Julia (Beatles song)

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Julia (Beatles song) sheet music cover.jpg
Cover of the Maclen Music sheet music
(depicting George Harrison and Ringo Starr)
Song by the Beatles
from the album The Beatles
PublishedNorthern Songs
Released22 November 1968
Recorded13 October 1968
StudioEMI Studios, London
Producer(s)George Martin
Single by the Beatles
A-side"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
Released8 November 1976
Format7-inch vinyl record
The Beatles US singles chronology
"Got to Get You into My Life"
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/With a Little Help from My Friends"

"Julia" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, performed as a solo work by John Lennon. The song was written by Lennon (though credited to Lennon–McCartney) regarding his mother Julia Lennon, who died in 1958 at age 44.

The track is the final song on side two (disc one on CD) of the band's 1968 double album, The Beatles (also known as "the White Album") and was the last song recorded for the album. It was also released as the "B side" of the Beatles single "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" in 1976.


"Julia" was written by John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and features Lennon on vocals and acoustic guitar. It was written during the Beatles' 1968 visit to Rishikesh in northern India, where they were studying under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was here where Lennon learned the song's finger-picking guitar style (known as 'Travis-picking') from the Scottish musician Donovan.[1]

Donovan said:

He told me he wanted to write a song about his mother. He said, "Donovan, you're the king of children's songs. Can you help me? ... I want to write a song about the childhood that I never really had with my mother." He asked me to help him with the images that he could use in lyrics for a song about this subject. So I said, "Well, when you think of the song, where do you imagine yourself?" And John said, "I'm at a beach and I'm holding hands with my mother and we're walking together." And I helped him with a couple of lines, "Seashell eyes / windy smile" — for the Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland feel that John loved so much.[2]

No other Beatle sings or plays on the song. While Paul McCartney made several "solo" recordings attributed to the group, dating back to his famous song "Yesterday", this is the only time that Lennon played and sang unaccompanied on a Beatles track. The ballad itself was the final track to be composed during recording sessions for The Beatles.[3]

"Julia" was written for John's mother, Julia Lennon (1914–1958), who was killed by a car driven by a drunk off-duty police officer when John was 17 years old.[4] Julia Lennon had encouraged her son's interest in music and bought him his first guitar. But after she split with John's father, John was taken in by his aunt, Mimi, and Julia started a new family with another man; though she lived just a few miles from John, Julia did not spend much time with him for a number of years.[5] Their relationship began to improve as he neared adolescence, though, and in the words of his half-sister, Julia Baird: "As he grew older, John would stay with us more often. He and Daddy got along well enough, and in the evenings when our daddy, a headwaiter, was at work, John and Mummy would sit together and listen to records. She was an avid Elvis Presley fan, and she and John would jive around the room to 'Heartbreak Hotel' and other early Elvis recordings. John inherited his love of music from her, and she encouraged him to start with piano and banjo, making him play a tune again and again until he got it right."[6]

"I lost her twice," Lennon said. "Once as a five-year-old when I was moved in with my auntie. And once again when she actually physically died."[5]

The song was also written for his future wife Yoko Ono, whose first name, which literally means "child of the sea" in Japanese, is echoed in the lyric "Oceanchild, calls me."[7] Towards the end of his life, he often called Yoko "Mother."[5]

The line "Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you" was a slight variation of Kahlil Gibran's "Sand and Foam" (1926) in which the original verse reads, "Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you". Lennon also adapted the lines "When I cannot sing my heart, I can only speak my mind" from Gibran's "When life does not find a singer to sing her heart she produces a philosopher to speak her mind".

Musical structure[edit]

The song is in the key of D and begins with the chords D–Bm7–F/C, then D–Bm7–F/C–A–D. The second phrase expands on the word "Ju—li-a", in which the cadence overlaps with the beginning of the next phrase.


"Julia" was originally released as the final song on side two of The Beatles on 22 November 1968.[8] In 1976, it was released as the B-side of the "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" single.[9] In 1988 "Julia" was one of the nine Beatles songs on the soundtrack album Imagine: John Lennon.


A portion of the song also appeared on the Love album mixed with "Eleanor Rigby".

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of its release, Jacob Stolworthy of The Independent listed "Julia" at number 13 in his ranking of the White Album's 30 tracks. He wrote of the song: "The first disc ends on a sanguine note with Lennon’s ode to his deceased mother, Julia. It remains the only Beatles song he wrote and performed by himself."[10]


Other versions[edit]

"Julia" has been covered by Ramsey Lewis, Bongwater, Chocolate Genius, Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Waltari, Priscilla Ahn, Pedro Aznar, Mike Patton & Carla Hassett as a duet, Todd Gordon and Sean Lennon. Sean Lennon performed the song live on 2 October 2001 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, as part of the Come Together: A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music concert special.

On Danger Mouse's mashup album, The Grey Album, "Julia" is mixed with Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder".

According to producer Butch Vig, Kurt Cobain covered "Julia" during sound checks for Nirvana's breakthrough album Nevermind; it was also said to be Cobain's favorite Beatles track.


  1. ^ "Interview: Donovan – Hit Channel". Hit-channel.com. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  2. ^ "Donovan on the Time He Helped Write a Beatles Classic". vulture. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  3. ^ The Complete Beatles Chronicle ISBN 978-1-851-52975-9 p. 303
  4. ^ "Nowhere Boy: Maureen Cleave remembers John Lennon". The Daily Telegraph. London. 14 December 2009.
  5. ^ a b c "69 – 'Julia'". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  6. ^ "John Lennon's Sister Julia Breaks Silence to Tell of the Brother She Loved and Lost". People. 23 (18). 6 May 1985. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Brought to Book," 31 July 1971 interview with Alan Smith, Uncut Presents NME Originals Beatles-The Solo Years 2010, p. 42.
  8. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 200–201.
  9. ^ Wallgren 1982, p. 109.
  10. ^ Stolworthy, Jacob (22 November 2018). "The Beatles' White Album tracks, ranked – from Blackbird to While My Guitar Gently Weeps". The Independent. Retrieved 27 March 2019.


External links[edit]