“Suicide is Painless” by Johnny Mandel
As its title alludes to in a roundabout way, this song is centered on the emotional disposition of a fictional character named “Painless Pole” Waldowski who was featured in the 1970 movie version of “M*A*S*H”. Said character was indeed, at one point, suicidal. And the lyrics basically depict life as a progressively-depressing experience. As such, the singer concludes that, relatively-speaking, “suicide is painless”. Or stated differently, he perceives the prospect of ending his life as being a less-painful option than continuing it.
And yes, as Marilyn Manson, who later covered this song, himself concluded the lyrics are in fact “depressing and offensive”. And that may be why, in the grand scheme of things, the instrumental to “Suicide Is Painless” has proven to be exponentially more popular than the lyrical version.
Facts about “Suicide is Painless”
Johnny Mandel wrote the music. The lyrics, on the other hand, were written by Mike Altman. Interesting to note is that Mike was only 14 when he wrote them. Mike’s father, Robert Altman (who directed the film “M*A*S*H”) wanted a silly song to accompany the film and make its message more noticeable. He therefore decided to let his son, Mike (who was just 14 at the time) to write the lyrics. And it is believed that Mike used only just 5 minutes to finish working on the lyrics.
It was released in 1970 as the theme song for the movie in question.
“Suicide Is Painless” was a major hit for Johnny Mandel, considering it scored a number 1 in Ireland and UK.
In 1992, Manic Street Preachers released a very successful cover of this classic. Just like the original, it also did very well in Britain.