In a Nutshell
According to Paul McCartney, "Hey Jude" had the most innocent of beginnings. He wrote it, he said, to cheer up John Lennon's five-year-old son, who was (understandably) feeling pretty down when his dad left his mom for Yoko Ono. Of course, legions of listeners aren't content with this explanation – they say the song is about drugs.
Given how open McCartney has been about admitting that other songs of his were, in fact, about drugs, and his insistence that this is not one of them, we're not sure how much credit we should give this interpretation. But the fact remains that this outwardly simple song (there sure is a lot of "na na na na") has never been a simple one to interpret. After all, John Lennon always thought it was about him and how he was destined to run off with Yoko.
So let yourself get lost in the sweeping, four-minute ending of the song, which involves a 36-piece orchestra, and then decide what you think.
About the Song
||Musician(s)||Paul McCartney (lead vocals, piano, bass guitar), John Lennon (rhythm guitar, back-up vocals), George Harrison (lead guitar, back-up vocals), Ringo Starr (drums, tambourine); the thirty-six piece orchestra was not given individual credits.
|Album||"Hey Jude" (single)|
|Writer(s)||Paul McCartney, John Lennon|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
"Hey Jude" is one of the most popular songs ever released by one of rock and roll's most influential bands
. But, like so much of rock and roll, this song has also had its fair share of controversy. Some people (fans and critics alike) insist that the song references heroin, so it's also got a place in the discussion of how drugs and popular culture intersect
. The topic of drug use and its role in music was a big one in the 1960s
, but we're not entirely sure that this song is the best candidate for a good example of a drug-referencing song – read on to make up your own mind.
On the Charts
"Hey Jude" reached #1 in the US and UK, and it spent nine weeks on top of the American Billboard Hot 100.
The song is #8 on Rolling Stone
's list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.