John Lennon wrote “Dear Prudence” as a serenade for Prudence Farrow, sister of actress Mia Farrow, during The Beatles’ Indian sojourn. The Beatles had traveled to India to study transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, along with Mike Love of The Beach Boys and a handful of other celebrities.
Having difficulty digesting the food and not getting the desired results from the retreat, Ringo Starr left after ten days. Paul McCartney left after a month to pursue other commitments. George Harrison and John Lennon persisted for a couple of more weeks in their spiritual studies along with the Farrow sisters and several others.
“Dear Prudence, Won’t You Come Out to Play?”
According to Lennon, Prudence had withdrawn to her hut, meditating nonstop: “She’d been locked in for three weeks and wouldn’t come out, trying to reach God quicker than anybody else. That was the competition in Maharishi’s camp: who was going to get cosmic first.”
John was selected to reach out to Prudence to encourage her to socialize. As John puts it at the end of this early demo of his song, “No one was to know that sooner or later she was to go completely berserk, under the care of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. All the people around were very worried about the girl because she was going insane . . .[grunt]. . .So, we sang to her.” From all accounts, Lennon’s simple serenade did have a positive impact.
“Dear Prudence, Won’t You Open Up Your Eyes?”
Eventually John and George left India, disillusioned with the Maharishi. -He was rumored to be womanizing, and to John, he seemed more interested in earthly wealth and fame than spiritual matters. Lennon wrote a scathing, rebuking song entitled “Maharishi.” The lyrics castigate the Maharishi for breaking his own rules and making fools out of his disciples. Out of respect for the positive lessons they had learned from him, George persuaded John to change the protagonist of “Maharishi” to “Sexy Sadie.”
“It’s Beautiful, and So Are You”
But “Dear Prudence” remained unchanged from its original form. Lennon’s gently coaxing masterpiece reminds us that for a healthy spirituality, we mustn’t hermetically withdraw from the world. We must open our eyes, perceive, smile, and interact.
That was the message I wanted to share with the audience in this set-closing psychedelic jam at the 2015 MWROC festival.
Have a listen! Come out to play.
David Wallace: electric viola & vocals
Laura Kaye: vocals
Matt Vanacoro: keyboards & vocals
Sean Grisson: cello
Rob Bambach: electric guitar
Paul Ranieri: bass
Jason Gianni: drum set