22 April 2009

Gloomy Sunday

Songs have curious histories, and often get lost in translations and revivals. But few are as misplaced and trivialized as Gloomy Sunday. Most of us will associate it with American songwriters and Billie Holiday. We recognize it instantly: “Sunday is gloomy, my hours are slumberless; dearest, the shadows I live with are numberless...”
Billie changed the lyrics, the role of the piano, and even made it happier, as the original song was not allowed to be broadcast.
I post here the original song, as first recorded in 1935 in Hungary. Within months, it conquered Europe more effectively than Hitler five years later. Before long, the song was labeled as a suicide song and banned from broadcasting. In the 1930s, Europeans were requesting bands to play Gloomy Sunday on the eve before they killed themselves, while the sheet music of Gloomy Sunday became a suicide note of choice. “The world has come to its end, hope has ceased to have a meaning. Cities are being wiped out, shrapnel is making music.”
Not the end of a love affair then: it was the very world that was coming to an end.

Complete lyrics of the original in English here.

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