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Gloomy Sunday

In honor of the Pitchfork Music Festival, here’s a collection of different versions of “Gloomy Sunday,” the “Hungarian Suicide Song”:

There have been several urban legends regarding the song over the years, mostly involving it being allegedly connected with various numbers of suicides, and radio networks reacting by purportedly banning the song. However, most of these claims are unsubstantiated.

In 1968, Rezső Seress, the original composer, jumped to his death from his apartment.

Rezső Seress

OK, lots of versions are after the jump. Listen…if you dare!

Now, there are like a million recorded versions of this song, so I’m only going to embed some of them (the most notable ones up at YouTube).

1935: the inimitable Paul Robeson:

1936: Damia:

1936: Taro Shoji:

1937: Mercedes Simone:

1940: Artie Shaw with Pauline Byrne:

1941: Billie Holiday’s classic version (which adds the revisionist “it was all just a dream!” third verse):

1958: Mel Tormé:

1959: Eila Pellinen:

1961: Sarah Vaughan:

1958: Ricky Nelson:

1968: Genesis (a US electric-folk band, not Peter Gabriel &co.—a nice version):

1969: Ray Charles:

1972: Viktor Klimenko:

1979: Lydia Lunch:

1981: Elvis Costello and the Attractions:

1982: The Associates:

1986: Christian Death:

1988: Serge Gainsbourg (in anticipation of Antichrist):

1992: Diamanda Galás’ most excellent rendition:

1992: Sinéad O’Connor:

1994: Anton LaVey (!) with Magistra Blanche Barton, High Priestess of the Church of Satan:

1995: Gitane Demone:

1996: Sarah McLachlan (in case you really want to kill yourself):

1998: Marianne Faithfull:

1999: Björk:

2000: Kronos Quartet:

2000: Sarah Brightman:

2001: Iva Bittová (from Sally Potter’s The Man Who Cried, the final film shot by the great Sacha Vierny):

And…a Korean Hip Hop version by one MC Sniper (I believe it’s from 2007?):

Finally, after so much Hungarian suicide, here’s a chaser:


  • A. D. Jameson is the author of five books, most recently I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING: STAR WARS AND THE TRIUMPH OF GEEK CULTURE and CINEMAPS: AN ATLAS OF 35 GREAT MOVIES (with artist Andrew DeGraff). Last May, he received his Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the Program for Writers at UIC.

4 thoughts on “Gloomy Sunday

  1. Mmmm….love Diamanda’s.

    Not sure I’ve ever heard Marianne or Bjork’s, they are two of my favorite people.

    Sarah MacLachlan’s version was the first I ever heard, b/c I was THAT kid in high school…

    I kinda like the goofy adult contemporary production on Heather Nova’s:

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