To paraphrase Cornel West, “I have a cheerful disposition and a melancholic soul.”
Every time I come to Europe, it amazes me, how quiet it is. In winter, it’s not only quiet, but also dark. Maybe that adds to the melancholy which seems to infuse everything. This sounds rather sad, but in fact, I love this feeling, greatly fueled by my own imagination. It includes sad music and poetry. One of the special songs which reflects this mood perfectly is one of my favorites: “Gloomy Sunday“.
The song was composed in 1933 by self taught Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress to a poem written by László Jávor. The original Hungarian title of both song and poem is “Szomorú vasárnap“. Urban myths connected the song with a large number of suicides allegedly involving the song. These claims were later confirmed to be unsubstantiated, but as it happens with most urban legends, they stick around and are difficult to get rid of.
The above clip is taken from the small, but successful movie “Gloomy Sunday” by Rolf Schuebel, a German Hungarian co-production from 1999. It’s a fictional story inspired by the song taking place in Budapest in the thirties, starring Erika Marozsán, Joachim Król, Ben Becker and Stefano Dionisi.
The song traveled the world and became popular in the US in 1941 in a slightly different version (a third verse was added) which was sung by many great artists from Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn to Elvis Costello. Listen to Sarah Vaughn, first.
And here’s Elvis Costello looking like a bug. I like the simplicity of his interpretation a lot with just his scratchy voice and the guitar (close your eyes, the live video quality is awful.)
My Sunday is anything but gloomy, but I never get tired of listening to Gloomy Sunday!