Gloomy Sunday (aka the “Hungarian Suicide Song”) is a famous song composed by Rezső Seress during the early 1930s, the time of the Great Depression. Urban legends have it that this song compel its listeners to commit suicides much like how vampires compel their victims to give up their fresh, healthy blood for the glory of Satan. ^^ In fact, it’s interesting to note that due to the high suicidal rate, the BBC has had banned the song from broadcasting for more than 60 years. Ridiculous? Maybe.
After listening to both the original and Billie Holiday’s versions of the song, here are my thoughts:
1) It was the Great Depression and this song was particularly more gloomy than others, and therefore, when these two factors came together, that extra ingredient of appealing to the hearts of the people appeared. The melody of the song as well as the lyrics allowed more room for despair in the people’ minds and inevitably, this dreadful despair triggered the terrible idea that everything would right itself by ending one’s own life. In other words, everything would right itself if there was nothing else to be “righted”.
2) Beats me, but my first impression of the song is that of a blue jazzy blend of the metal rock Gothic theme…like an ancestor or inspiration to bands such as My Chemical Romance and music along those lines. Hmmm…I actually wonder how My Chemical Romance’s Helena and Cradle of Filth’s music would fare during the Great Depression. Maybe a 100-years ban? Random, I know.
3) During the 1930s (and even further back before then), this kind of melancholic melody of despair was particularly rare and therefore, people might not be as “immune” to it. Perhaps people of the 1930s have never experienced such a resonance until they listened to this song for the first time; they felt as though they have finally found the last piece of puzzle that explained why their lives were filled with anguish and despair. Then, because of the excitement in that they have finally found the answer and the understanding that they were so despairingly searching for, they became more motivated to do things…mostly rash things that they (felt as though they) have no time to consider on whether they would regret one day.
4) At the end of the day, I believe that music really has nothing to do with the rate of suicide, homicide, or any other crimes in general. It is the minds of people that really decide their own fate, and music…music is like all the other petty excuses that people use to make justifications for their decisions.
Here’s the original version of the song. Skip to 0:45 for the actual music if the “educational” part of the video bores you.
Billie Holiday’s version.
Did I die after listening to this song for the nth time? Nope, not yet. But, I will probably merrily be after decades and decades later. ^^