‘Dear Prudence’ Was Inspired by Mia Farrow’s Sister

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“Dear Prudence” is, basically, about a buzzkill. The sun is up, but Prudence won’t come out to play! The sky is blue, but Prudence won’t smile! John Lennon’s lyrics are not judgmental, though. The lines are a sweet plea, even a little flirtatious… and they’re about Mia Farrow‘s little sister, Prudence Farrow.

Prudence and Mia Farrow

Prudence Farrow was one of seven children born to Hollywood royalty, director John Farrow and actress Maureen O’Sullivan. But her sister Mia Farrow would become the most famous of them all.

In 1964, the teenaged Mia made a name for herself on Peyton Place, a popular soap opera. But the up-and-comer was really thrust into the spotlight when she struck up a romance with Frank Sinatra — who was 29 years her senior. Mia wed Sinatra in 1966, when she was 21, but she grew apart from her husband as the turbulent decade wore on. Mia began taking edgier roles — that put her at direct odds with the old-fashioned crooner.

She eschewed a turn in The Detective, a Sinatra-led film, in order to accept her breakthrough part in Rosemary’s Baby, the visionary horror directed by Roman Polanksi. It was the last straw for Sinatra, who served Mia divorce papers while she was acting on set. Soon enough though, Polanki’s film would crush The Detective at the box office and, during the summer of 1968, Mia emerged as not only a talent to watch but a true counter-culture icon.

Rather than take on new work in the wake of Rosemary’s Baby, however, Mia decided to take a break. The 23-year-old headed off to India to study transcendental meditation at the ashram of guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Her sister Prudence was already a devotee of Maharishi and accompanied Mia on the journey.

And it was there, in Uttarakhand, India, that the Farrows met the Beatles.

Adventures in India

Prudence Farrow in India, via WUWF via Colin Harrison/Avico

A year before Rosemary’s Baby premiered, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: a work that represents the band at their most drug-fueled. This concept album tied together so many of the youth movement elements that defined its time: colorful fashion, rock and roll, and of course, LSD. The ride is intensely psychedelic.

But just months after its 1967 release, the Beatles publicly denounced drugs and began to explore a new high… transcendental meditation. It was George Harrison who first learned the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the same celebrity guru who had entranced the Farrow sisters, and he encouraged his bandmates to follow suit.

Harrison eventually led the Beatles to Maharishi’s ashram in India for an extended sojourn where they joined roughly 60 other students, instructed to meditate for 12 hours a day. There, over the course of three months, the band recorded more than 20 songs, 18 of which appear on The White Album. It was the single-most productive period in the group’s career.

But, the Fab Four was not exactly committed to the disciplined spirit of the program. According to the podcast You Must Remember This, they arrived in India with an entourage and a stash of acid and spent most of their time jamming on the banks of the Ganges. Obviously, that was fruitful for the Beatles. But one student had enough of their kooky shenanigans.

While fellow A-lister Mia often tagged along with the Beatles, her sister Prudence was not happy about the distraction. “I would always rush straight back to my room after lectures and meals so I could meditate,” Prudence later said of the experience. “[But] John, George, and Paul would all want to sit around jamming and having a good time… They were all serious about what they were doing, but they just weren’t as fanatical as me.”

Her severity was not lost on the musicians. John Lennon and Harrison, in particular, tried to coax Prudence out of her room, worried about her lack of human interaction. After distancing himself from Maharishi, years later, the disillusioned Lennon described Prudence in more detail:

“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.”

— John Lennon, as quoted in Far Out Magazine

It was Lennon who first put the words to paper: “Dear Prudence…” Credited to Lennon–McCartney, it appeared on The White Album in November of 1968.

“Dear Prudence”

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
Look around 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?

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

READ MORE: The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ Was Inspired by ‘Scrambled Eggs’

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