Dear Prudence

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the The Beatles (Mono) LP.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968

Master album


Related articles


The Beatles in India

February 19 to March 26, 1968

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Song facts

Prudence Farrow got an attack of the horrors, paranoia, an identity crisis and wouldn’t come out of her Butlins chalet. We all got a little bit worried about her, so we went up there and knocked, ‘Hi, Prudence. We all love you. You’re wonderful!’ But nobody could persuade her out.

Paul McCartney – about Prudence Farrow and their trip to India – from “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman

From Wikipedia:

“Dear Prudence” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1968 double album The Beatles (also known as “the White Album”). The song was written by John Lennon and credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership. Written in Rishikesh during the group’s trip to India in early 1968, it was inspired by actress Mia Farrow’s sister, Prudence Farrow, who became obsessive about meditating while practising with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Her designated partners on the meditation course, Lennon and George Harrison, attempted to coax Farrow out of her seclusion, which led to Lennon writing the song.

Lennon wrote “Dear Prudence” using a finger-picking guitar technique that he learned from singer-songwriter Donovan. Its lyrics are simple and innocent and celebrate the beauty of nature. The Beatles recorded the song at Trident Studios in late August 1968 as a three-piece after Ringo Starr temporarily left the group out of protest at McCartney’s criticism of his drumming on “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and the tensions that typified the sessions for the White Album. The final recording also features contributions from Mal Evans, Jackie Lomax and John McCartney. A demo for the song, recorded at George Harrison’s Kinfauns home before the album’s sessions, was later released on the 2018 Super Deluxe edition of the White Album.

“Dear Prudence” has received praise from music critics, with many praising its lyrics and the band’s performance. Lennon later selected it as one of his favourite songs by the Beatles. The song has been covered by many artists, including the Jerry Garcia Band, Ramsey Lewis and Siouxsie and the Banshees, whose version was a top-five hit in the UK in 1983.

Background

The inspiration and ostensible subject of the song is Prudence Farrow, the sister of actress Mia Farrow, both of whom were present when the Beatles went to India to study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at his ashram in Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Prudence came to Transcendental 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 intensely serious about meditating, refusing to venture out of her bungalow for days on end. 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”.

Lennon and Harrison took the responsibility seriously, having similarly experimented with LSD before discovering meditation. The two musicians were asked to coax Farrow out of her seclusion to ensure she socialised with the other students on the course. As a result, Lennon wrote the song “Dear Prudence”. In his lyrics, Lennon asks Farrow to “open up your eyes” and “see the sunny skies”, reminding her that she is “part of everything”. Singer-songwriter Donovan remembered that “we were diving deep inside ourselves, not just for 20 minutes in the morning and the evening, but we had days of it … deep exploration of the deep psyche … So Prudence was in deep, and this [song] was John’s way of saying, “Are you OK in there?””.

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 a 1980 interview, he 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 [McCartney] 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.

Composition

Lennon wrote “Dear Prudence” using a guitar finger-picking technique that he learned from Donovan, who had followed the Beatles out to Rishikesh to study Transcendental Meditation. The technique, known as clawhammer picking, was later described by Donovan as “the Carter Family finger style”. Donovan recalled that Lennon asked him to demonstrate the technique one morning as they sat playing guitar under a jacaranda tree; Lennon, a “fast learner”, subsequently mastered it in just two days. Author Steve Turner comments that the Beatles’ songwriting in Rishikesh reflected the simplicity of their environment, with the lyrics’ frequent references to “birds, flowers, clouds, the sun, and the wind”, while Paytress finds Lennon’s songs particularly evocative of “the ‘slow-motion’ sensibility of life on the ashram”.

“Dear Prudence” features a descending chromatic bass-line similar to that of Lennon’s 1967 composition “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds“. The song is in the key of D major, with the arpeggio effect being achieved on guitar through the detuning of the sixth string down to a low D. On the Beatles’ recording, the song begins quietly and builds in intensity through the subtle introduction of the rhythm section. Musicologist Walter Everett comments that, together with “Across the Universe“, the song’s “peaceful aura” and “ringing dronelike guitars” make it Lennon’s most “Indian”-sounding composition.

