"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. 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.
Sheet music for "Dear Prudence"
|Song by the Beatles|
|from the album The Beatles|
|Released||22 November 1968|
|Recorded||28–30 August 1968, Trident Studios, London|
"Dear Prudence" has been covered by many artists. A recording by Siouxsie and the Banshees was a top five hit in 1983.
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. She came to meditation and the Maharishi's teachings as a result of a highly disturbing experience with the hallucinogenic drug LSD.
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, who were assigned by the Maharishi to act as her "team buddies". The two musicians took the responsibility seriously, having similarly experimented with LSD before discovering meditation. 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'".
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. 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.)
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."
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. According to Farrow, "I was flattered. It was a beautiful thing to have done." 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."
The Beatles recorded the song at Trident Studios in London on 28, 29 and 30 August 1968. 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). In the opinion of author Ian MacDonald, the "richest ingredient" in the musical arrangement is Harrison's "Indian"-style guitar parts.
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." The descending chromatic bass-line in the song is similar to that of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".
According to Ian MacDonald:
- John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal, backing vocal, rhythm guitar
- Paul McCartney – backing vocal, drums, bass guitar, piano, flügelhorn, tambourine, cowbell, handclaps
- George Harrison – backing vocal, rhythm guitar, lead guitars, handclaps
Lennon is said to have selected it as one of his favourite songs by the Beatles. 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. The song is playable in The Beatles: Rock Band.
"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. 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."
|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|
|Siouxsie and the Banshees singles chronology|
|Siouxsie singles chronology|
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.
The song has also been recorded by the following artists:
|1968||Ramsey Lewis||Mother Nature's Son|
|1969||Doug Parkinson in Focus||single|
|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|
|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||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|
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