John Lennon Said The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ Might’ve Been Inspired by Indian Culture

John Lennon once compared The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” to songs by The Drifters, Sam Cooke, Little Richard, and other artists.

John Lennon was asked if The Beatles‘ “Hey Jude” was inspired by an aspect of Indian culture. He gave a layered answer. In addition, he compared “Hey Jude” to several other classic songs.

John Lennon was asked if mantras inspired The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’

Mantras are repeated spiritual slogans popular in Indian religions. The book George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters includes an interview from 1967. In it, George discusses mantras. “The whole thing with mantras is to repeat and repeat those sounds … it’s vibrations in everything like prayers and hymns,” he said. George felt people should use vibrations in order to become close to gods like Buddha, Krishna, and Jesus Christ.

During a 1968 interview with Rolling Stone, John was asked if “Hey Jude” was influenced by mantras. “No, it’s nothing conscious — you mean the repeat at the end?” he responded. “I never thought of that, but it’s all valid, you see. I mean we’d just come back from India.”

While it’s unclear if mantas inspired “Hey Jude,” The Beatles definitely drew from Indian culture in their music. Tracks like “Love You To,” “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” and “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” draw from Indian music while songs such as “Within You Without You” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” draw from dharmic spirituality. Despite this, John later decried Buddha and the Bhagavad Gita in his solo tune “God.”

John Lennon compared the track to a number of songs by artists other than The Beatles

Instead of citing mantras as a direct inspiration, John compared “Hey Jude” to tunes from other legends. “I always related it to some early Drifters song or [Arthur Alexander’s] ‘You Better Move On’ or Sam Cooke’s ‘Bring It On Home To Me’ or ‘Send Me Some Lovin’ [by Little Richard] — it has that feeling,” he said.

John didn’t explain why “Hey Jude” was similar to any of those songs. Notably, none of the songs he mentioned are that similar to each other. Notably, Alexander’s “You Better Move On” was recorded by The Beatles’ occasional rivals, The Rolling Stones.

John Lennon discussed how he responded to ‘Hey Jude’

A reporter said “Hey Jude” seemed to be addressed to the members of The Beatles. “Oh, yeah,” John replied. “Well, when Paul first sang ‘Hey, Jude’ to me — or played me the little tape he’d made of it — I took it very personally. ‘Ah, it’s me!’ I said. It’s me.”

Paul had a different feeling about “Hey Jude.” “He says, no it’s me,” John recalled. “I said ‘Check, we’re going through the same bit.’ So we all are. Whoever is going through that bit with us is going through it, that’s the groove.”

Regardless of what inspired it, “Hey Jude” is one of the greatest power ballads of all time.

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