The lyrics are simple and innocent and celebrate the beauty of nature, particularly in the lines: “The sun is up, the sky is blue / It’s beautiful, and so are you.” Author Mark Hertsgaard finds “Dear Prudence” typical of Lennon’s work in that it “transcends its origins” to provide a wider message. He says that the lyrics further an idea first espoused by Lennon in “Nowhere Man” in 1965, namely: “Don’t hide from life, you have reason to smile, wake up and play your part in the grand scheme of things.”

According to music critic Kenneth Womack, “Prudence” serves as one of the many literary figures the Beatles created for the White Album, along with Sexy Sadie (representing the Maharishi), Bungalow Bill, Rocky Raccoon and other characters named in the titles of the songs they wrote in Rishikesh. He likens the collection of these figures in the context of the double album to Impressionistic art, whereby the diverse elements are brought together to form a unifying song cycle. Music critic Tim Riley acknowledges the inspiration of Farrow on Lennon’s lyric but says that “ultimately it’s a song about sexual awakening, the heady euphoria of natural pleasures wooed by a sublime musical arc.”

Recording – Esher demo

“Dear Prudence” was one of the 27 songs demoed by the Beatles in late May 1968 in preparation for recording the White Album. Performed solo by Lennon on acoustic guitar, the song was taped at Harrison’s house, Kinfauns, in Esher, Surrey. Lennon concluded the performance with a brief spoken commentary during which he says that the song is about “[a girl] who attended a meditation course in Rishikesh”. In Hertsgaard’s description of the recording, after McCartney interjects with “Cuckoo!”, Lennon adds sarcastically: “Who was to know that she would go completely berserk, under the care of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi?” In his book Revolution: The Making of the Beatles’ White Album, David Quantick writes that the “cynicism” in Lennon’s delivery reflects his disillusion with the Maharishi in light of rumours alleging that their teacher had made sexual advances towards Mia Farrow. He adds that Lennon now reinterpreted Prudence’s episode “in an anti-Maharishi light” and “Dear Prudence” was therefore “quite divorced from its original purpose”.

Recording – Studio recording

The Beatles formally recorded the song at Trident Studios in London from 28 to 30 August. This period was marked by tension and hostility within the group, which had led to Ringo Starr temporarily leaving the band during the recent sessions for McCartney’s song “Back in the U.S.S.R.” On 28 August, the three remaining Beatles completed the basic track for “Dear Prudence”, comprising various guitar parts by Lennon and Harrison, including Lennon’s finger-picked electric rhythm part, and McCartney on drums in place of Starr. Using eight-track recording equipment – which gave them more options than the four-track equipment they usually worked with at EMI Studios – the band were able to perfect and re-record their parts as they developed the song. Everett writes that this freedom “allow[ed] a cleaner additive layering in the increasingly thick vocal and instrumental arrangement”, and that the recording also benefited sonically from Lennon’s new Fender Twin Reverb guitar amplifier and Harrison’s recently acquired Fender Telecaster.

On 29 August, McCartney overdubbed bass guitar and Lennon sang his lead vocal, doubled for effect, to which McCartney and Harrison added harmony vocals. The other contributions were handclaps and percussion, including Harrison and McCartney on tambourines, and more backing vocals. For these additions, the Beatles were joined by Mal Evans, Apple Records artist Jackie Lomax, and McCartney’s cousin John McCartney. Although cut from the released recording, the performance originally ended with the backing singers all cheering and applauding. The following day, McCartney added piano over the end portion of the song and, according to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, a brief snippet of flugelhorn. Music journalist Robert Fontenot says that although some commentators list this sound as a flugelhorn, it is in fact Harrison’s lead guitar, played on his Gibson Les Paul. Over the fourth verse and ending, the song’s musical arrangement includes an extended drum fill by McCartney, which author Jonathan Gould describes as a “ten-bar drum solo”, and an ascending countermelody played in two octaves by Harrison. In the opinion of author Ian MacDonald, the “richest ingredient” in the arrangement is Harrison’s “Indian”-style guitar parts.

