Meaning of “Hey Jude” by the Beatles

“Hey Jude” is a song by the iconic British rock band The Beatles. This song, which is widely regarded as the ultimate comfort song, was written for a very young boy whose parents were undergoing a divorce. Indeed, words can’t seem to express how tough it must be for an innocent, young mind to handle the continuous bickering, harsh words, and violence often associated with the period leading up to one’s parents’ divorce. The boy in the song, named Julian, is none other than the son of John Lennon and his first wife Cynthia Lennon.

Birth of “Hey Jude”

John Lennon and Cynthia had separated from each other after John had an affair with Yoko Ono (who eventually became his second wife). This was somewhere in May 1968. Few weeks later, John’s band mate Paul McCartney visited Cynthia and Julian (who was about 4 or 5 years old then) to see how they were both handling the separation. McCartney, who was deeply concerned about the welfare of both Cynthia and little Julian, wrote “Hey Jude” in his car as he left Cynthia’s home.

The song’s line “Don’t make it bad, take a bad song and make it better” is an exhortation to little Julian to pull through the ordeal of his parents’ divorce.

In a 1997 interview, McCartney said he was really concerned about how Julian was going to handle his parents’ divorce. He therefore crafted the aforementioned line to encourage and strengthen Julian to deal with the “terrible” episode in his young life.

It’s important to note hear that little Julian did not know that the song was addressed to him until he was told when he became an adult.

It is also worth taking note of the fact that “Hey Jude” isn’t the only Beatles’ song to have been directly inspired by Julian Lennon. Two other famous Beatles’ songs 1967’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and 1968’s “Good Night” were both inspired by Julian.

Do the lyrics of “Hey Jude” only comfort Julian Lennon?

Despite McCartney writing “Hey Jude” to comfort Julian, some believe(d) the lyrics go beyond merely comforting Julian. One of such prominent believers was John Lennon, who believed the song was written for him. According to an interview Lennon had in 1980 (the same year he was assassinated), he said he always felt the lyrics of the song were directed at him and that McCartney, among other things, was giving him (Lennon) his blessings to take his relationship with Yoko Ono to the next level.

Lennon even alluded to the line “You were made to go out and get her” from the song as a clear sign of McCartney giving him the green light to divorce Cynthia and marry Yoko Ono. Despite McCartney not confirming this, many harbor a strong belief that that particular line was directed at none other than Lennon.

Another line that appears to support Lennon’s claims is the line: “you’ve found her now go and get her”. Many argue this line couldn’t have been meant for 5-year-old Julian.

Speculations that the lyrics are about McCartney himself

A number of people, including John Lennon, also speculated that McCartney subconsciously wrote the lyrics of the song about the demise of his five-year long romantic relationship with English actress and author Jane Asher as a way to comfort himself. Of course McCartney has never confirmed this. However, it is noteworthy that Asher was the inspiration behind many McCartney-penned Beatles’ songs including 1964’s “And I Love Her” and 1965’s “I’m Looking Through You”.

Lyrics of "Hey Jude" by The Beatles

Facts about “Hey Jude”

  • Despite “Hey Jude” being written by Paul McCartney, John Lennon was also credited as a co-writer.
  • In the United States, the song was released on 26th August, 1968. It was released 4 days later in the United Kingdom (on 30th August).
  • “Hey Jude” was produced by the renowned English record producer George Martin. Martin was knighted in 1996 for his remarkable contribution to music and popular culture.
  • “Hey Jude” was the first single Apple Records ever released. FYI: Apple Records is a record label founded in 1968 by the Beatles .
  • With a length of approximately 7 minutes and 11 seconds, “Hey Jude”, upon its release became the lengthiest single ever released. Its massive success inspired the release of long singles in the music industry.
  • According to McCartney, whenever he is singing this song and he gets to the following phrase: “the movement you need is on your shoulder”, he can’t help but remember Lennon since it was Lennon who convinced him to keep that line in the song. The thing is that McCartney didn’t like that particular line since he felt it was “stupid”. However, Lennon told him not to get rid of it since he felt it was the most profound line in the song.
  • The original title of the song was “Hey Jules” since Jules is the short form for Julian. However, McCartney later changed the “Jules” to “Jude” because he thought the latter was better sounding than the former.
  • Julian Lennon didn’t know that McCartney wrote the song for him until about 2 decades after the song was written.
  • John Lennon once referred to this track as one of the masterpieces of McCartney.
  • In Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, this song was placed at the 8th position of the 500 best songs of all time.
  • The song made it to the number 1 spot in over a dozen countries across the globe, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands. The song also reached number 1 on both the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100.
  • McCartney sang lead vocals on the track whereas the remaining Beatles sang backing vocals.
  • The song features a 36-piece orchestra.
  • Some of the most notable places McCartney has performed this song live include the 2005 Live 8 concert that took place in London and the 2012 Summer Olympics’ opening ceremony also held in London.
  • On January 9th, 1998, McCartney performed this song live at the Music For Montserrat concert at the Royal Albert Hall along with such great artists as Phil Collins on drums, Elton John on Vocals, Sting on Vocals, Eric Clapton on guitar, and Mark Knopfler also on guitar. The sole purpose of the concert was to raise funds to support the Caribbean island of Montserrat which had been battered by a major volcano a few days earlier.

Below is the iconic performance of “Hey Jude” by Paul McCartney, Elton John, Phil Collins, Sting, and Mark Knopfler:

Did “Hey Jude” win a Grammy Award?

No. Despite this song receiving as many as three Grammy nominations at the 11th Annual Grammy Awards in 1969 in the following categories: Song of the Year, Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and Record of the Year, it didn’t win in any of the three categories. However, several decades later in 2001, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

What musical genre is “Hey Jude”?

The track can be referred to as a rock song or a pop rock song.

4 Responses

  1. FRANK CARMEN says:

    I’m age 67, and an Absolute Beatles Freek — ever since 1967! They are THE BEST Band/Musical Group/Rock Musicians EVER! Like Jimi Hendrix, they are 100% Original and 100% Historically Unique! No Group of Musicians, in EVERY Type of Music, will Ever ‘replace’ The Beatles!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    nothing to do with hero-n? “let her under your skin”

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