Julian Lennon Talks 'Love-Hate Relationship' with 'Hey Jude': 'Dark Reminder' of Parents' Divorce

"I am thankful to Paul [McCartney] for writing it and putting some hope behind what was to come," Julian Lennon said of The Beatles' 1968 hit on a recent episode of the SiriusXM radio show Debatable

Julian Lennon; Cynthia Lennon; John Lennon
Julian Lennon; Cynthia Lennon; John Lennon. Photo: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images; Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Julian Lennon is opening up about his relationship with The Beatles' "Hey Jude."

On a recent episode of the SiriusXM Volume radio show Debatable, the 59-year-old singer-songwriter spoke in-depth about The Beatles' 1970 hit — written for him at five years old by Paul McCartney amid his parents John and Cynthia Lennon's separation — and how it inspired his new album, Jude.

In the interview, Julian recalled learning about his parents' split and how it affected him as a young child. "I wasn't really aware of what was going on except when I started seeing Yoko [Ono] around, obviously that made a bit of an impact and apparently I struggled with the separation a great deal at five," he told the radio show, per The Independent. "I would have raving moments of being a screaming child, but those moments haven't stuck with me."

Rather than harping on the negative aspects of the situation, he said, "For me it has always been about moving forward, protecting mum the best that I could and making her proud, keeping an eye on her, arms around her, protecting her all the way up until the end. She was my priority."

JOHN LENNON with his wife CYNTHIA & son JULIAN in their secret home just outside London
Cynthia Lennon, Julian Lennon, and John Lennon. Keystone Press / Alamy Stock Photo

While creating his new album Jude, Julian says he was able to reevaluate his relationship to the song and see it from a new point of view. "The album allowed me to explain what 'Hey Jude' meant to me because the fact of the matter is it was a love-hate relationship," he said. "I thought I had heard it enough."

"I am thankful to Paul for writing it and putting some hope behind what was to come," the Kiss the Ground documentary producer continued. "But the downside of it was it was a dark reminder of what actually went down at the time, the separation."

Julian revealed watching the 2021 documentary series The Beatles: Get Back also gave him the chance to revisit childhood memories with John. "After watching the documentary there was so much pride seeing dad the way I used to know him as a kid, remembering him and seeing him being a goofy bugger but also being such a great writer, performer, and singer," he said. "It reminded me how much love I actually had for him. It just brought a lot of memories up."

Earlier this month, Julian performed John's signature 1971 hit "Imagine" for the first time ever at Global Citizen's televised Stand Up for Ukraine benefit concert, which raised over $10 billion to help refugees. "Why now, after all these years? — I had always said, that the only time I would ever consider singing 'IMAGINE' would be if it was the 'End of the World,'" he wrote in the clip's YouTube description.

"The War on Ukraine is an unimaginable tragedy... As a human, and as an artist, I felt compelled to respond in the most significant way I could," continued his note. "So today, for the first time ever, I publicly performed my Dad's song, IMAGINE."

When discussing the performance on Debatable, Julian said, "It was the easiest and the hardest thing I have ever had to do."

In a recent interview with the iHeartRadio podcast Inside the Studio, Julian spoke to host Jordan Runtagh about the positive response he received following the "Imagine" performance.

"I was fearful. I never said I would never sing it. I just said it'll be one day when the time is right and it's appropriate," he detailed. "And so, a week ago when I said, 'Yes, OK, now's the time,' I thought, 'Oh, bugger, how am I gonna do this?!' Because for literally 30, 40 years I've been afraid for this moment to come."

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Despite his initial nerves, the performance received rave reviews and directed fan attention toward his new music. "I've gotta say the last week, 10 days has been mind-blowing for me because I've never had such positive response across the board, not only to dad's song "Imagine," but even for the two new songs that have just come out," he said, referencing recent singles "Every Little Moment" and "Freedom."

Julian said the positive reception toward the performance has also altered his feelings toward the experience of being viewed as the son of a Beatle. "I feel, probably for the first time ever, that I can walk around not being afraid with my head held high," he said, recalling awkward stories of being recognized. "You know, on the road in the older days, we'd stop at a diner and they just put Beatles songs on to see if I reacted to see if it was me. 'Really, that's all you've got!? Can't you just come up and say, 'Hey, Julian!'?'"

"I used to have to deal with that crap all the frigging time. It was so frustrating. Anyway, I'm over all of that now," Julian continued. "I think I've laid my foundation on many levels of what I do and I'm proud to be doing everything that I'm doing now. So it's a different world, you know? I'm feeling like maybe just a little bit of an adult now… It's been magical. It's been magical probably for the first time ever."

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