Gloomy Sunday – A song’s story

There are songs with stories beyond belief. True stories. One of those songs is Szomorú vasárnap (also known as Gloomy Sunday) written in 1933 by Rezső Seress, a Hungarian pianist and composer. Szomorú vasárnap gained infamy as it became associated with a spate of suicides. Gloomy Sunday became well known throughout the English-speaking world after the release of a version by Billie Holiday in 1941.

Rezső Seress – A composer’s fate

Seress himself, the composer of Szomorú vasárnap, left this world by committing suicide.

His life would be worth writing about – actually, there’s a movie built around the story of the song, a German/Hungarian co-production, Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod (Gloomy Sunday – A Song of Love and Death/Szomorú vasárnap), directed by Rolf Schübel, which talks about Seress’ life, too. 

Imagine this: Seress survived the Nazi forced labour during the Second World War and, shortly after his 69th birthday, he tried to commit suicide by jumping from a window of his apartment. There’s more: his attempt failed and later in the hospital, he choked himself to death with a wire.

Black Christmas – The little brother of Szomorú vasárnap

Black Christmas is a song released in December 2019, 86 years after the release of Szomorú vasárnap. Its composer is Zoltan Sebestyen, a songwriter from Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania who signs the lyrics.

Sebestyen’s fascination with Szomorú vasárnap turned out to be the platform for his song. He wanted to get close to the fire, but without doing any harm or getting harmed. Black Christmas speaks about a highly sensitive subject: the dark emotional ride of someone who remains alone for Christmas and has to battle depression and even suicidal thoughts.

Between Szomorú vasárnap and Black Christmas there’s an essential difference: in the latter, the main character takes a stand against sinking into the arms of despair. His words from the bridge section of the song are words of triumph, the triumph of life over the temptation of suicide:

You won’t take me,

you won’t break me…

Grief is your kingdom

and I won’t wear your crown!

Black Christmas is there to be of help to all who struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts during Christmas time and not only then. It is for anyone who would stop at Szomorú vasárnap/Gloomy Sunday, to offer the needed inner power to move on.

Of course, when it comes to depression and suicidal thoughts there’s no song which could replace specialized help, counseling and support – our recommendation, too.