It was 50 years ago today that The Beatles released their biggest hit: “Hey Jude,” whose “na na na na na na na” chant was the irresistible hook that helped rocket the song to the top of the charts during the summer of 1968.
“Hey Jude” was released on Aug. 26, 1968 and was No. 1 on the Billboard charts in the United States for nine consecutive weeks. That was the longest any Beatles song had sat atop the charts, and also was the longest song by the band -- more than seven minutes -- to reach No. 1.
The song’s genesis sprouted as Paul McCartney drove to visit Julian Lennon, the son of bandmate John Lennon. John Lennon had broken up with his wife, Cynthia, and as author Bob Spitz wrote in 2005, McCartney “felt particularly sorry” for 5-year-old Julian.
During the hour-long drive, McCartney began improvising a lyric to “serve as a hopeful message” for the child, Spitz wrote: “Hey Jools, don’t make it bad …”
McCartney later changed the name to Jude.
“He was just trying to console me and Mum,” Julian Lennon told Rolling Stone.
The song premiered in Great Britain on “The David Frost Show,” with the crowd memorably gathering around the band to join in the song’s coda, which takes up the final three minutes of the song.
Although the show was pre-recorded, it was the Beatles’ first public singing appearance since August 1966.
The song remains a staple at McCartney’s concerts. Fifty years have not dimmed the song’s luster.