Dear Prudence

A track of fascination for me for some time (for way too long) has been the the Beatles track Dear Prudence. According to rock folklore, the piece itself was written by John Lennon on the famous Beatles sojourn to India. The core of the song itself was inspired by another member of the travelling party in Mia Farrow’s sister Prudence, who was going deeper and deeper into meditation indoors.

My preoccupation with the piece revolves mainly around the music itself and the guitar playing. For such a long time I couldn’t work out what was going on. As it turns out, the piece is played in a drop D tuning, using a Travis picking type of approach with the right hand. Whist being convinced all along that someone had shown this particular right hand technique to Lennon (his background was mainly rock and roll up to this point), it so transpires that Donovan (a folk musician) was on this same trip (I do remember seeing footage of him with the lads) and actually taught Lennon this new angle on right hand finger picking. The selected chords themselves and the overall architecture of the chord placement reek of genius, especially the way the chords are sequenced and integrated with the droning D texture of the song. You have to play through the piece yourself to understand what I mean.

Other members of the band added their inspired contributions of course (apparently the sessions were recorded at Trident Studios in the Spring of 1968, as Abbey Rd was booked……….hard to believe this could happen with the biggest band in the world at this point!). If you listen closely you can hear this same right hand picking technique employed by Lennon in Happiness is a Warm Gun and Julia.

Dear Prudence also brings back some great childhood memories through a cover version of this same track recorded by Doug Parkinson in Focus, a major singing talent on the Australian scene in the late 60s (native New Zealander) still working to this day.

Check out Robert Fontenot’s dissection of Dear Prudence.

Check out also

  • the original track by the lads
  • a cover version by Doug Parkinson In Focus
  • a brilliant tutorial (tutor’s name?) unpacking the way Lennon played the track
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~ by gazlington on January 10, 2012.

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