Forty years ago this week, the Beatles' "Hey Jude" was the #1 song on the charts, I was reminded by my radio a couple of days ago. Forty years. That is a chunk of time, my friends. As I pondered that, I listened to the song play, and once again marveled at how I heard something very different to it now. Perhaps it is in the nature of words that are strung together in a literary, as opposed to clinical, construction; open to interpretation always, changing with every listener's experiences or mood. I like that.

When you put something artistic out there for people, whether it is a song, a story, a painting, even dance, it is not really yours any more. It becomes part of the experience of others, and they bring their own ideas to it. It is never in your control again, fully, but in hearing how others have perceived the work you almost always get something of far greater depth than you had previously. Sometimes people can pull out details that you missed completely, even as the creator of the work. Sometimes they can mirror something about you from a piece of work that you had never considered, or faced. Sometimes they can be dead wrong, veering completely off your intent, which is still part of it all. There is always something to take from feedback, whether it is a detailed critical analysis or "It has a good beat. You can dance to it."

"Hey Jude" is certainly one of the Beatles' most famous songs. At that time, in 1968, the world was still ravenously hungry for anything Beatle, still looking to them to lead the way both in pop music and youth culture. I remember this song as being a huge big deal, and much excitement surrounding its release. It was a measure of their power and influence that this seven-minute-plus single was played in its entirety on Top 40 radio stations all over, unheard of in a world of songs that usually didn't go past three minutes, interspersed with manic DJ patter, incessant 4-second station jingles, and commercials. Capitol Records did make a radio edit version, but the fans' clamored for the full-length one, so that was what was played, in my recollection. The sheer length of the song forced you to pay attention, it was so unusual.

My strongest memory surrounding the song comes from the promotional video that the Beatles filmed for it. The band had, of course, stopped any kind of live performance a couple years previously, so just to see them play at all was so exciting, I cannot even tell you. I don't remember how I heard it, probably via my little transistor radio, but I knew that the Beatles were going to be on the Smothers Brothers show, and I glued myself to the TV at the appointed time. My parents didn't approve of the Smothers Brothers increasing liberal political comments, didn't really like me watching the show, but there was NO WAY EVER anyone was going to stop me from watching the Beatles.

This appearance made a huge impression upon me, because I never forgot it. Of course, now the "Hey Jude" film is easily available to be seen on our dear internewt, but after I saw this performance, I never saw it again until relatively recently, and I was left for all those years with just these fuzzy pieces in my mind: Paul's face singing into the camera (swoon); the risers; all the people surrounding them and how happy they looked and how I wished to be there; how long John's hair was; how everyone sang together at the end. Because I was just a little bug, I also thought mistakenly that it was a live performance at the Smothers Brothers show, and over the years forget more, and thought that maybe it had been on the Johnny Cash Show or the Glen Campbell Goodtime Summer Fun Whoopee Hey Now Fun Hour or whatever it was called. But I remember the feeling that the song was important, bigger than just another tune.

Paul McCartney has said that the songs' genesis happened as he was making his way down to visit Cynthia and Julian Lennon. John had met Yoko, that was that, and was divorcing Cynthia, and to be honest about it, Julian as well. Paul's idea in "Hey Jude," originally titled "Hey Jules," was to give the little boy some support and love during a very confusing and hurtful time. I think of Julian then, around my age, with his mother in a big country estate, maybe just starting to figure out the enormity of who his father was in the world, and how none of that makes any damn difference to a kid who would just like to have some time and love and attention from his dad. I think of me, laying down on my stomach as close as I could get to the television, hardly blinking so I wouldn't miss a second of seeing the Beatles. Two little kids across the world from each other, trying to capture and hold onto the same impossible thing, in a sense.

The lyrics to "Hey Jude" have been interpreted past being a song for Julian. John Lennon himself thought the song was a message directly to him from Paul. How strange to think that at this point, only a short five years after the blast of Beatlemania began, that communication had broken down enough between them to where songs were the only places to reveal honesty. They continued this form of speaking to each other in songs past the Beatles, as we know, often with vitriol only reserved for scorned lovers, those who had been most close and denied, and to time past that, to songs written after John's death. Still trying to say something in a song, safer than plain words. "Drag, isn't it?"

"Hey Jude," beginning as a hug to a child, probably ended up as more to McCartney, as he too was leaving a long-term relationship with Jane Asher and heading towards Linda Eastman, whom he married a few months after the song's release. We can speculate, probably be right a good bit, and probably never know the rest. My own guess is that Paul left it open somewhat. A message, or messages sent, but an invitation for others to come in and find their own place in the words. That is one reason why it remains a song that touches people.

Julian Lennon had to wait over two decades past the song's release to discover his connection to it. He spent tens of thousands of dollars acquiring an original copy of the written lyrics at auction. If I had owned those, there would have been nothing to stop me from walking up to him and saying, "Here. These are yours," handing them to him with a smile, and walking away.

Hey Jude don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

Hey Jude don't be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better

And any time 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
Na na na na na
na na na na

Hey Jude don't let me down
You have found her now go and get her
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

So let it out and let it in
Hey Jude begin
You're waiting for someone to perform with
And don't you know that it's just you
Hey Jude you'll do
The movement you need is on your shoulder

Na na na na na
na na na na Yeah

Hey Jude don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her under your skin
Then you'll begin to make it better
Better, better, better, better, better, Yeah,Yeah,Yeah

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na
Na Na Na Na, Hey Jude.