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 6th, 2006 02:51 pm (UTC)

Gloomy Sunday

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How could someone play a record over and over if she's dead of an overdose?
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From:chrisdolley
Date:November 6th, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC)

Re: Gloomy Sunday

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Record player on auto-repeat. Annoying neighbours for over half a century:)
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From:antipholus
Date:November 6th, 2006 03:38 pm (UTC)
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Ronan Keating's cover of Fairytale of New York makes me want to kill Ronan Keating!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 31st, 2007 07:38 am (UTC)

gs

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then why you did't kill ronan keating then??????i'm just kidding.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 31st, 2007 07:34 am (UTC)

gs

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well,the song itself is very interesting.I'm really curious if i would die after hearing that song.im not saying this because of any reason,it's just that i wanna know if this song was really a dangerous one to hear....that's all.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 27th, 2007 07:09 am (UTC)

boang ka!atay ka!asa ang original version?

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original ako gusto!bonag ay
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 27th, 2007 07:12 am (UTC)

jkang and boybolabog

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inday jeday bayot! franco bungot! mawi gi lubot c franco vigilante! remark pangag! JVR jed valovot remark! jed victor robo2! e butang ang original version sa gloomy sunday!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 1st, 2007 06:38 am (UTC)

JkAnG/Kingkong/Jed palubot/Boy bolabog

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ang way labot suya mo!!! hahaha


JED VALOVOT RITO!!!!
From:websmuggler
Date:August 13th, 2007 08:02 am (UTC)

Gloomy Sunday's danger is overrated.

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It's an irresistable story - a song so depressing that just listening to it drives people to suicide.
But there's scant evidence that Gloomy Sunday is that song. Sure, the song IS sad. But it tries too hard to be sad, especially with its hokey minor-chord arpeggio melody, and thus it crosses the line into corniness.
It's important to note two things: that Gloomy Sunday got most of its airplay in Hungary, which then and for many years thereafter had the highest suicide rate of any nation. Anyone who is determined to find a correlation between any 2 things, say a song and a suicide, can do so, but correlation does not prove causation.
Second, it's hard to imagine anyone being made suicidal by the ridiculous English version. Strictly speaking, a song can't be translated, because the words have to be completely changed or they won't rhyme. The original lyrics ARE reputed to be much more depressing, as Hungarian has a certain reputation for that; They start off with "All love has died on Earth..." and go downhill from there.
But it's downright fun to believe in a dangerous song! So people do. It's the stuff of which urban legends are made.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 12th, 2007 07:18 pm (UTC)

jammarlibre

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Good night
Thanks for your site.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 5th, 2008 11:14 am (UTC)

xaxaxa

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all of you are bad!!!! you scare me a lot..... i hate you.... i regret that i play this music in the youtube....
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