During The Beatles’ Indian sojourn, John Lennon wrote “Dear Prudence” as a serenade for Prudence Farrow, sister of actress Mia Farrow. Along with Mike Love of The Beach Boys and a handful of other celebrities, they all had traveled to India to study transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
After ten days, Ringo Starr left. (Apparently, the food disagreed with him. The desired spiritual results eluded him as well). Paul McCartney left the meditation course after a month to pursue other commitments. However, George Harrison and John Lennon persisted for another couple of weeks alongside 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According to Lennon, Prudence had withdrawn to her hut, meditating nonstop.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.”
Worried friends selected John to reach out to Prudence and 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 insannnnnnne. . .So, we sang to her.”
From all accounts, Lennon’s simple serenade had 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.) Moreover, to John, the Maharishi seemed more interested in earthly wealth and fame than spiritual matters.
As a rebuke, Lennon wrote a scathing song entitled “Maharishi.” The lyrics castigate the Maharishi for breaking his own rules and for 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”
However, “Dear Prudence” remains 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. Rather, we must open our eyes, perceive, smile, and interact.
So that’s the message I shared 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