For Years, The Beatles Didn’t Reveal The True Story Behind ‘Hey Jude’ To Fans

By: Lauren Wurth | Last updated: Oct 04, 2023

The Beatles took the musical world and the world at-large by storm in the 1960s. It initially started off as a five-piece band, with its two vocalists becoming the most prominent members.

One of the most popular songs by the Beatles, “Hey Jude,” has meanings that are hidden from even their most devoted fans. Let’s unravel the story behind this song and how it came to be.

Hey Jude: What the Public Knew

Judging by how well it performed on music charts around the globe, “Hey Jude” sits comfortably as one of the Beatles’ best songs. It was released in 1968, eight years after the Beatles came into inception. Hey Jude sat on top of the charts in the UK, Canada, the US, and even Australia for roughly nine weeks.

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Due to what happened to the band a few years after the song’s release, “Hey Jude” has gotten even more popular over the years.

A Song For Julian, John, or the Beatles?

The only hint that Beatles fans could have had about the inspiration behind “Hey Jude” is the strains in John Lennon’s relationship around that time. Lennon was finalizing a divorce from his first wife, Cynthia, and getting involved with a new girlfriend—Yoko Ono.

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Beatles fans likely naturally assume that Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote the song together. However, John would reveal later the song was all McCartney’s doing.

Healing the Wound of a Heartbroken Son

Julian, Lennon’s only son with Cynthia, was five years old when the couple agreed to get a divorce in 1968. The separation left a huge dent on Julian’s personality. So, McCartney, who was quite close to the family of his fellow band member, decided to write a song titled “Hey Julian.”

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In the wake of the divorce, Lennon had totally abandoned his erstwhile family, and Cynthia got custody of Julian.

Viewing Dad in a Bad Light

The years that followed the separation of Julian’s parents changed the chap’s outlook on life and dampened his admiration for his father. Several years later, during a 1998 interview, Julian said something to the effect of his father being a hypocrite.

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According to him, John could preach love and peace through his world-renowned songs but had trouble practicing what he preached on the homefront. He also said he believed his father favored his second son – by Ono – over him.

Allegations From a Displeased Son

Looking at the entire drama from Julian’s perspective, his father was not just guilty of infidelity but separated their otherwise blissful family, and didn’t communicate with him for several years.

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John equally gave indications of his preference of Sean to Julian. During a 1980 interview with Playboy Magazine, Lennon laid the blame for his strained relationship with Julian at Cynthia’s feet. He also mentioned that his conception of Julian was unexpected.

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A Father’s Love Never Dies

However, contrary to the impression created by the press, Lennon once denied loving his second son any more than the first. He just saw his deficiency as the result of his absence as a pal and mentor for Julian.

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Paul McCartney knew Lennon and his family quite well and was a good friend of Julian. In fact, Julian claims to have had more pictures taken with McCartney than he did with his father—that was how close the duo were.

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The Painful Absence of a Father

During Julian’s childhood, prior to Lennon’s divorce, father and son were inseparably knit. So, it came as a shocking experience when his father became unexpectedly absent. It was a tough reality for the young child to adjust to.

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After Julian made his displeasure known via the media, the duo gave reconciliation a shot. However, the father and son were unable to cozy up till Lennon’s assassination in 1980.

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The Intervention that Gave Birth to Hey Jude

Being a close friend of the Lennon family, McCartney tried to wade into the post-divorce crisis as much as possible. He revealed, only recently, that “Hey Jude” was one of the ways he tried mediating the Lennon familial crisis.

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According to McCartney, he wrote the song during a solo drive to Weybridge. In a nutshell, it was simply a song of hope for young Julian.

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Presenting the Song to Lennon

“Hey Jude” was composed in the spur of the moment. McCartney’s original was addressed to “Jules.” However, he later changed the name to Jude. Of course, he didn’t want fans of the Beatles to outrightly realize that the song was addressed to Julian.

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That same day, McCartney met with Lennon and his girlfriend, Yoko Ono, and played his first recording of the song at their home studio. He was glad that Lennon thought the song was perfect. They then proceeded to release it on their Apple Records label in 1968.

