Music has a profound effect on the listener. Soothing notes heal the mind and body, while melancholy melodies inspire blue moods. But can a killer tune truly cause death? We present four cursed songs and one classical music hex that are haunted by tragedy. Mere coincidence? You decide.
1. “Gloomy Sunday” The Hungarian Suicide Song
In 1933, 34-year-old Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress published the breakup song to end all breakup songs. Titled “Vége a Világnak” (“End of the World”), it is rumored to have inspired suicides throughout the 20th century, earning it the nickname The Hungarian Suicide Song. The lyrics were written by poet Laszlo Javor, and are full of despair over a doomed love affair. For example, “Gloomy is Sunday, with shadows I spend it all /My heart and I have decided to end it all.” The song has become connected, at least apocryphally, to suicides that occurred in both the U.S. and Germany during the Depression. Allegedly, one suicide victim drowned themselves while clutching the sheet music; another listened to it over and over as she overdosed. Billie Holiday recorded an English-language version in 1941 that the BBC eventually banned from the airwaves for causing poor wartime morale. The ban wasn’t lifted until 2002.
2. Heavy Metal Suicide Solution
In the mid-1980s, heavy metal got a bad rap. The parents of suicide victims blamed both Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne’s songs for the demise of their children. 20-year-old James Vance and 19-year-old Ray Belknap shot themselves in an apparent suicide pact. Vance survived but was badly injured and died years later of an overdose. Vance’s parents alleged that Judas Priest’s song, “Better By You Better Than Me,” contained a sinister subliminal message that triggered his suicide attempt. Ozzy’s “Suicide Solution” was blamed for the death of depressed teenager John McCollom. The cases went to trial, but both were dismissed.
3. Curse of the Crossroads
Influential bluesman Robert Johnson died mysteriously in 1938 at the age of 27, a number that holds its own cursed status among musicians. Yet the eerie legend that hounds this mythic bluesman doesn’t stop there—Johnson supposedly struck a deal with the devil at a crossroads to become the king of the Delta Blues. He penned his haunting song “Cross Road Blues” two years before his death, in 1936. Since then, anyone who has covered the song has encountered tragedy. Eric Clapton, who played a version of the tune with Cream, lost his two-year-old son from a tragic fall out of a window. The band Lynyrd Skynyrd covered the song, and were involved in a tragic airplane crash that killed three band members and the tour manager. Skynyrd guitarist Allen Collins suffered a car crash in 1986 that killed his girlfriend; Collins later died in 1990. As for the Allman Brothers, who performed the tune throughout their career, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971. A little over a year later, near the same spot, bandmember Barry Oakley also perished in another bike accident.
4. Deadly Ninth Symphony
Classical music composers fear an unlikely number—nine. There’s a superstition within this community that one will die after finishing a ninth symphony. Strangely, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Antonin Dvorák, Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler, and Vaughan Williams, all passed away after number nine or did not make it to completing a tenth. Modern day British composer Peter Maxwell Davies seems to have .
5. “My Way” Murders
Ol’ Blue Eyes never would have imagined his inspirational hit “My Way” would get banned in karaoke bars. But that’s exactly what happened in 2010 in the Philippines. The Frank Sinatra classic was removed from many song books after a number of drunken brawls over this song in particular.
Featured photo: Andy Read / Flickr (CC)