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Paul McCartney Repents for ‘Hey Jude’

Never meant to offend the Jews, he tells ‘GQ’

Liel Leibovitz
September 12, 2018

If you are a prepubescent boy and a fan of the Beatles—a pretty inclusive Venn diagram—chances are you have, at one point or another in your life, had a bit of fun by changing the lyrics to one of the group’s most famous songs and singing “Hey Jews” instead. The idea, it turns out, came to Paul McCartney as well: In a new interview with GQ, Sir Paul revealed that he got into a spot of trouble after the song came out when Jewish fans rang him up to tell him that “Jude” had a darker meaning.

“I liked the name Jude,” he said. “I didn’t realize it meant Jewish, which it does.” The Beatles, he continued, owned a small fashion boutique in London at one point, and decided to splash the title “Hey Jude” across the window to make people curious about the new release. Almost immediately, McCartney said, a gentleman named Mr. Leon called, furious. “He said ‘What are you doing? How dare you do this?’” McCartney recalled.”Because in Hitler’s day, the Nazi thing, ‘Juden Raus’ meant ‘Jews out.’ I didn’t connect. I heard the name first in one of the musicals. I liked the name. He rings me up and he says, ‘you’re doing this and you’re making fun of the Jews.’ I said, ‘no wait a minute.’ He said ‘I am going to send my son around to beat you up.’ I said ‘hey baby, nothing to do with that.’ I was suddenly alerted that it would have caused him a lot of problems because his family would have experienced that. I calmed him down and his son didn’t come around to beat me up.”

Amen to that. To watch McCartney tell this and other stories, and to cling to the High Holidays spirit of transcendence, watch the whole interview below:

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.