This is what Paul McCartney faced in as he went to visit Julian Lennon, John Lennon’s son with his first wife Cynthia. In 1968, John met Yoko Ono and had an affair with her that resulted in a divorce leaving young Julian at the center of it all. Paul sat down to write down his thoughts to Julian and what these comforting words became was one of Beatles most enduring classics “Hey Jude.”
This song shattered pop music’s song forms as one of the longest songs ever to be a number 1 hit but what makes this song uniquely meaningful is what this song is at its heart: a song of comfort and reassurance.
Amidst love songs, protest music and psychedelic rock, Paul is singing to comfort us all balancing an ambiguous subject with emotional clarity, the Beatles created a universal song of comfort and reassurance that has stood the test of time.
The song begins giving advice about how to approach a girl.
Hey Jude, don’t be afraid,In the refrains where Paul digs deeper the situation with Julian helping him understand that the divorce is not his fault, “don’t carry the world your shoulder.” Then there is the most touching line in the song in the last refrain when Paul reassures Julian that he is worth something and that all he needs is within himself.
You were made to go out and get her.
The minute you her under your skin,
Then you begin to make it better.
So let it out and let it in, hey Jude, begin,Paul wraps up all of these thoughts and feelings in an extended ending sections, a sing-a-long of sorts with a chorus of na’s repeated for the last half of this seven minute song. What is going on here? It’s repetitive, lyrically non-sense and up until this point in pop music was something that was never heard before. Even though this sections seems illogical something about it works.
You’re waiting for is one to perform with.
And don’t you know that it’s just you, hey Jude, you’ll do,
The movement you need is on your shoulder.
The ending of “Hey Jude” provides space to reflect on the song. It frames all of the emotions and give focuses us on one of the main points of the song, making one’s life better. It is not the words that we speak that we comfort each other in times of need. The words are merely an expression of being there with someone in a time of need that makes them meaningful.
Hearing a chorus of people singing inviting us as an audience to sing along creates the ultimate feeling of comfort as a chorus of voice beyond is saying that things will be okay. It is not just one person’s belief that things will improve, it’s our shared humanity, our shared hope that this ending expresses which is what gets us through the darkest moments in our lives.