Dear Prudence

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"Dear Prudence"
Dear Prudence - The Beatles, sheet music.jpg
Sheet music for "Dear Prudence"
Song by the Beatles
from the album The Beatles
Published Northern Songs
Released 22 November 1968
Recorded 28–30 August 1968, Trident Studios, London
Genre Rock[1]
Length 3:56
Label Apple
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) George Martin

"Dear Prudence" is a song by the English rock group the Beatles from their 1968 album The Beatles (also known as "the White Album"). The song was written by John Lennon, although credited to Lennon–McCartney. Written in Rishikesh in India, it was inspired by actress Mia Farrow's sister, Prudence Farrow, who became obsessive about meditating while practising with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.[2] As her designated "buddies" on the meditation course, Lennon and George Harrison attempted to coax Farrow out of her seclusion, which led to Lennon writing the song.

"Dear Prudence" has been covered by many artists. A recording by Siouxsie and the Banshees was a top five hit in 1983.

Background[edit]

The subject of the song is Prudence Farrow, a sister of actress Mia Farrow, who was present when the Beatles went to India to study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.[3] She came to meditation and the Maharishi's teachings as a result of a highly disturbing experience with the hallucinogenic drug LSD.[4]

While in Rishikesh in early 1968, Farrow became so serious about her meditation that she "turned into a near recluse" and "rarely came out" of the cottage she was living in. Of all the Beatles, Farrow felt closest to John Lennon and George Harrison,[5] who were assigned by the Maharishi to act as her "team buddies".[6] The two musicians took the responsibility seriously, having similarly experimented with LSD before discovering meditation.[7] Lennon and Harrison were asked to keep in contact with Farrow and try to coax her out of her seclusion to socialise with the other students on the course. As a result, Lennon wrote the song "Dear Prudence". In the song, Lennon asks Farrow to "open up your eyes" and "see the sunny skies", reminding her that she is "part of everything". The song was said to be "a simple plea to a friend to 'snap out of it'".[8]

According to author and journalist Mark Paytress, Lennon was less "charitably disposed" when commenting on the song after he had grown disaffected with the Maharishi and Transcendental Meditation.[6] In an interview he gave shortly before his murder in December 1980, Lennon said of "Dear Prudence":

A song about Mia Farrow's sister, who seemed to go slightly barmy, meditating too long, and couldn't come out of the little hut that we were livin' in. They selected me and George to try and bring her out because she would trust us. If she'd been in the West, they would have put her away ... She'd been locked in for three weeks and was trying to reach God quicker than anybody else. That was the competition in Maharishi's camp: who was going to get cosmic first. What I didn't know was I was already cosmic. (Laughs.)[9]

According to Farrow: "I would always rush straight back to my room after lectures and meals so I could meditate. John, George and Paul would all want to sit around jamming and having a good time and I'd be flying into my room. They were all serious about what they were doing, but they just weren't as fanatical as me."[10]

Farrow did not hear "Dear Prudence" before the Beatles recorded the track, although she has said that, before leaving Rishikesh, Harrison told her that they had written a song about her.[11] According to Farrow, "I was flattered. It was a beautiful thing to have done."[8] The lyrics of the song are simple and innocent and praise the beauty of nature in the lines: "The sun is up, the sky is blue, it's beautiful, and so are you."[12]

Recording[edit]

The Beatles recorded the song at Trident Studios in London on 28, 29 and 30 August 1968.[13] Using eight-track recording equipment, the basic track included finger-picking guitar performed by Lennon as well as Harrison on lead guitar, plus McCartney playing the drums in place of Ringo Starr, who had temporarily left the Beatles. The next day, McCartney overdubbed the bass track and Lennon recorded additional layers to his vocals. Handclapping, cowbell and tambourine were then added by Harrison and McCartney. On the last day of the recording session, McCartney added a piano track and a brief snippet of flugelhorn over the bridge of the song (supposedly at 1:42 on the left side).[14][8][12] In the opinion of author Ian MacDonald, the "richest ingredient" in the musical arrangement is Harrison's "Indian"-style guitar parts.[15]

On The Beatles, the song was sequenced as the second track on side one. Its introduction is cross-faded with the sounds of a jet aircraft landing which conclude the previous track, "Back in the U.S.S.R."[12] The descending chromatic bass-line in the song is similar to that of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".[16][17]

Personnel[edit]

According to Ian MacDonald:[18]

The Beatles

Additional musicians

Legacy[edit]

Lennon is said to have selected it as one of his favourite songs by the Beatles.[12] In 1987, Lennon's original handwritten lyrics of the song, containing 14 lines and some "doodles" in the margin, sold at auction for US $19,500.[20] The song is playable in The Beatles: Rock Band.[21]

"Dear Prudence" is one of 17 songs recorded by the Beatles that mentions the words "sun" or "sunshine" and according to Julian Lennon, it is one of his favourite songs written by his father.[8][12] Farrow titled her 2015 autobiography after the track. Asked what she thought of "Dear Prudence", in an interview with Rolling Stone, Farrow said: "It epitomized what the Sixties were about in many ways. What it's saying is very beautiful; it's very positive. I think it's an important song. I thought it was one their least popular and more obscure songs. I feel that it does capture that essence of the course, that slightly exotic part of being in India where we went through that silence and meditation."[5]

Cover versions[edit]

