Me and my friends were discussing about songs on msn when someone brought up Gloomy Sunday, the suicide song. Curious, I searched the internet to get more info and well, this is what I found:
1. Up to seventeen suicides were purportedly linked in some way to the song "Gloomy Sunday" in Hungary before the song was (allegedly) banned. These "links" included people who reportedly killed themselves after listening to the song (either from a recording or performed by a band), or who were said to have been found dead with references to "Gloomy Sunday" (and/or its lyrics) in their suicide notes, with "Gloomy Sunday" sheet music in their hands, or with "Gloomy Sunday" playing on gramophones.
I don't know how any of these claims could be verified short of paging through old Hungarian newspapers; even then, it would be difficult at this late date to separate exaggerated and fabricated reports from true ones. I suspect that this portion of the legend is trivially true, a combination of Hungary's historically high suicide rate and the assumption of a causal — rather than a coincidental — relationship between the song and suicides that caused rumors and media reports to be greatly exaggerated.
Hungary has had the highest suicide rate of any country for many years (as high as 45.9 per 100,000 people in 1984), so a few dozen suicides there over a year's time certainly wouldn't have been unusual, even in 1936. Nor is it at all uncommon for suicides to work something from popular songs or books or films into their deaths. Only when one particular song was coincidentally linked to a sufficient number of suicides to draw attention to all the suicides in which it played a part did people start to claim that it was somehow the cause of these deaths.
2. Many claims are made about the reaction to "Gloomy Sunday" by Hungarian authorities, from "discouraging" public performance of the song to an outright ban on it. I have found no reliable information about when, where, or by whom this song might have been banned in one form or another. My guess, based on similar legends (such as the claim that Donald Duck was banned in insert Scandinavian country of choice), would be that some Hungarian municipalities may have instituted some types of (possibly voluntary) restrictions on the song, but that there was no nation-wide ban on "Gloomy Sunday."
3. The claims about American reaction to the song are even wilder. Some sources claim that no "Gloomy Sunday"-inspired suicides were reported in the USA at all, while others attribute cases of suicide (up to "200 worldwide") in both the USA and Britain to the English-language version of "Gloomy Sunday" (including "young jazz fans" who became depressed after hearing Billie Holiday's version of the song). Likewise, while some sources say that there were no restrictions whatsoever placed on the song in the USA, others claim that it was "banned from the airwaves." (Sometimes the ban is said to have been directed at a particular version of the song, such as Billie Holiday's recording of it.) Some sources even claim that a sort of "compromise" ban was enacted as many radio stations played only the instrumental version of the song.
4. The "girlfriend who inspired the song committed suicide" claims sounds like an embellishment of the basic legend, as I only found one source that mentioned it. It claimed that Javor "wrote the song for a former girlfriend," and that shortly after its release she committed suicide and left behind a note reading simply "Gloomy Sunday."
5. Rezso Seress did indeed commit suicide, jumping from a Budapest building in 1968. This portion of the legend also appears to have been embellished, with some sources claiming that he was depressed because he'd never been able to produce another hit after "Gloomy Sunday."
Last updated: 23 May 2007
The URL for this page is snopes.com: Gloomy Sunday Suicides