Was “Hey Jude” written about the Jews, specifically the Jewish sense of self and history? (“Jude” means “Jew” in German.)
And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain
Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders
For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder…
Apocryphally, McCartney wrote the song, released as a single in 1968, to comfort a young Julian Lennon during his parents’ divorce, and this is still the most likely inspiration for the song. But, lyrically, a pop song need not have only one meaning to it.
The Wikipedia entry for “Hey Jude” notes two sources that, among the many different theories about whom the song is about, speculate “Hey Jude” was directed at Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman), who was in his post-motorcycle-accident, semi-retirement phase in Woodstock, NY. There’s also this interesting bit:
A failed early promotional attempt for the single took place after the Beatles’ all-night recording session on 7–8 August 1968. With Apple Boutique having closed a week before, McCartney and his girlfriend, Francie Schwartz, painted Hey Jude/Revolution across its large, whitewashed shop windows. The words were mistaken for anti-Semitic graffiti (since Jude means “Jew” in German), leading to complaints from the local Jewish community, and the windows being smashed by passers-by. Discussing the episode in The Beatles Anthology, McCartney explained that he had been motivated by the location – “Great opportunity. Baker Street, millions of buses going around …” – and added: “I had no idea it meant ‘Jew’, but if you look at footage of Nazi Germany, ‘Juden Raus’ was written in whitewashed windows with a Star of David. I swear it never occurred to me.” According to Barry Miles, McCartney caused further controversy in his comments to Alan Smith of the NME that month when he said: “Starvation in India doesn’t worry me one bit, not one iota … And it doesn’t worry you, if you’re honest. You just pose.”
It’s known that in those early, un-PC days, The Beatles could get cheeky in the studio. Some sources indicate that during recordings for the 1967 song “Baby You’re A Rich Man”, John vocally riffed with humorous lyrics about The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, singing: “Baby you’re a rich fag Jew.”
Don’t want no black man!
Don’t dig no Pakistanis
Taking all the people’s jobs…
Meanwhile back at home too many Pakistanis
Living in a council flat
Candidate Macmillan, tell us what your plan is
Won’t you tell us where you’re at?…
Oh, get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged!
Get back, get back,
Get back to where you once belonged!
Another line of the jam includes:
Don’t need no Puerto Ricans
Living in the USA.
In 1986, Paul (obviously aware of the bootleg circulations of these songs) would tell Rolling Stone:
When we were doing Let It Be, there were a couple of verses to “Get Back” which were actually not racist at all – they were anti-racist. There were a lot of stories in the newspapers then about Pakistanis crowding out flats – you know, living 16 to a room or whatever. So in one of the verses of “Get Back”, which we were making up on the set of Let It Be, one of the outtakes has something about ‘too many Pakistanis living in a council flat’ – that’s the line. Which to me was actually talking out against overcrowding for Pakistanis… If there was any group that was not racist, it was the Beatles. I mean, all our favourite people were always black. We were kind of the first people to open international eyes, in a way, to Motown.
I never harbored any racist sentiments! Some of my best friends are black!
Around this same time, Paul and John jammed in the studio on what is known as “The Commonwealth Song”. By today’s standards, the spontaneous jam is chock full of politically incorrect phrases, with the lyrics centering around Enoch Powell’s famous 1968 “River of Blood” speech and its political fallout. Some of the lyrics are difficult to decipher, but the gist comes through.
Tonight, Enoch Powell said, “Get out immigrants,
Immigrants had better go home.”
Tonight, Wilson said to the immigrants,
“You’d better get back to your Commonwealth homes.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah
He said “You’d better get back home!”…
I went to Pakistani
I went to India
I been to old Calcutta
And I’ve had enough of that
I’m coming back (yes?!)
To England town (Yes, welcome!)
And dirty Enoch Powell
And he’s had enough of colored men [or does he say “Parliament”?]
Well Enoch Powell, you gotta go back to home!
Well I checked off to Australia
And I said to New Zealand:
“You better go in with us
Because we’re gonna have some fun.
We’re going out to India
We’re going to Pakistan..
I hear that Enoch Powell… he’s fixing for that…
Can you hear me talking Commonwealth?
Yeah the Commonwealth
But it’s much too wealthy for me
(It’s much too common or me)
Much too common for me, oh yes…
Of the political incorrectness in these songs, the SJWs in Salon sure want to remind you of it. Alex Sayf Cummings, a history professor at Georgia State University, pens “No Pakistanis”: The racial satire the Beatles don’t want you to hear”:
Better known as a playful take on counterculture, starring the gender-bending Sweet Loretta Martin and the grass-smoking Jo-Jo, the song originally dealt with South Asian immigration to the United Kingdom…
An early version of the song, known to bootleggers as “No Pakistanis,” began with Paul McCartney muttering, “Don’t dig no Pakistanis taking all the people’s jobs.”…
In a recording known as “Back to the Commonwealth” or “The Commonwealth Song,” the band blasts the politician by name. “Dirty Enoch Powell said to the immigrants, immigrants you better get back to your commonwealth homes,” McCartney warbles over a skittering beat. Soon enough, however, we learn that “Heath said to Enoch Powell you better get out, or heads are gonna roll.” As the song slides into a rollicking boogie, McCartney recounts his travels around the old British empire, from the West Indies to India and Pakistan, as Lennon chimes in occasionally, in the voice of a prim old English woman, “The Commonwealth is much too common for me.”
For what it’s worth, it is not a “prim old English woman” that Lennon is imitating here, but a Peter Sellars-styled imitation of an Indian.
Cummings also addresses the Beatles quasi-blues studio jam often called “White Power”:
Then there is the matter of “White Power.” In this recording, Lennon and McCartney free-associated names of popular figures over a blues jam, drifting from Malcolm X and Cassius Clay to the likes of Judy Garland and British pop pianist Russ Conway. The juxtapositions are intriguing: Mary Whitehouse, a British crusader for morals and decency, comes up, as does Dusty Springfield, the legendary soul imitator. The Beatles were up to something when they coupled Richard Nixon and Malcolm X with the incessant refrains of “white power” and “can you dig it?” but it was not something they intended to share with the public. The recording has never seen release. A somewhat similar song, “Dig It,” made it onto the “Let It Be” album, but the racial dimension was missing. Instead, Lennon rambled about the BBC, B.B. King and soccer player Matt Busby.