Julia (Beatles song)

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Song by the Beatles from the album The Beatles
Published Northern Songs
Released 22 November 1968
Recorded 13 October 1968
Genre Folk
Length 2:54
Label Apple
Writer Lennon–McCartney
Producer George Martin
Single by The Beatles
A-side "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
Released 8 November 1976 (US)
Format vinyl record 7"
Label Capitol 4347
The Beatles singles chronology
"Got to Get You into My Life"
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" / "Julia"
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

"Julia" is a song by the Beatles, but composed and performed as a solo work by John Lennon, regarding his mother Julia Lennon, who died in 1958.

The track is the final song on side two (disc one on CD) of the band's 1968 album, The Beatles (often called the White Album), and 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] 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.

"Julia" was written for John's mother, Julia Lennon (1914–1958), who was knocked down and killed by a car driven by a drunk off-duty police officer when John was 17 years old.[2] 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.[3] 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."[4]

"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."[3]

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."[5] Towards the end of his life, he often called Yoko "Mother."[3]

The line "Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you" was a slight alteration from 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 a I-vi7-v7-v9-VI7 progression from D chord note A on "Jul..." to Bm7 chord on "...ia" to Am7 chord on "Jul..." to Am9 chord on "...ia" to B7 chord on "ocean child."[6] A feature is that the 9th degree in the minor 9th chord Bm9 (1-♭3-5-♭7–9) is heard in the melody as well as the guitar chord (at 0.20secs on "Julia, Ju-li-a).[7]


"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".


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 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 is also said to be Cobain's favorite Beatles' track.

In 2015, Cristian Rosemary wrote a Spanish version of the lyrics of this song.


  1. ^ http://www.hit-channel.com/interview-donovan/68376
  2. ^ "Nowhere Boy: Maureen Cleave remembers John Lennon". The Daily Telegraph (London). 14 December 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c "69 – 'Julia'". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  4. ^ "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. 
  5. ^ "Brought to Book," 31 July 1971 interview with Alan Smith, Uncut Presents NME Originals Beatles-The Solo Years 2010, p. 42.
  6. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. pp197
  7. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. pp706, 708.
  8. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 200–201.
  9. ^ Wallgren 1982, p. 109.


External links[edit]