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The Different Perspectives of a Mirror

Lennon was quite aware that “Hey Jude” was a product of McCartney’s closeness with Julian. However, he still managed to convince himself that McCartney wrote the song for him. Lennon blindly felt McCartney was wishing him well in his new relationship and life adventures.

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However, Julian got the message loud and clear. He confessed during a 2002 interview that he wished he could enjoy the kind of relationship with his father that he had with McCartney.

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Lennon, A Bag of Misconceptions?

Lennon and McCartney were global celebrities, and it’s easy for fame to go to a person’s head. However, Lennon seemed to sway more easily under its intoxication. In the 1960s, fans of the Beatles band saw them as a close-knit group.

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However, unknown to the public, a canker of disunity was eating away at the band’s fabric. It wasn’t until 2021 that McCartney unraveled what transpired with the band and the moment things started going sour.

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The Tear in the Veil

In 1970, as far as the public knew, McCartney was the sole member of the Beatles that instigated the band’s breakup. This assumption was held by everyone who didn’t know the details because McCartney released a solo record that year.

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The media also assisted in fanning the flames. After a 1970 interview with McCartney, journalists misrepresented his comments and spread the rumor that the maestro had broken away from the Beatles.

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The Other Bandmates React

According to a widely-circulated report, the other members of the band convened as soon as the news hit the tabloids. They tried to salvage what they could from the burning house by sending another bandmate, Ringo Starr, to placate McCartney.

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It was said that McCartney flew into a rage and threw Starr out of his house. Many years later, McCartney would admit to overreacting. He claims he was not being selfish, but just wanted to relieve the tension in the band by going solo.

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A Court Case Ensues

The standoff between McCartney and Starr did not go public until the dissolution of the band was taken to court. The case was initiated by McCartney, who mentioned several years later he did not regret starting the process that made the breakup official.

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On the contrary, McCartney saw there was tension already brewing in the band, courtesy of some power struggles between him and Lennon.

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Lennon’s Role in the Feud

Later revelations helped fans discover that Lennon had announced he was leaving the band long before McCartney did. The claim was that after meeting Yoko Ono, Lennon was trying to keep the band idle by going on long vacations and recording multiple solo tracks with his girlfriend.

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Many people believe that Ono played a significant role in the band’s breakup, while other observers were of the opinion that the crack started when their first manager, Brian Epstein, passed in 1967.

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The Early Straw That Broke the Camel's Back

It is often said that Epstein was a major driving force in the early success of the Beatles—he knew how to curb their individual excesses and could give them the cue that brought out the best in each member of the band.

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So, it was unsurprising that crises started rocking the boat after Epstein’s demise. For the first time after the band’s inception, McCartney wanted to get adventurous, while Lennon only took counsel from his girlfriend. Naturally, other band members came to dislike Yoko Ono.

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McCartney’s Earnestness and Lennon’s Assumptions

After Epstein’s death, one of the initiatives that McCartney came up with was making a movie. Unfortunately, it received widespread negative reviews, and other members of the band heaped the blame on the brain behind it.

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Lennon’s ego made him see McCartney’s proactiveness as a plot to take over the band. However, McCartney later claimed to he was only trying to keep the band upbeat.

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Reviving of the Golden Era

Lennon is long gone, but looking back on the quality times the Beatles had together, McCartney tried to bring back the good old days in 2021. He decided to put out some of their unreleased songs. One example is his song titled, “Tell Me Who He Is.”

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Likewise, McCartney published an autobiographical piece that contained letters, photos, and unpublished songs from the period when the Beatles were still a unit.

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The Unbreakable Bond of Brotherhood

Several details of the Beatles’ breakup were not made public until the 2000s, long after Lennon’s demise. However, the revelation that stirred the most emotion among all was a recent one by McCartney.

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McCartney stated during an interview with GQ that he and Lennon ended their feud before the latter’s assassination. He also mentioned that they met and spoke on multiple occasions after the truce was called.

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