Reception and legacy

Apple Records released The Beatles on 22 November 1968, with “Dear Prudence” sequenced as the second track on side one of the double LP. Its introduction was cross-faded with the sounds of a jet aircraft landing which conclude the previous track, “Back in the U.S.S.R.” In a contemporary review of the album, Record Mirror‘s writer said: “A shock to my mind was the second track opening with the old folk clawhammer pick done on an open tuned electric guitar. John sings ‘Dear Prudence’ as instrumentation fades in and out from wistful quiet to booming intensity.”

Writing more recently in The Beatles Diary, Peter Doggett commented that it was “strange” that the Beatles chose to begin the album with two songs recorded without Starr. He also said that, in expanding the narrative to encompass a “pantheistic vision of the world’s beauty”, Lennon’s song served as “one of the few positive statements” he offered from his visit to Rishikesh. Tim Riley views it as a “key Beatles song about nature” and praises the band’s ensemble playing. He says that, while Lennon regularly wrote about childhood and nature, “nowhere else does he sound as composed as he does here, as infatuated with the innocence he’s singing about … It counts amongst Lennon’s finest songs.” David Quantick writes that, given Lennon’s falling out with the Maharishi in April 1968, the lyric to “Dear Prudence” instead became “an invitation to tune in or drop out”. He detects an eeriness in the track that would have fitted with the implications evident in the phrase A Doll’s House, which was the intended title for The Beatles.

Julian Lennon named “Dear Prudence” as one of his favourite songs written by his father. Lennon is said to have selected it as one of his favourite songs by the Beatles. In 1987, his original handwritten lyrics of the song, containing 14 lines and some “doodles” in the margin, sold at auction for US$19,500. In the Rutles’ 1978 parody of the Beatles’ history, All You Need Is Cash, the song was parodied as “Let’s Be Natural”. In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked “Dear Prudence” at number 63 on the magazine’s list of “The Beatles’ 100 Greatest Songs”. In a similar list compiled by Mojo in 2006, the song appeared at number 44.

Farrow has said she was “flattered” by the Beatles’ gesture in creating “Dear Prudence” for her, adding: “It was a beautiful thing to have done.” In a 2013 interview, she said she had been relieved to listen to it for the first time and discover that, unlike Lennon’s “negative” sentiments about his Rishikesh experience in the White Album tracks “Sexy Sadie” and “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill“, the song was generous in spirit. Farrow titled her 2015 autobiography after the track and, as of 2013, ran the Dear Prudence Foundation, raising funds to help educate people in meditation. Asked what she thought of “Dear Prudence” in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2015, 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 of 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.”

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

[a] stereo 13 Oct 1968.
UK: Apple PCS 7067 white album 1968.
US: Apple SWBO 101 white album 1968.
CD: EMI CDP 7 46443 2 white album 1987.

[b] mono 13 Oct 1968.
UK: Apple PMC 7067 white album 1968.

Stereo [a] has slightly more treble and fades to a lower volume at the end.

Last updated on September 26, 2021

Lyrics

Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue
It's beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?

Dear Prudence, open up your eyes
Dear Prudence, see the sunny skies
The wind is low the birds will sing
That you are part of everything
Dear Prudence, won't you open up your eyes?

Look around round
(Round round round, round round)
(Round round round, round round)
Look around round round
(Round round round, round round)
(Round round round, round round)
Look around

Dear Prudence, let me see you smile
Dear Prudence, like a little child
The clouds will be a daisy chain
So let me see you smile again
Dear Prudence, won't you let me see you smile?

Variations


A Stereo version • From "The Beatles (Stereo)"


B Mono version • From "The Beatles (Mono)"

B2009 2009 mono remaster • From "The Beatles in Mono (2009)"


C 2006 "The Beatles Love" mix • From "Love"

D 2018 stereo mix • From "The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)"


F Mix of tracks six and eight along with John's double-tracked vocals and other parts from subsequent sessions • From "The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)"

Officially appears on


The Beatles (Mono)

LP • Released in 1968

3:56 • Studio versionB • Mono

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Flugelhorn, Handclaps, Piano
John Lennon :
Backing vocals, Guitar, Tambourine, Vocals
George Harrison :
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Mal Evans :
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Tambourine
Barry Sheffield :
Recording engineer
Jackie Lomax :
Backing vocals, Handclaps
John McCartney :
Backing vocals, Handclaps

