Friday, June 12, 2009

Are You Familiar With the Lyrics to the Theme Song From M*A*S*H?

I did not realize that the theme music to M*A*S*H has a name and lyrics. The song is called "Suicide Is Painless" and the lyrics are as dark as anything written by Ian Curtis or Peter Murphy. Here's a sample:

The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn't hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger—watch it grin—but
Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.

That these lyrics are set to such a sweet, catchy melody makes them all the more eerie.

"Suicide Is Painless" was written for the popular and critically acclaimed 1970 M*A*S*H film and plays (with the vocals) during the opening credits. So if you're over 45 or a movie buff, I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know. But what you might not know is that director Robert Altman's 14-year-old son Mike wrote these macabre lyrics. Some of the lines ("It brings on many changes") sound like they were written by a 14-year-old, but "Suicide Is Painless" is definitely more sophisticated lyrically than any song I could have written about suicide as a teenager.

(If you're wondering why I'm bringing this up now, one of my Facebook friends wrote a note a couple days ago titled, "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen," which I recognized as the title of the famous last episode of the M*A*S*H* TV series. Naturally, I had to read the Wikipedia entry on the M*A*S*H franchise, which led to this discovery. Now I find myself singing, "Suicide is painless; it brings on many changes . . ." to the tune of what I had previously known as an instrumental TV theme song. I have to hold my tongue when I'm around the kids.)


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