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Thursday, February 2, 2017

41 of 1001 Songs: Billie Holiday's Gloomy Sunday


One of the most prominent female figures in music is Billie Holiday, and if you listen to a few of her songs you will understand why. One of her tunes has already appeared on this list from the 30's, and she once again makes a hit in the 40's.  Gloomy Sunday is a beautiful song, and it sets the mood perfectly for what the lyrics capture in the tune.

History: Interestingly this song was a Hungarian song performed in 1933 by Rezso Seress, but it didn't hit popularity till Billie Holiday's version. It was even adapted before her version by another set of English artists. She would perform the tune in 1941 around the time that World War Two was being entered by Americans. It's interesting to think of the things perpetuating around this version in particular.

I love the instrumentals of the tune as much as I love the vocals. The lead in of wind instrumentals give it's a nice jazz tone, and it builds the mystery that is reflected in Holiday's voicing. She has an unique voicing that I haven't heard anything like since.

The lyrical content is sung as if Holiday already has her own personal meaning behind the lyrics. She sings it as if she is singing her own gloomy Sunday tale. The music only gets better as you continue to listen, and not only do the vocals intensify, but so does the music.

The instrumentals aren't projected as well as the song, but I more so attribute that to recording of the time. It's restored beautifully, but still some qualities could probably only be captured by personally hearing it live at the time. The arrangement and composition of the song is beautifully done, and it weaves the idea of a dark fairy tale with the choice of instruments.

I love how by the end of this song every part of the song works together to build the emotions. I can see why the public might have been a bit frightened of this song at the time. In a time where we reflect on as light and positive even going into dark times, no one wanted to push forth the darker roots to be popular sentiments.

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