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How John Lennon Convinced Paul McCartney to Keep a Famous Line in 'Hey Jude'

"It's the best one, innit?" McCartney said Lennon told him of lyrics he considered changing in the 1968 hit song

Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty; David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage John Lennon in 1973 and Paul McCartney in 2018
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty; David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage John Lennon in 1973 and Paul McCartney in 2018

Paul McCartney is opening up about how he and John Lennon took a sad song and made it better.

On Wednesday's episode of The Beatles member's podcast from iHeartPodcasts and Pushkin, Paul McCartney: A Life in Lyrics, the music legend, 81, spoke about crafting the 1968 classic "Hey Jude." In addition to reflecting on how the song was inspired by his close relationship with Lennon's first-born son Julian and the time his bandmate left his first wife, Cynthia, and son to pursue a relationship with Yoko Ono, he shared that Lennon inspired him to keep a lyric he considered changing.

"'The movement you need is on your shoulder.' Now, I thought that was just me blocking in," McCartney admitted on the podcast.

The rock star revealed that the late icon convinced him not to alter a line in the song when he played it for him and Ono, 91, for the first time.

Related: Sam Mendes Is Making Four Separate Beatles Movies About John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr

"When I played it for John and Yoko in my music room on my psychedelic piano — I'm sitting facing this way and they're standing behind me, almost on my shoulder and they're listening," he continued. "I'm so pleased with myself playing this new song."

McCartney explained that he was quick to tell his collaborator that the line intended to be a filler wouldn't be in the song for much longer — until Lennon interjected. "I turn around to John, 'Don't worry. I'll change that,'" he shared. "And he looked at me and said, 'You won't, you know? It's the best line, innit?'"

The line, of course, stayed in the iconic song — which became the longest song to reach No. 1 on the Hot 100 at the time, coming in at seven minutes and 12 seconds.

<p>CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images</p> Paul McCartney and John Lennon of The Beatles performing on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' in August 1965

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Paul McCartney and John Lennon of The Beatles performing on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' in August 1965

Related: Looking Back on the Beatles' Star-Making Ed Sullivan Performance on the 60th Anniversary

While the song originally held one meaning, it's remained one of the most, beloved tracks in The Beatles discography for its uplifting message.

McCartney also spoke about the 1968 hit's resonance on A Life in Lyrics. "Because I know when I've been going through bad times, I don't know, like Linda's illness and consequent death and the breakup of the Beatles," he said, referring to his wife Linda McCartney's breast cancer diagnosis and death in 1998.

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"All these sorts of things, these moments in your life, I know you really feel lousy. You've got a pit in your stomach all the time. So to me, the idea sometimes behind songs is to try and reach that person and say, 'Look, how about this thought?'"

He continued, "So I'm always trying to do that. I notice. I'm always trying to say, look, it's going to be okay. It will be alright. I'm trying to be the voice of encouragement."

<p>Joe Marino/UPI/Shutterstock </p> Paul McCartney performing at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida in May 2022

Joe Marino/UPI/Shutterstock

Paul McCartney performing at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida in May 2022

Related: Paul McCartney's Life in Photos

Because the song was famously written with Julian in mind, the musician, 60, has opened up about his thoughts on it over the years.

In a December 202 interview with Esquire, McCartney revealed he'd been "driven up the wall" by the song that he described as being meant to "to console Mum, and also to console me."

"It’s a beautiful sentiment, no question about that, and I’m very thankful — but I’ve also been driven up the wall by it," he told the outlet. "I love the fact that he wrote a song about me and for Mum, but depending on what side of the bed one woke up on, and where you’re hearing it, it can be a good or a slightly frustrating thing. But in my heart of hearts, there’s not a bad word I could say about it."

McCartney added, "The lyrics are pertinent even now. They’re about making life better and taking the weight off my shoulders, especially on the path I followed as a musician — following Dad."

Julian also told PEOPLE in a September 2022 interview that he'd learn to embrace "Hey Jude" and honoring his father's legacy by releasing his seventh studio album titled Jude.

"It was very much reflective, looking in the mirror deeply and trying to find that place of peace," he said of creating the record. "I found it one or two times before, but it got lost in the muddle of life. Working on the album was about getting in touch with myself and who I am."

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