7 Jazz Versions of the M*A*S*H Theme Song, Suicide is Painless

It is unknown why this particular song entitled Suicide is Painless is so popular amongst the Jazz community, but it has been redone a number of times across all genres, but the jazz community has had a particular fondness to the song despite it’s dark message and morbid title. To those under the age of 35, this song might be synonymous with late night channel surfing or staying up past their bedtime, but the composition of Johnny Mandell is one that has proven to be a timeless tune. Some of these versions were credited as the M*A*S*H theme song, while others credited as their true title. Roy Ayers did a version of this song on his 1974 album Change Up the Groove, that can be heard below along with all of the other versions, including Ahmad Jamal, Billy Evans, Cal Tjader and others. Check out all 7 jazz versions, including the original, and vote on which you like best.

[mp3player width=621 height=240 config=fmp_jw_widget_config.xml playlist=suicide-is-painless.xml]

[poll id=”8″]

Here are the Lyrics to Suicide is Painless, which according to Wikipedia, was written by Mike Altman the son of the film’s producer Robert Altman, who was only 14 at the time.

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…


The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
so this is all I have to say.


The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I’m beat
and to another give my seat
for that’s the only painless feat.


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…


A brave man once requested me
to answer questions that are key
‘is it to be or not to be’
and I replied ‘oh why ask me?’

‘Cause suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.
…and you can do the same thing if you choose.

0 comments on 7 Jazz Versions of the M*A*S*H Theme Song, Suicide is Painless

  1. Roz Doyle says:

    I had no idea jazz artists love this song!! Despite it’s lyrics, the title is a play on a plot point involving the character Painless (the M*A*S*H dentist) who was a big ladies man and couldn’t get it up one night so he thought he was gay and planned to commit suicide…hence ‘Suicide is Painless.’ They gave him a sleeping pill, had a last supper (that indeed parodied that Last Supper painting) & sent in a nurse guaranteed to rock his world & he woke up pleased as pie the next morning. In the movie a brotha sings the song while playing a guitar. Great movie, great show, great book (I’m assuming)…great post 🙂 Oh and all of the renditions were good…which is rare!

    1. Haylow says:

      Great Comment!

  2. Roz Doyle says:

    Oh and I meant to add that I’d like to hear Quincy Jones’ take on this!

  3. juuuupt says:

    It sounds like the Ahmad Jamal version’s been put in the above playlist twice, displacing the Johnny Mandell version (which I couldn’t hear any vocals on). Love the Jamal version – straight class – didn’t know most of these apart from Roy: I reckon the Bill Evans stands out in that lot…

    1. Haylow says:

      Fixed! Thanks for pointing out the error.

  4. 7 Jazz Versions of the M*A*S*H Theme Song, Suicide is Painless http://t.co/qvPFxeVj

  5. Listen to 7 great jazz covers of the M*A*S*H theme “Suicide is Painless.” I like the Bill Evans version best: http://t.co/iP5X0Lnn

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