Originally entitled Szomorú vasárnap. Written in 1935 by Rezsô Seress, the pianist who never learned to the play the piano (also referred to as "The Whistling Musician"). Since he wrote it, Gloomy Sunday has been nicknamed "The Suicide Song", because of the many suicides that have been accredited to it. The composer himself leapt from the window of his apartment in Budapest, in 1968.

 Originally it was written as a duet, Many artists have performed this song, Billie Holliday's performance being one of the most remembered. Other artists include Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Elvis Costello, just to name a few.

I don't speak Hungarian, therefore I cannot say whether the English versions do the original song justice. Opinions tend towards the negatory. Some things don't translate well. Speaking as a translator myself, often one needs to quit translating and just render the meaning and even then it can be hit or miss. That, and I hate Sundays.

In 1992 a version of Gloomy Sunday was released by power diva Diamanda Galas as part of an album with deep blues and gospel influences. Now, anyone who's heard her knows that Galas is a singer with four octaves, the guts to use them, and the attitude of some really merciless god's high priestess. Galas' version of the poem differs significantly from the original Szomorú vasárnap and is pretty much a new work based on, and inspired by, László Jávor's rewrite. The song is a piano and voice piece. Galas uses both instruments like sharp knives and you have no defence against them. A critic once said that, if Sylvia Plath and Maria Callas had a baby, you'd get Diamanda Galas. Songs like this are apt to make one agree with that observation.

The vocals on this track usually elicit a comparison to Billie Holiday (who also performed this song) at her peak, and I can understand where one might think so. Not so, however. Galas herself admits that there's very little Holiday but a lot of Paul Robeson in her style. In fact, she says that this Gloomy Sunday was given an quite startling reception by audiences in Moscow because of this similarity, and given Robeson's special ties to the city and the fact that the original Gloomy Sunday was part of his repertoire too. As you'll notice, the "uplifting" third stanza that was added later is not used by Galas but she follows the "suicide song" two-stanza format. I'll venture to say that Galas' version of the words to this song is superior to Sam Lewis's translation, which is the most common in English

I have little more to say, save that this is one of my favourite Galas songs, and that's pretty much the consensus among her audience. Friends, this is not just a song lyric. This is poetry.

Sadly one Sunday
I waited and waited
With flowers in my arms
All the dream has created
I waited 'til dreams,
Like my heart, were all broken
The flowers were all dead
And the words were unspoken
The grief that I know
Was beyond all consoling
The beat of my heart
Was a bell that was tolling

Saddest of Sundays

Then came a Sunday
When you came to find me
They bore me to church
And I left you behind me
My eyes could not see
What I wanted to love me
The earth and the flowers
Are forever above me
The Bell tolled for me
And the wind whispered, "Never!"
But you I have loved
And I'll bless you forever

Last of all Sundays

Now go get the song and read the words again while listening to it. If this song doesn't speak to you, you have no soul with which to listen.

Gloomy Sunday from The Singer (Mute, 1992)
Writing credits: Diamanda Galas; performed by Diamanda Galas.

No spoiling, just trying to put a lite a little fire to excite you to see the movie

Gloomy Sunday, a movie after many years of being a musical wonder has hit the big screen beginning in Chicago.

The movie begins taking place in Budapest in the 1930s before and during the holocaust. It involves a young lady with two men interested in her and then ends with her having to make the difficult decision of which man to choose.

The movie is very good and is in German, but with English subtitles. It is presented by Menemsha Films and directed by Rolf Schubel. The film is written by Schubel and Ruth Toma, and based on the novel by Nick Barkow. The movie is not rated but is intended for adults and runs slightly short of 2 hours.

Main actors and actress:
Ilona Varnai: Erika Marozsan
Laszlo Szabo: Joachim Krol
Hans Wieck: Ben Becker
Andras Aradi: Stefano Dionisi


Billie Holiday made the song famous, and as has already been said, it is not the original Hungarian version. It gained a reputation in Europe as a "suicide song", but as the people who've writ here before me have pointed out, it's all anecdotal with no proof of cause.

The American version of the song is a quiet, somber blues number about a woman pining for a dead lover, saying that the flowers she brings will not return him and asking if the angels would mind if she joined him (in death). After the two Hungarian verses, the song shifts from C minor to C major. In one of the first notorious incidents of a record label making commercial changes to art, they insisted and got a third verse, a chirpy happy little coda in which she says it was all a dream and she hopes that the depth of her passion for him doesn't sadden him in any way. Considering this is a woman who quietly told the world where they could all go when they tried to get her to stop singing about lynchings, it's quite surprising, but maybe she didn't have the interest in fighting the music industry on two fronts.

I once roomed with a Hungarian hippie. We're both old men now, but I still remember him hearing Holiday playing from my record player and warning me against the song, saying it was a clear route to suicide. His English was passable but he had to work at it, and though him I learned it was originally Hungarian, and he would not translate the original lyrics for me. He'd been a circus clown back in the old country and had a penchant for paprika and cheap vodka, though not at the same time. He'd come to America for happiness and freedom and good vibes and the modern sounds of Jimmy Hendrix, not the despair and gloom of his homeland.

However, through the magic of these here Internets, I've found what is hopefully a pretty dern good translation. And if they're correct and true, then Holiday never went remotely near enough to the true depths of morbidity and sorrow of the original. I wish I had the chance to talk to that Hungarian feller again - I could show him where America had changed and altered the original to tone it down and offer hope at the end.

Well, anyway, the next time some rock and roll feller with hair like a mop staring at the floor thinks he's cornered the market on angst, here's the translation I found, with the translator's note that the English does not convey the beauty and elegance of the original Hungarian - he's translated it as literally as possible.

"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 colored 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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