"Julia" is a song written by John Lennon, with lyrical help from Yoko Ono. Some phrases (such as "Half of what I say is meaningless . . . " and "When I cannot sing my heart . . . ") were borrowed from Kahil Gibran. It was released on the White Album in 1968. Lennon wrote the song during the Beatles' visit to study with the Maharishi in Rishikesh in northern India. This is where Donovan taught Lennon a finger-picking style called Travis-picking, which is what Lennon used for "Julia."
John said, "Julia was my mother. But it [the song] was sort of a combination of Yoko and my mother blended into one."
The line "oceanchild calls me" refers to Yoko's letters to John in India. Yoko means "oceanchild" in Japanese.
Julia was John's mother, and it was she who encouraged John's interest in music and bought him his first guitar. Julia separated from John's father, however, and started a family with another man. At this time, John was taken in by his Aunt Mimi. John's relationship with his mother was strained at this point, and he didn't see much of Julia until adolescence, when their relationship improved. John's half-sister, Julia Baird, said, "As he grew older, John would stay with us more often. In the evenings . . . John and mummy would sit together and listen to records. She was an Elvis Presley fan from the word go, and she and John would jive around the room to 'Heartbreak Hotel' and other great Elvis songs. 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."
John himself said, "I lost her twice. Once as a five year old when I was moved in with my auntie. And once again when she actually physically died."
"Julia" was recorded on October 13, 1968 at Abbey Road. Lennon sings the vocal and plays acoustic guitar (double-tracked). This was the only song he recorded during his Beatles years without help from other members of the band.
"Julia" was the B side to the single "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," which was released in 1976 by Capital records.
The song was covered by Ramsey Lewis. Sean Lennon performed the song live on October 2, 2001 at radio City Music Hall in New York City for the concert Come Together: A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music.
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