Born on November 3, 1899, Reszo Seress was a Hungarian pianist and composer who lived most of his life in poverty in Budapest. A badass of all badasses-he survived Nazi concentration camps-Seress took up work in the circus before becoming a composer. With only one hand, he taught himself to play the piano. ‘Gloomy Sunday’ is his most famous composition. Seress wrote the song in 1933 with fellow Hungarian Ladislas Javor.
‘Gloomy Sunday’ causes people to commit suicide.
Is It True?
The song is about suicide so of course it’s ‘gloomy.’ It was released in 1933 and was quickly linked to a spike in the number of suicides. Also known as ‘The Hungarian Suicide Song,’ one publisher said of the song: “It is not that the song is sad, there is a sort of terrible compelling despair about it. I don’t think it would do anyone any good to hear a song like that.” Hungary authorities didn’t take any chances and banned the playing of the song. But at the time the song was written, Hungary was in the grips of poverty and famine, two things that can motivate people to off themselves. In 1947, Billie Holiday famously recorded the song. The BBC banned Holiday’s version from the airwaves, saying it was detrimental to wartime morale.
Maybe don’t listen to sad, gloomy songs when you are depressed or the world is about to go to war, because that could easily leave you super-depressed and next thing you are slitting your wrists. Seress himself committed suicide in 1968, choking himself to death with a wire after surviving jumping out his apartment window. Many other notable artists recorded the song including Ray Charles in 1969, Etta Jones in 1977, Marianne Faithful in 1987, Sinead O’Connor in 1992, and Sarah McLachlan in 1996.
Miami Based, Internationally Known