Take A Sad Song… Reviews

Praise for Take a Sad Song thus far…

“What James Campion has done is take the song ‘Hey Jude,’ explain its great presence in the history of twentieth-century music and society, and put it squarely in its times and ours. He shows how the connection of the four boys from Liverpool, but especially McCartney/Lennon, were the conduit of all that happened from the early joyous 1960s to the fracturing world of the end of that decade. Using his own perspective and that of others—scholars, musicians—he is able to parse the story and make it fresh and pertinent and moving.  I didn’t think anyone could write anything ‘new’ about the Beatles, but, somehow, he’s done it.” 

Michael Lindsay-Hogg, director of the “Hey Jude” promo film Let It Be and The Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus

“James Campion’s Take a Sad Song: The Emotional Currency of ‘Hey Jude’ brings the Beatles’ bestselling song vividly to life. Chockful of Fab Four anecdotes and vital period details, Campion’s book places readers in the studio as the Beatles transform ‘Hey Jude’ into the stuff of legend.”

Kenneth Womack, author of John Lennon 1980: The Last Days in the Life

Official Reviews

“Take a Sad Song is a tour de force as a piece of writing, because spending a whole book pursuing a single song like this is like running a marathon. It is the most challenging thing you can do. And there are very few books that do that successfully and I think James Campion pulls it off. It’s a great book.”

— Tim Riley, music critic and author of Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary, What Goes on: The Beatles, Their Music, and Their Time, John Lennon – A Definitive Life 

“Blending musicology, cultural history, biography, and a kaleidoscope of personal stories, Take a Sad Song creates a new context for “Hey Jude.” Not only does James Campion add to our appreciation and understanding of the Beatles’ biggest hit, he also contributes new layers to the story of the greatest band of all time. Written with love and backed up by deep research, this valuable addition to the Beatle bookshelf really does make it better.”

Alan Light – music journalist, SiriusXM host, author of “The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and the Unlikely Ascent of ‘Hallelujah’”

“This brilliant book is a lot more than just the history of a classic song—James Campion goes so deep into ‘Hey Jude,’ he turns it into a whole new tune, full of mystery and delight. Even if you think you already know the Beatles’ hit by heart, TAKE A SAD SONG is full of surprising revelations into the weird spiritual resonance of “Hey Jude,” and why it’s lasted so long. I can’t think of another book that journeys so far into one song—and makes you immediately need to hear it again. I didn’t want the damn book to end, but like “Hey Jude,” it lingers in your mind long after the music stops.”

Rob Sheffield, Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone, author of Dreaming the Beatles.

“’Take a Sad Song’ provides an incredible panoptic view of one of music history and popular culture’s timeless compositions. James provides a thorough, varied, and engaging exploration of the many facets that may have inspired and influenced Paul McCartney during the composition of ‘Hey Jude.’”

— Julian Gil, Author of Aerosmith on Tour – 1973 – 85, KISS Album Focus

“Songs are about more than the individual tracks, chord changes & performances that make up the recording; there’s a special magic that happens when all the pieces come together that can touch souls and, yes, change lives. James Campion captures all of this and more in this book, exploring every aspect of The Beatles’ greatest work. Never has there been a song more worthy of this kind of deep dive, and never has there been a book that does it better than ‘Take A Sad Song’.”

— Brad Page, I’m in Love with that Song Podcast

“James is a gifted writer and experienced music journalist who has so much insight himself into the story and cultural relevance of “Hey Jude.” And yet, his book parallels that sense of togetherness found within the song itself as he seamlessly weaves in sentiments of other experts, writers, musicians, and historians who have had personal experience with “Hey Jude.” James recognition that the universal power of the song is only found within the individual connections of others it is what makes his writing so powerful.”

—Trevor and Shane, Album Divers Podcast

“Take a Sad Song: The Emotional Currency of ‘Hey Jude'”will leave you with a stronger connection to the lyrics and a deeper appreciation for the song than you could have ever imagined. James Campion has delivered on all cylinders with his latest book dissecting every aspect of “Hey Jude” and its historical significance in the music world. He takes his own extensive research on the song itself, facts and storylines surrounding The Beatles and their impact on the 60s and 70s era of music, and interviews other noteworthy musicians and music historians for their knowledge and personal connections to the song, and bottles all of that up into a book that is a very fun, easy, and fascinating read that will keep you turning the pages from start to finish. – Shane, co-host of the music commentary podcast ‘Album Divers’

— Shane Nissan, Album Divers Podcast

“James Campion’s “Take A Sad Song: The Emotional Currency of ‘Hey Jude’” is an exceptionally well-written and well-researched deep dive into one of the most iconic songs of all time. Packed with insight and analysis from well-respected songwriters, composers, music historians, Beatles historians, along with professors of philosophy, psychology and music theory, this book breaks down every aspect of “Hey Jude” from the thought-provoking lyrics, to the multi-faceted musical arrangement, right up to the emotional “Na Na Na” coda.