"Dear Prudence"
Siouxsie Prudence.jpg
Single by Siouxsie and the Banshees
from the album Hyæna
B-side "Tattoo", "There's a Planet in My Kitchen"
Released 23 September 1983
Format 7" and 12" vinyl
Recorded 1983
Genre Post-punk, neo-psychedelia
Length 3:48
Label Polydor
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s)
Siouxsie and the Banshees singles chronology
"Melt! / Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant"
(1982)
"Dear Prudence"
(1983)
"Swimming Horses"
(1984)
Siouxsie singles chronology
"Right Now"
The Creatures
(1983) Right Now1983
"Dear Prudence"
(1983) Dear Prudence1983
"Swimming Horses"
Siouxsie and the Banshees
(1984) Swimming Horses1984

English post-punk band Siouxsie and the Banshees released a cover version of the song as a single in 1983, which became their biggest British hit, peaking at No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart.[12]

Jerry Garcia, a member of the Grateful Dead, was a fan of the song and is said to have called it "one of his all-time personal favorites". The Jerry Garcia Band covered the song in extended, improvised versions at concerts between 1979 and Garcia's death in 1995. The song was recorded for the 1991 album Jerry Garcia Band.[12]

The song was performed by Joe Anderson, Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess and Dana Fuchs in Julie Taymor's 2007 film Across the Universe.

Phish performed the song on Halloween 1994 as part of their "musical costume", which was covering the White Album in its entirety. It was released on Live Phish 13 in 2002.

The song was used in commercial advertising by the US wireless phone company Cellular South in a TV commercial during 2008.[12]

The song has also been recorded by the following artists:[12]

Year Artist Release Notes
1968 Ramsey Lewis Mother Nature's Son
1969 Doug Parkinson in Focus single
1969 Gábor Szabó 1969
1970 Kenny Rankin Family
1970 The Five Stairsteps "O-o-h Child" single Released as a B-side, it reached No. 49 on its own on the Best Selling Soul Singles charts.
1974 Katfish single Reached No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100
1976 Leslie West The Leslie West Band
1983 Siouxsie and the Banshees single See information in box on right
1990 Trouble Tribe Trouble Tribe
1991 Sean Lennon Happy Birthday, John Released in Japan only; co-produced by YMO member Haruomi Hosono
1991 Jaco Pastorius Live in New York City – Volume Two
1991 Jerry Garcia Band Jerry Garcia Band
1991 The Clarks The Clarks
1992 Saigon Kick The Lizard Japanese-only bonus track
1992 Hiram Bullock Way Kool Instrumental[22][23][24]
1998 Jeff Lorber Midnight Instrumental[25][26]
2001 Graham Central Station The Jam: The Larry Graham & Graham Central Station Anthology Studio outtake recorded in the 1970s
2001 Alanis Morissette Come Together: A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music Live all-star concert filmed for television
2002 Brad Mehldau Largo Instrumental
2002 Phish Live Phish 13
2006 Songs of Green Pheasant Aeriel Days
2007 Dana Fuchs, Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson and T.V. Carpio Across the Universe Soundtrack
2009 Lau Arc Light Bonus track originally recorded for a Mojo magazine compilation
2010 Casey Mecija Sing Me to Sleep – Indie Lullabies Recorded for an American Laundromat Records charity compilation
2014 The Pretty Reckless BC 1 Live Lounge Mash-up with "Champagne Supernova" by Oasis

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wyman, Bill (7 June 2017). "All 213 Beatles Songs, Ranked from Worst to Best". Vulture. Archived from the original on 8 June 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2018. 
  2. ^ MacDonald 2005, pp. 310–11.
  3. ^ Sheff 2000, p. 198.
  4. ^ Kirkus Reviews staff (25 August 2015). "Dear Prudence by Prudence Farrow Burns". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 5 April 2018. 
  5. ^ a b Chiu, David (4 September 2015). "The Real 'Dear Prudence' on Meeting Beatles in India". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2018. 
  6. ^ a b Paytress, Mark (2003). "A Passage to India". Mojo Special Limited Edition: 1000 Days of Revolution (The Beatles' Final Years – Jan 1, 1968 to Sept 27, 1970). London: Emap. p. 16. 
  7. ^ Riley 2011, p. 381.
  8. ^ a b c d Here, There and Everywhere: the 100 best Beatles songs, Stephen J Spignesi, Michael Lewis, page 252
  9. ^ Sheff 2000, pp. 198–99.
  10. ^ Doyle, Jack (27 July 2009). "Dear Prudence, 1967-1968". PopHistoryDig.com. Retrieved 15 May 2010. 
  11. ^ Ghosh, Palash (13 August 2013). "Dear Prudence: Recollections of the Beatles by the Woman Who Inspired One of Their Most Beautiful Songs". IB Times. Retrieved 5 April 2018. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i The Pop History Dig, Dear Prudence
  13. ^ Lewisohn 2005, p. 152.
  14. ^ Rybaczewski, Dave. "Dear Prudence History". Beatlesebooks.com. Retrieved 19 Dec 2017. 
  15. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 311.
  16. ^ Pedler 2003, pp. 436–37.
  17. ^ MacDonald 2005, pp. 241, 311.
  18. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 310.
  19. ^ Winn 2009, p. 206.
  20. ^ Rimer, Sara (28 June 1987). "The Beatles and Youth at Auction". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 November 2009. 
  21. ^ The Beatles Rockband Official Website
  22. ^ "Way Kool overview". AllMusic.com. 
  23. ^ "Hiram Bullock Discography". HiramBullock.com. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. 
  24. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-7ePY21I4g
  25. ^ "Midnight overview". AllMusic.com. 
  26. ^ "Midnight – Jeff Lorber". JazzTimes.com. 

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]