Thursday, 5 March 2009

Gloomy Sunday song with a curse

There are many legends about this song, "Gloomy Sunday". It's supposed to have mysteriously come off the piano as the young composer, Rezső Seress, was gloomily tinkering away. The story goes that it caused masses of suicides and was banned for public safety. The composer did kill himself, but not for another 36 years.

Look at the original lyrics, written by László Jávor. They are grim. I've not been able to find out about Jávor, but Seress lost his family in the Holocaust. Surviving that must have been a kind of hell.

"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 coloured 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!
The legend of the curse comes about because the popular English translations sanitize the text, turning it into a tale of thwarted love. "Little white flowers will never awaken me" huh ? Yet the song is haunting enough to survive sentimental censorship, and has become a cult classic. How frustrating it must have been for the Seress and especially Jávor whose good work was completely sidelined. But dumbed down is where the money is.

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