Paul McCartney wrote this as "Hey Jules," a song meant to comfort John Lennon's 5-year-old son Julian as his parents were getting a divorce. The change to "Jude" was inspired by the character "Jud" in the musical <i>Oklahoma!</i> (McCartney loves show tunes) In 1987 Julian ran into Paul in New York City when they were staying at the same hotel and he finally heard Paul tell him the story of the song firsthand. He admitted to Paul that growing up, he'd always felt closer to him than to his own father. In Steve Turner's book <i>The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song</i>, Julian said: "Paul told me he'd been thinking about my circumstances, about what I was going through and what I'd have to go through. Paul and I used to hang out quite a bit - more than Dad and I did... There seem to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing at that age than me and Dad. I've never really wanted to know the truth of how Dad was and how he was with me. There was some very negative stuff - like when he said that I'd come out of a whisky bottle on a Saturday night. That's tough to deal with. You think, where's the love in that? It surprises me whenever I hear the song. It's strange to think someone has written a song about you. It still touches me."
This was the Beatles longest single, running 7:11, and at the time was the longest song ever released as a single. It was the first long song to get a lot of airplay, as radio stations still preferred short ones so they could play more of them. When this became a hit, stations learned that listeners would stick around if they liked the song, which paved the way for long songs like "<a href="https://www.songfacts.com/facts/don-mclean/american-pie">American Pie</a>" and "<a href="https://www.songfacts.com/facts/derek-the-dominos/layla">Layla</a>." Disc jockeys were the real winners here, as they could finally take a reasonable bathroom break.
The Beatles inner circle was shifting when Paul McCartney wrote this song. John Lennon had recently taken up with Yoko and cast off his first wife, Cynthia; McCartney had broken off his engagement with his longtime girlfriend Jane Asher. He was the only Beatle to reach out to Cynthia and Julian at this time. The drive to the Lennon home in Surrey was one of reflection for McCartney, who thought about Julian and how difficult life could be as a child of divorce. He wrote the line, "Don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better" thinking about how he could encourage the boy. Paul was conditioned to think up songs on this trip, as he used to drive to the home for songwriting sessions with John - there were instruments and recording equipment in the attic.
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