‘M*A*S*H’: Story Behind the Iconic Theme Song

by Joe Rutland
mash-story-behind-the-iconic-theme-song

“M*A*S*H” is a television show which has one of the most memorable theme songs in history. How it was reinterpreted for TV from the movie, though, is interesting.

What a lot of people still don’t know is that the song originates from the movie’s theme song titled “Suicide Is Painless.”

That’s a pretty haunting title for a song about a show based in the middle of the Korean War. Yet there’s a twist involved in the show’s theme song.

The song’s lyrics were not part of the TV show’s theme intro, according to an article on History101.com. Obviously, CBS, which aired “M*A*S*H,” didn’t want to have a song entirely tied to such serious subjects as suicide and war.

‘M*A*S*H’ Movie Director Had Son Write Song’s Lyrics

Here’s a quick side note to the song itself. “M*A*S*H” movie director Robert Altman had his son Michael, then 14 years old, write lyrics to the movie’s theme.

Altman said he wanted the “M*A*S*H” lyrics to be childish and stupid. Reportedly, he told song composer Johnny Mandel that “I’ve got a son who’s a total idiot.”

Well, the son would receive quite a handsome payday for the “M*A*S*H” song. He reportedly earned more than $1 million in royalties after a version of “Suicide Is Painless” hit the No. 1 spot in the United Kingdom’s music charts.

As for the lyrics, here are the first two verses and chorus from the song team of Altman and Mandel.

“Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see

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

I try to find a way to make
All our little joys relate
Without that ever-present hate
But now I know that it’s too late, and

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please”

Do You Remember The Theme Song To The TV Series?

Now those lyrics went with the song tied to Altman’s movie, yet were the basis for the “M*A*S*H” TV series’ theme song. Do you remember it? No? Well, take a minute and listen to the song.

It’ll stir memories of watching “Hawkeye” Pierce, “Radar,” Klinger, Col. Blake, “Trapper” John, and others from “M*A*S*H” cross your TV screens for years.

Outsider.com