Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide?

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By | From the Collections

“Don’t wanna stay alive when you’re 25” wrote the young David Bowie (now 62). The history of popular music is littered with tales of self-destruction – Del Shannon, Johnny Thunders, Joe Meek, Keith Moon and even Sister Luc-Gabrielle (the Singing Nun) to name just a tiny fraction. Music and intense emotions seem to go together like ill-matched lovers, often leaving haunting melodic memories for us all.

Among the more obscure treasures in the library are intriguing tales of Country Music and suicide (think: divorce, drink and guns as themes) and the story of Gloomy Sunday. This is a Hungarian tune banned by the BBC in 1937 because of its reputed link with at least 18 deaths. It features a ghost attending his own funeral. The programme mentions, among others, the demise of Billy MacKenzie, singer with the Associates, who recorded the number prior to his tragic end in 1997.

Fans of Joy Division may like to note the library has a copy of Control the 2007 biopic of Ian Curtis whose battles with depression and epilepsy contributed to his suicide at the age of 23 when the band was at its height.

On a lighter note, you can also enjoy Richard Doll’s musical selection on Desert island discs.

Danny Rees

Danny Rees

Hi, I am Danny Rees, an Engagement Officer for the Wellcome Library, one of my interests is the human face; its physiognomy, expressions and ideas about what constitutes beauty. When not at work I enjoy the Kent countryside and consider radio to be one of the best things in life.

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