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Meaning Behind “Hey Jude” By The Beatles

Hey Jude is a famous song by The Beatles, and you’ve probably sung along to this track more than once in your life, but do you know what it’s about? We’re going to tell you the meaning behind Hey Jude by The Beatles, so continue reading to find out all of the interesting facts about it. 

The Origins 

The song Hey Jude is one of the most beloved The Beatles tracks, and it was written by Paul McCartney during the summer of 1968. At the time, John Lennon had just separated from his wife, Cynthia, because he was having an affair with none other than Yoko Ono.

EMI., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lennon and Cynthia had a five-year-old son, Julian, and McCartney was driving out to see the kid, and on his way out to see him, he began writing this song. McCartney was having trouble with the fact that because they were getting divorced, Cynthia would no longer be a part of the picture, given she had been with Lennon and in that inner circle before the group became famous. 

Originally, McCartney had the title “Hey Jules” since it was a nickname for Julian, but he didn’t like how it sounded, so he changed it to Jude to sound better. He got that idea from Oklahoma! since there was a character with the name Jud and he liked that name. He began to sing the track on his way to see Julian and Cynthia, and it was out of love and concern for the two of them during this difficult time.

The Beatles - Hey Jude

The Lyrics 

McCartney started the track with “Hey, Jude, don’t make it bad, Take a sad song and make it better,” which was him telling Julian to try to deal with the horrible thing that just happened which wouldn’t be easy. He had always felt terrible for kids that were part of divorces, so he was trying to comfort Julian during this emotional transition in his life. 

The lyrics continue to remind Julian that you shouldn’t ever fear love by saying “Remember to let her into your heart, Then you can start to make it better,” and it’s meant to try to get him to understand and accept the change his father is making going from his mother to Ono. 

He also was trying to comfort Julian when he said the lyrics “And anytime you feel the pain, hey, Jude, refrain, Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders, For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool.” 

So…What’s It About?

McCartney was seeing Lennon go through this painful divorce and move from Cynthia to Ono, and he also felt for Julian since he was the son stuck in the middle of this situation. Hey Jude is all about Julian and giving him support and love during this difficult time when his parents were getting divorced and the rocky road that they were all on as a result of this major life change. 

He wanted him to be comforted and know that while it seems like this is the end of the world, things will get better over time and to not let it get him down too much. McCartney would always turn the radio off when he drove just in case he was inspired to write music. 

When he had an hour’s drive to see Julian and Cynthia, he felt the inspiration and the words began to just flow out into this beautiful tune. He wanted it to be this optimistic and hopeful song for the future, and interestingly, Julian did not know the track was about him for about 20 years. 

Chart Performance 

On the UK Singles Chart in September 1968, which was known then as the Record Retailer chart, Hey Jude reached number one. The RIAA certified the song gold on September 13, 1968, and over two million copies of the track were sold by that week alone. 

In America, Hey Jude hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart on September 14, 1968, and two weeks later, landed the number one position. It stayed at number one for nine weeks, which was the longest that any single had stayed at that position, and this record wouldn’t be broken until 1977. The track stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 19 weeks in total, and it would later be named the number one song for the year by Billboard. 

It topped the charts in multiple countries including Switzerland, Spain, Canada, France, Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Singapore, Norway, and Ireland, to name a few. It was also number one in Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and West Germany. Within two months of its release, more than six million copies of Hey Jude had been sold worldwide!

Awards 

Hey Jude was a smash hit when it was released, and it was nominated for several Grammy Awards in 1969 but did not win in any of the categories. It had been nominated for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year. 

However, it did win an Ivor Novello Award in 1968 for having the highest-selling A-side. In 1968, NME had it at the top of the Best Single of the Year list, which was a poll that readers could vote on. 

Legacy 

Hey Jude is one of the most successful and well-known songs that has stood the test of time to become one of the best tracks ever recorded. Billboard put the tune at number eight on their All Time Hot 100 Songs list. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001 and is listed as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

In 2006, Mojo listed it as number 12 on the list of best The Beatles songs while Rolling Stone made a similar list in 2010 and placed it at number seven. Time Out London listed the track as 49 on their list of best The Beatles songs in 2018, and it was number one on The Nation’s Favourite Beatles Number One in 2015, which is a television show on ITV. 

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