In 1968, The Beatles were both in the prime of their careers and on the brink of an internal collapse.
Tensions within the band had become increasingly volatile while publicly the foursome wore the masks of faces fans wanted to see. The relationship between Paul McCartney and John Lennon was building the foundation of hatred that eventually tore them apart. The Beatles were in the midst of recording The White Album, now known to have been plagued with petty bickering and fighting between band members.
Though Lennon believed otherwise, McCartney wrote “Hey Jude” during this chaos in attempt to console a child and himself.
Paul McCartney said that The Beatles song “Hey Jude” began as a way to console John Lennon’s son, Julian following the divorce between Lennon and his first wife Cynthia. At that time McCartney spent time with Lennon’s young son, painfully watching the child attempting to process the reasons why his parents were no longer together. McCartney explains the connection between Julian and the origins of the famous Beatles song in Rolling Stone, “I was going out in my car, just vaguely singing this song,” McCartney said, “and it was like,
‘Hey, Jules. . . .’ And then I just thought a better name was Jude. A bit more country & western for me.”
The opening lines were “a hopeful message for Julian: ‘Come on, man, your parents got divorced. I know you’re not happy, but you’ll be OK.’”
The Beatles song “Hey Jude” was not solely written to console consolation John Lennon’s son. Paul McCartney was also juggling the break-up with Jane Asher while simultaneously watching The Beatles fall apart. Fellow members of the band like Ringo Starr were lashing out as John Lennon continued his efforts to shove Yoko Ono down the throat of the band. Overtones of bitterness and resentment were emotional staples residing in the recording studio while The Beatles attempted to piece together an album.
John Lennon saw the song from a different vantage point.
According to Rolling Stone, “when Lennon first heard “Hey Jude,” he loved it — he thought McCartney was singing to him, about his relationship with Ono and the strains on the Lennon-McCartney partnership.”
Though John Lennon did not help write the song, he did advise Paul McCartney that the words “the movement you need is on your shoulders” should be left exactly how they are written. Prior to Lennon’s assassination in 1980 he was quoted as saying “I always heard it as a song to me. . . . Yoko’s just come into the picture. He’s saying, ‘Hey, Jude — hey, John.’ Subconsciously he was saying, ‘Go ahead, leave me.’”
In the end, this period of chaotic unrest for The Beatles produced The White Album, which is one of the most popular recordings of any band in history. The slow disintegration between Lennon and McCartney achieved a polarity of lyrical poetry. I always listen to The Beatles song “Hey Jude” when I need to be reminded that everything will work out and now I know maybe Paul McCartney needed to hear that too.