M*A*S*H used music sparingly but effectively during its 11 years on the air. “Suicide is Painless,” written for the movie, was the show’s theme song, opening and closing each episode, although unlike the movie the song’s lyrics were never used. When people think of M*A*S*H they undoubtedly think of “Suicide is Painless” and the opening credits with that iconic shot of choppers over the hills.
Nearly every episode of M*A*S*H features some music, most of it played in the background during specific scenes. Occasionally, music plays an important role in an episode, including “That’s Show Biz,” “Movie Tonight,” and “Dear Sis.”
Loudon Wainwright III appears in three episodes during the third season (“Rainbow Bridge,” “There Is Nothing Like A Nurse,” and “Big Mac”) as troubadour Captain Calvin Spalding. He sings several original songs. “There is Nothing Like a Nurse” from the episode of the same name is perhaps the most famous. Father Mulcahy is an amateur composer, singing and playing the piano in a handful of episodes, including “Dear Uncle Abdul.” Also, Radar is seen playing drums in episodes like “Dear Dad, Again” and “Showtime.”
With the introduction of the sophisticated Charles Emerson Winchester III at the start of Season 6, classical music begins appearing every so often. Charles even teaches a group of Chinese POWs how to perform a piece by Mozart.
The following pages explore the music of M*A*S*H.
Thanks to a set of cue sheets prepared by the legal department at 20th Century-Fox, I can identify most of the music in any episode from the first 10 seasons of M*A*S*H. Using these cue sheets I will be periodically examine the music from specific episodes. So far, I’ve completed music breakdowns for “M*A*S*H – The Pilot”, “Abyssinia, Henry”, and “War Co-Respondent”.
A look at all the classical music Charles listened to on M*A*S*H, including “Mozart Clarinet Quintet In A, K 581” from the series finale.