Gloomy Sunday

Album: The Billie Holiday Story (1941)


  • This was written in 1933 by the Hungarian pianist and composer Rezso Seress, with Hungarian lyrics added by the poet Laszlo Javor. In 1936 Hal Kemp And His Orchestra recorded the song with English lyrics by Sam Lewis. Also in 1936 Paul Robeson recorded it with alternate lyrics. Holiday popularized the song with her version in 1941.
  • This song is quite morbid, and the second verse contains an explicit reference to suicide: "My heart and I have decided to end it all." Holiday's version added a third verse to take the edge off in which she sings about how she was "only dreaming," but her delivery was quite convincing when she sang about despair; Holiday dealt with alcohol and drug problems for most of her life, and had many personal demons to contend with.
  • Other artists to record this include Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, Sinead O'Connor and Björk.

    One surprising rendition is by Ricky Nelson, who recorded the song in 1958 when he was 18 years old. Nelson was part of a family of entertainers who starred as themselves on the popular TV series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Ozzie (Ricky's dad) wouldn't allow his label, Imperial, to release the song, since he knew Ricky had many young fans and he didn't want them to consider suicide.

    In our interview with Ricky's son Matthew, he said: "It's so haunting, and Ozzie said kids will be throwing themselves out of windows because our dad had such an unbelievable impact on popular culture and kids at that point. Ozzie said, 'We can't release this, it's irresponsible. I don't want to censor it, but people will die if this song gets out there.'"

    The song finally appeared in 2001 on the compilation Ricky Sings Again.

Comments: 5

  • Paul from Marysville, WaPeter Wolf (original frontman for The J. Giles Band) recorded Gloomy Sunday for his first solo album.
  • Sara from Greenville, AlThis was also covered by Rick Nelson.
  • Samantha from Makati, PhilippinesIts not TRUE ..
    i've been wanting to suicide because of being broken but i can't i am thinking what would happen to my family if i DIE . i was so intersted in this song that its been almost a year searching for the real mystery regarding this xong but i can't find . I've also tried to listen to this everyday but nothing happens . How can you say that this is reality if me, being me can't make myself suicide ..

    think for your risk ..
    don't just lose hope ..
    love yourself and family ..

  • Beta from Bratislava, Europeversion by diamanda galas is very dark too.
    beta, BA, slovakia
  • Al from London, EnglandThe song has a long association with suicide, with the record found playing beside the deceased.

    Versions have also been recorded by Sarah Mclachlan and Heather Nova
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Mike Campbell

Mike CampbellSongwriter Interviews

Mike is lead guitarist with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and co-writer of classic songs like "Boys Of Summer," "Refugee" and "The Heart Of The Matter."

90s Music Quiz 1

90s Music Quiz 1Music Quiz

First question: Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson appeared in videos for what artist?

Alice Cooper

Alice CooperFact or Fiction

How well do you know this shock-rock harbinger who's been publicly executed hundreds of times?

Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust

Lajon Witherspoon of SevendustSongwriter Interviews

The Sevendust frontman talks about the group's songwriting process, and how trips to the Murder Bar helped forge their latest album.

Trucking Songs That Were #1 Hits

Trucking Songs That Were #1 HitsSong Writing

The stories behind the biggest hit songs about trucking.

Harold Brown of War

Harold Brown of WarSongwriter Interviews

A founding member of the band War, Harold gives a first-person account of one of the most important periods in music history.