Paul McCartney wrote this ballad to comfort Julian, John Lennon’s oldest son, during the divorce of his [Julian’s] parents. It was the first song to be released by the Beatles under their own record label, Apple Records.
“I thought, as a friend of the family, I would motor out to Weybridge and tell them that everything was all right: to try and cheer them up, basically, and see how they were. I had about an hour’s drive. I would always turn the radio off and try and make up songs, just in case… I started singing: ‘Hey Jules - don’t make it bad, take a sad song, and make it better…’ It was optimistic, a hopeful message for Julian: ‘Come on, man, your parents got divorced. I know you’re not happy, but you’ll be OK.’ I eventually changed ‘Jules’ to ‘Jude’. One of the characters in Oklahoma is called Jud, and I like the name.” - Paul McCartney
John, on the other hand, thought that the song’s lyrics were directed at him and his relationship with Paul.
“Paul said it was written about Julian. He knew I was splitting with Cyn and leaving Julian then. He was driving to see Julian to say hello. He had been like an uncle. And he came up with Hey Jude. But I always heard it as a song to me. If you think about it… Yoko’s just come into the picture. He’s saying, ‘Hey Jude’ - ‘Hey John.’ I know I’m sounding like one of those fans who reads things into it, but you can hear it as a song to me. The words ‘go out and get her’ - subconsciously he was saying, ‘Go ahead, leave me.’ On a conscious level, he didn’t want me to go ahead. The angel in him was saying, ‘Bless you.’ The devil in him didn’t like it at all because he didn’t want to lose his partner.” - John Lennon