“Take A Sad Song” is proof that there are endlessly compelling stories behind a song that has captured our minds, hearts and souls in ways we may never have understood how or why…until now. This book is a must-read not just for every Beatles fan, but for every fan of music and its emotional value for which you just can’t put a price on.”

—Eric Senich, Host of the Booked On Rock podcast, BOOKEDONROCK.COM

If you’re a Beatles fan looking for something new, a straight-up diehard “Hey Jude” fan, or someone who is just interested in the mechanics of why songs work with us as humans, then I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is incredibly detailed, deftly researched, and yet it is still a fun, reasonably breezy affair that tells you everything you want to know and more about one of the greatest most well-known songs of all time.”

—Tom Whiles, Host of the Paul or Nothing Podcast

“Love this book. What a work of art it is in itself. I know of no other book like it.”

– Dan Bern, songwriter/novelist/painter/film-maker

“The impact of ‘Hey Jude’ from a song to an event is incalculable. By definition or perhaps default, this milestone in music has come to define the personal and professional attainments one feels – whether it be a comforting lyric in a time of mourning or a place that thousands of artists aspire to reach every time they compose. Campion has fashioned a unique testament to the power of one song to countless individuals.”

—Amy Hughes, Beatles-Freak’s Reviews, click here for full review

It’s been a long few weeks between oral surgery and COVID, but this is an absolutely unmitigated capital-G GOOD THING: I’m honored to call James Campion a friend, but I’d have been first in line to buy this book whether I knew him or not. “Take a Sad Song: The Emotional Currency of ‘Hey Jude’” manages to be both rigorous in its exploration of song and conversational in a way that makes it feel like just having a great talk with someone who really knows his stuff. And it’s not humble to admit this, but James actually asked me for comment while he was writing— there is nothing in my entire career that I’m as proud of as being in not only a book on The Beatles, but JAMES’S book on The a Beatles. I’ll be sharing some amazing podcasts he’s done throughout the week so you can all enjoy his energy. I have needed something positive: this is it.

Katie Darby Mullins, Associate Professor of Writing, University of Evansville

“Just finished reading James Campion’s excellent Take A Sad Song: The Emotional Currency of “Hey Jude.” It is hard to believe that an entire book can be devoted to one song, but I guarantee you that you will gain a whole new appreciation for the genius of McCartney and the Beatles, and the role Hey Jude played and continues to play in musical history. Highly recommended!”

— Scott Freiman, Deconstructing the Beatles

“James Campion has done a magnificent job of taking one incredible song and making it better–making it better because we understand its lyrics in a whole new way, appreciate it as part of the evolution of the Beatles both personally and musically, and gain new insight into the historical context of its creation in 1968, a year of such tumult. When I listened to ‘Hey Jude’ again after finishing Campion’s book, I heard so much more in its lyrics and layers. Thank you to the author for giving us all this gift!” 

Emily Auerbach, Professor of English, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

“Campion’s close reading is revelatory. Hey Jude matched grandeur with camaraderie, acknowledged pain while privileging hope, honoring Apollonian order through its verses and refrain before bursting into Dionysian frenzy for the coda. And as Campion notes, it’s a great song for friends and strangers to sing along while gathered around a piano.”

— David Luhrssen, Shepherd Express, click here to read the rest of the review

“‘Take a Sad Song’ is an incredible book, full of musicologists lending insights, along with the author’s insights, historical facts… you will never hear ‘Hey Jude’ the same again. I guarantee you.”

Matt Slys, Host of “Magical Mystery Hour,” WLDW Radio, Cleveland

Not hiding his obsession for “Hey Jude,” Campion delivers an in-depth account of an important song; Beatlemaniacs will be pleased.

Dr. Dave Szatmary, Library Journal

James Campion has written a book that delves so deeply into the song ‘Hey Jude’ that it’s part musicology and part academic literary criticism. It’s hard to believe that one song can have enough substance to fill a full-length book with the exploration of it. Hey Jude does. 

Reading this book allowed me to understand the song in a deeper way – I have always loved ‘Hey Jude’ but now I see it as a work of art. 