Session Recording:
Aug 28, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Aug 29, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Aug 30, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo)

LP • Released in 1968

3:56 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Flugelhorn, Handclaps, Piano
John Lennon :
Backing vocals, Guitar, Tambourine, Vocals
George Harrison :
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Mal Evans :
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Tambourine
Barry Sheffield :
Recording engineer
Jackie Lomax :
Backing vocals, Handclaps
John McCartney :
Backing vocals, Handclaps

Session Recording:
Aug 28, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Aug 29, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Aug 30, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Love

Official album • Released in 2006

4:45 • Studio versionC • Medley with "Come Together"

George Martin :
Producer
Giles Martin :
Producer
Paul Hicks :
Remix engineer
Sam Okell :
Remix engineer assistant
Chris Bolster :
Remix engineer assistant
Mirek Stiles :
Remix engineer assistant

Session Mixing:
Circa 2004-2006
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Mono - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

3:56 • Studio versionB2009 • Mono • 2009 mono remaster

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Flugelhorn, Handclaps, Piano
John Lennon :
Backing vocals, Guitar, Tambourine, Vocals
George Harrison :
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Mal Evans :
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Tambourine
Barry Sheffield :
Recording engineer
Jackie Lomax :
Backing vocals, Handclaps
John McCartney :
Backing vocals, Handclaps
Paul Hicks :
Remastering
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Sean Magee :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
Aug 28, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Aug 29, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Aug 30, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

3:56 • Studio versionA2009 • Stereo • 2009 stereo remaster

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Flugelhorn, Handclaps, Piano
John Lennon :
Backing vocals, Guitar, Tambourine, Vocals
George Harrison :
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Mal Evans :
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Tambourine
Barry Sheffield :
Recording engineer
Jackie Lomax :
Backing vocals, Handclaps
John McCartney :
Backing vocals, Handclaps
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Steve Rooke :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
Aug 28, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Aug 29, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Aug 30, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Mono - 2014 vinyl)

LP • Released in 2014

3:56 • Studio versionB2014 • Mono • 2014 remaster

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Flugelhorn, Handclaps, Piano
John Lennon :
Backing vocals, Guitar, Tambourine, Vocals
George Harrison :
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Mal Evans :
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Tambourine
Barry Sheffield :
Recording engineer
Jackie Lomax :
Backing vocals, Handclaps
John McCartney :
Backing vocals, Handclaps
Sean Magee :
Remastering
Steve Berkowitz :
Remastering

Session Recording:
Aug 28, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Aug 29, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Aug 30, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)

Official album • Released in 2018

3:56 • Studio versionD • Stereo • 2018 stereo mix

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Flugelhorn, Handclaps, Piano
John Lennon :
Backing vocals, Guitar, Tambourine, Vocals
George Harrison :
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin :
Producer
Giles Martin :
Producer
Mal Evans :
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Tambourine
Barry Sheffield :
Recording engineer
Jackie Lomax :
Backing vocals, Handclaps
John McCartney :
Backing vocals, Handclaps
Sam Okell :
Mixing engineer

Session Recording:
Aug 28, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Aug 29, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Aug 30, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
First half of 2018 ?
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)

Official album • Released in 2018

4:47 • DemoE • Esher Demo

John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
Giles Martin :
Mixing engineer, Producer

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio :
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK


The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)

Official album • Released in 2018

3:59 • OuttakeF • Vocal, guitar & drums - "Sessions track 11 is a mix of tracks six and eight along with John's double-tracked vocals and other parts from subsequent sessions"

Giles Martin :
Mixing engineer, Producer

Session Recording:
Aug 28, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Recording:
Aug 29, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Session Recording:
Aug 30, 1968
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Bootlegs


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

4:44 • Studio version


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

0:13 • Studio version • Vocal Overdub Mono


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

4:12 • Studio version • Take1 Mono Mix V1 mono


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

4:09 • Studio version • Take1 Mono Mix V2 mono


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

0:27 • Studio version • Unkown Take Mono


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.

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