Suicide Is Painless  

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"Cause suicide is painless,"
It brings on many changes,"
And I can take or leave it if I please"

--"Suicide Is Painless" (1970)

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Suicide Is Painless is a song written by Johnny Mandel (music) and Michael Altman (lyrics). It was the theme song for both the movie and TV series M*A*S*H. Mike Altman was 14 years old when he wrote the song’s lyrics.

The song was written specifically for Ken Prymus, the actor playing Private Seidman, who sang it during the faux-suicide of Walter "Painless Pole" Waldowski (John Schuck) in the film's "Last Supper" scene. Director Robert Altman had two stipulations about the song for Mandel: it had to be called "Suicide Is Painless" and it had to be the "stupidest song ever written". Altman attempted to write the lyrics himself, but upon finding it too difficult for his 45-year-old brain to write "stupid enough," he gave the task to his 14-year-old-son Michael, who wrote the lyrics in five minutes.

Altman later decided that the song worked so well, he would use it as the film's main theme, despite Mandel's initial objections. This version was sung by uncredited session singers John Bahler, Tom Bahler, Ron Hicklin and Ian Freebairn-Smith and the single was attributed to "The Mash". During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the 1980s, Robert Altman said that while he only made $70,000 for having directed the movie, his son had earned more than $1 million for having co-written the song.

Several instrumental versions of the song were used as the theme for the TV series. It became a number one hit in the UK Singles Chart in May 1980. The song was ranked #66 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Suicide Is Painless" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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