Conceiving of the song now, I don’t just think of the lyrics and melody. I think of the connection that John Lennon and Paul McCartney shared. I think of the deep relationship between memory and language. I think of the religious traditions that spawned canticles and liturgical customs. I think of the history of Broadway and the American songbook. I think of the importance of mothers and fathers. And I think about the way that, sometimes, music transcends language, time, and culture to unite not only a band but a planet.

— Jackie McClean, Roan Yellowthorn

Take a Sad Song is so much more than just another book about The Beatles. It invites the reader on an immersive journey back through time to show the importance of The Beatles and their influence on the world in the tumultuous year of 1968. James Campion has blended providing historical context with fascinating information about the song “Hey Jude” in a way that brings The Beatles’ creative process to life much like Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary does on the screen. A must-read, not just for Beatles fans, but for everyone who needs to be reminded to stop carrying the world on their shoulders every now and then.

— Jack Lawless, Here, There, Everywhere Podcast / Beatles Earth

Take a Sad Song: The Emotional Currency of “Hey Jude” is a love letter to the iconic song we know and love. The book takes a deep dive into the pool of its lyrics and meaning. You’ll read insightful thoughts from professors, music historians, Beatles experts, musicians , and the author himself. It’s truly a song within a song. You’ll listen and understand “Hey Jude” in a different way and it’s better, better, better!

– Sherry Thomas, Analog Smile Podcast

A musical, social, emotional and cultural analysis of “Hey Jude,” the longest-charting, longest-running and most widely recognized of the Beatles song book. Campion has an innate ability to dive into music and find those phrases that resonate deep in your soul, whether it was his biography of Warren Zevon or his summer tour book about Dog Voices and the Jersey shore bar scenes. What you get in his latest is a careful, touching deconstruction of the context for “Hey Jude” turned into an induction proof of how and why we need anthemic songs, whether in 1968, as the Beatles disbanded, or in the throes of 2022. I was singing “Na Na Na NaNaNaNa” nightly as I closed the Kindle.

— Hal Stern

Reader Reviews

James Campion has written a book that delves so deeply into the song ‘Hey Jude’ that it’s part musicology and part academic literary criticism. It’s hard to believe that one song can have enough substance to fill a full-length book with the exploration of it. Hey Jude does.

Reading this book allowed me to understand the song in a deeper way – I have always loved ‘Hey Jude’ but now I see it as a work of art.

Conceiving of the song now, I don’t just think of the lyrics and melody. I think of the connection that John Lennon and Paul McCartney shared. I think of the deep relationship between memory and language. I think of the religious traditions that spawned canticles and liturgical customs. I think of the history of Broadway and the American songbook. I think of the importance of mothers and fathers. And I think about the way that, sometimes, music transcends language, time, and culture to unite not only a band but a planet.

— J.L.M, Amazon

There are fewer than a dozen books out there about a single song, and that’s not an accident. It’s an impossible task to undertake: is there enough to talk about? don’t get too technical! don’t read too deeply into things that aren’t there! don’t bore us!! 

Well, Campion does none of these things. This book is an outright success, from the first page to the last. And while the book IS about the song Hey Jude of course, it covers much more than that. His device of using song lyrics simultaneously as chapter names and to frame the chapter’s topic (inspiration, family, Beatles history, song structure, social upheaval, etc) is very, very clever, and sets you up for what you will be reading over the following pages.

Campion is a true expert on pop culture and pop music—you only have to read his other books or listen to his and Adam Duritz’s Underwater Sunshine Podcast to find that out—but he never comes across as overbearing or lecturing here. Instead, he is more that happy to let the dozens of experts he interviewed for the book tell the story, deftly weaving their thoughts and observations together with his own research. 

If you like the song Hey Jude, or any song, or The Beatles, or any other band, or music in general, or the 60s, or your mom, read this book.

— Peter Blasevick, Good Reads

“Take A Sad Song “ is masterfully, thoroughly and insightfully written and takes the reader on a fascinating and inspiring journey about the creative songwriting and production process and historical impact of the Beatles most iconic song in the context of Paul McCartney’s life and the amazing story of the biggest band that ever recorded music.
The reader will gain great appreciation and deeper understanding of the mysterious and wonderful process of songwriting and how such a powerful and enduring song touches the collective psyche and heart of the entire world . The thoughts of prominent songwriters and musicologists are skillfully interwoven throughout the book which makes for interesting, smooth and enjoyable reading . This is a must read for anyone who is a fan and student of the Beatles and is inspired by great and timeless music.

