- Published on 1968
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 17 on “The Beatles – White Album“
JOHN 1972: “Me. Yoko helped me with this one.”
JOHN 1980: “Julia was my mother. But it was sort of a combination of Yoko and my mother blended into one. That was written in India… We wrote tons of songs in India.”
PAUL circa-1994: “The interesting thing for me on ‘Julia’ is the finger-picking (guitar) style. He learned to fingerpick off Donovan or Gypsy Dave… That was John’s song about his mum, folk finger-picking style, and a very good song.”
“Julia” is a poignant ballad featured on968 double album, “The Beatles” (known as “the White Album“). Notably, this piece is a solo endeavor by John Lennon, and it holds a special place as a tribute to his late mother, Julia Lennon, who passed away at the age of 44 in 1958. Positioned as the closing masterpiece on side two (or disc one on CD) of “The Beatles,” “Julia” also holds the distinction of being the final recording completed for the album. In 1976, it was released as the B-side to the Beatles’ single, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”
Compositionally, “Julia” is written in the key of D major and showcases Lennon’s emotive vocals accompanied by the soothing strums of his acoustic guitar. The genesis of this heartfelt creation took place during the Beatles’ transformative stay in Rishikesh, northern India, where they were under the tutelage of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Here, Lennon learned the intricate finger-picking style known as ‘Travis-picking’ from the skilled Scottish musician, Donovan.
Recalling the origins of “Julia,” Donovan shared that Lennon approached him with a desire to craft a song in homage to his mother. Lennon conveyed his yearning for a song that captured the childhood he never truly experienced with her. Together, they delved into crafting evocative imagery, with John envisioning a serene beach scene where he and his mother strolled hand in hand. Donovan’s contribution included lines like “Seashell eyes / windy smile,” evoking the whimsical ambiance reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s beloved “Alice in Wonderland,” a world John cherished deeply.
In a unique twist, “Julia” stands as a testament to Lennon’s singular artistry, as no other member of the Beatles contributed vocally or instrumentally to this piece. While Paul McCartney had previously produced “solo” recordings attributed to the group, including his iconic composition “Yesterday,” this song marks the only instance where Lennon delivered both vocals and guitar unaccompanied by fellow Beatles. Remarkably, this tender ballad came to fruition as the final addition to the extensive recording sessions for “The Beatles.”
Meaning of “Julia”
“Julia” serves as a tribute to John’s mother, Julia Lennon, who passed away when he was just 17 years old. The lyrics reflect John’s feelings of loss, longing, and a deep sense of connection to his mother’s memory.
The song’s lyrics convey a mixture of love, pain, and a yearning to be close to his mother once more, even though she has passed away. Throughout the song, John expresses a sense of emotional vulnerability, revealing the profound impact his mother had on his life.
“Julia” is an intimate and personal composition that offers listeners a glimpse into John Lennon’s emotional world, showcasing his ability to turn his personal experiences into heartfelt and relatable music.