The Beatles' 'Hey Jude' just turned 50

The Beatles perform "Hey Jude"
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/The Beatles)

On Aug. 26, 1968, the Beatles released "Hey Jude," Paul McCartney's attempt to comfort 5-year-old Julian Lennon upon the breakup of his parents, John and Cynthia. The song, which clocks in at a ridiculously long seven-plus minutes — including three minutes of "naaah-naaah-naah-na-na-na-naaaah" — went on to be the Beatles' biggest hit, topping the U.S. charts for nine weeks. It was also the first single on the band's Apple label. On Sept. 4, 1968, the Beatles recorded a performance of "Hey Jude" at Abbey Road Studios, bringing in fans and locals for the finale — including one older man in a blue suit who appears to be irritating Paul by the end of the song.

This was the first time the Beatles had performed in public since 1966 — much of the song is prerecorded, but Paul is singing live throughout. '"Hey Jude' sums up the Beatles' turbulent summer of 1968 — a tribute to their friendship, right at the moment it was starting to fracture," Rob Sheffield writes at Rolling Stone, noting that Ringo Starr had briefly quit the band four days before the song's U.S. release, during the recording of the White Album. "'Hey Jude' is a tribute to everything the Beatles loved and respected most about each other," and it's still relevant, 50 years later, he adds:

The pain in "Hey Jude" resonated in 1968, in a world reeling from wars, riots, and assassinations. And it's why it sounds timely in the summer of 2018, as our world keeps getting colder. After 50 years, "Hey Jude" remains a source of sustenance in difficult times — a moment when four longtime comrades, clear-eyed adults by now, take a look around at everything that's broken around them. Yet they still join together to take a sad song and make it better. [Rolling Stone]

You can read the rest of Sheffield's love letter to the enduring anthem at Rolling Stone.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.