— Andrew Rajeckas, Amazon

“This is an enchanting, excellent read. The author nicely traces the emotional and social contexts of the song, and seems to enter into the artists’ minds. Highly recommended!”
— Avik, Good Reads

This book was a Father’s Day present from my daughter. Known for my love and enjoyment of the Beatles from their start on the Ed Sullivan show in the early sixty’s and enduring now over five decades, it was a special gift as she also was a participant in it’s creation.

I am not a book critic so this will not have the panacea of the other reviews, I can only say that as James breaks the song down and measures the lives of the individuals, particularly McCartney and Lennon, the parallels to their misfortunes wrapped into their songs was amazing .

The mention of each song, however, made me regal in each tune and remember some aspect of my own life during the moments when I first enjoyed the Beatles music.

A great read !!
– T.R. Ragan, Amazon

just finished the James Campion book on Hey Jude (dude you better rank this song high or you’re a loser :), really good read, second beatle book you’ve introduced me to (Jan Mitchell’s was one of my favorites) thanks J and J… really enjoy your podcast!

Michael G Davidson, Twitter

James Campion’s latest book is another wonderful musical journey but this time about one song only. So you thought you know all about “Hey Jude?” Read Take A Sad Song and immerse yourself in all of its detail and facts and stories regarding the greatest Beatles song ever, written by the greatest tunesmith ever, James Paul McCartney. The stories of the creation of “Hey Jude” are absolutely fascinating and the music theory tidbits as well as the references to gospel and R ‘n’ B had me reliving many past memories with a big smile on my face! Get this great read…NOW!

– UB, Amazon

So as I was reading Campion’s, Take a Sad Song, I found myself listening to other music differently…picking up on nuances of songs that I never really considered before. I found it enlightened me every time I picked it up, making me feel it’s a book that once read straight through begs to be picked up randomly just to reinforce that “good feel.” I also enjoyed the historical background of Paul and John’s lives and the turbulent times they were making music in. Definitely a book to be kept within arms reach!

– Lauren Brown, Amazon

A unique treat for Beatles and music fans alike. James masterfully peels the layers back of this one iconic song and how it became a healing anthem for a young boy, a fractured band and a nation during chaotic times. Whether or not you’re an avid Paul fan, you’ll have to appreciate his brilliance after this read.

– Michelle Caulfield, Amazon

Whether you favor John or Paul, this book will satisfy by taking you into the heart of their unique bond through this infectious anthem known the world over. Campion’s engaging writing style, thorough research, and use of insight from Beatle historians, musicologists, and contemporary songwriters provides for an entertaining and illuminating read that does not pick a side in the long-running John vs Paul debate. Like the song itself, this book brings us together to enjoy the magic of the Beatles at their singular best.

– Trishia, Amazon

James Campion has taken a beloved song by the biggest band that ever existed and through curiosity, personal experiences, and historical context reveals why this song is both relevant for culture and for the lives of each individual who hears it. James takes us back to 1968 and interweaves the dynamic between John and Paul, their relationship with their wives and mothers, and then catapults us back to present day and explores why it continues to be personal and universal at the same time. My favorite part about this book is that James is clearly an expert writer and music historian, but he approaches the research for this book with openness and curiosity asking for personal reflections from other writers, historians, and musicians. In the end, he’s taken a great song and made it better for this music lover. A must read for any Beatles fan.

– Trevor D. Hopkins, Amazon

A very interesting analysis of Paul McCartney’s song “Hey Jude”. I don’t necessarily agree with all the viewpoints, but the book was well researched. It took me a while to read because I had a paper copy from the library so I only read it at home. Also, I felt the need to stop and digest the information.

– Leslie Ferrari, Good Reads

I went into TASS with a bit of skepticism because I’m not the biggest Beatles fan. I really enjoy James’ criticism though and loved his previous books “Accidentally Like a Martyr” about Warren Zevon and “Shout It Out Loud” about Kiss so I took the chance.

I learned a good bit about the Beatles and enjoyed this book enough that I know I will re-read it eventually.

If you or someone you love is a Beatles fan (or watched Peter Jackson’s epic Get Back documentary on Disney+) or if you’re a music history buff, TASS is highly recommended even if it did ultimately leave me nostalgic for “Underwater Sunshine” the podcast that James used to do on a weekly basis with Counting Crows frontman, Adam Duritz.

– Blake Lynch, Amazon

Paul McCartney begins his song without any musical accompaniment. Hey Jude…and we are hooked. A beautiful and touching song that becomes a world wide sing- along. 50 some odd years later we are still listening, singing and writing about it. James Campion’s book captures that moment in time brilliantly. A well crafted book that transports its reader to the tumultuous year of 1968 ,where for 7 minutes, the world seemed right.

– Kevin McCormick, Amazon

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