The Most Depressing Song of All Time

Published September 30, 2012
Updated January 17, 2018

Written by a Hungarian composer in 1933, "Gloomy Sunday" has been blamed for over 200 suicides.This is the fascinating story of history's most depressing song.

Every person has their own opinion on what is the most depressing song ever, as listeners form links in their mind to personal experiences based on lyrics or melody, and this in turn creates an incredibly long list of sad songs. However, not every song has fascinating urban legends attached to them like “Gloomy Sunday” does, dubbed the most depressing song of all time:

‘Gloomy Sunday’, Composed by Rezső Seress, Lyrics by László Jávor

The Hungarian composer, Rezső Seress, wrote ‘Gloomy Sunday’ in 1933 and lyrics were written later by Hungarian poet László Jávor. The song immediately became known as “the suicide song” in Hungary and many reports were filed at the time claiming that the lyrics or sheet music were used in an alarming number of suicide notes. Legends say that there were 17 reported cases of such incidences, leading the Hungarian government to (allegedly) ban the song.

American music producers soon caught wind of this strange song and translated version began recording. The most popular recording was done by jazz legend Billie Holiday. Holiday’s version tacked on a more uplifting third verse, but the song still couldn’t shake its inherent depressing tone. The lyrics, after all, clearly dealt with suicide:

Sunday is gloomy,
My hours are slumberless
Dearest the shadows
I live with are numberless
Little white flowers
Will never awaken you
Not where the black coach of
Sorrow has taken you
Angels have no thought
Of ever returning you
Would they be angry
If I thought of joining you?
Gloomy Sunday

Legends About History’s Most Depressing Song

Legends continue with the recordings of the American translation. Some claim that no suicides have been linked to the song in the U.S., while others state that over 200 suicides worldwide (in English speaking countries) were at the fault of ‘Gloomy Sunday.’ Likewise, some say there were no reports of banning of the song in U.S., while others say it was “banned from the airwaves.”

Despite any “bans” that were instituted, ‘Gloomy Sunday’ is still being covered to this day. One legend about the song however is very true: Rezső Seress, the original composer, committed suicide in 1963 by jumping off a building in Budapest. Whether the song itself or his inability to write another hit again was the cause is unknown.

All That's Interesting
A New York-based publisher established in 2010, All That's Interesting brings together subject-level experts in history, true crime, and science to share stories that illuminate our world.