Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stories of the Songs: Julia

"Julia" is a song that John Lennon wrote for his mother who died when he was seventeen. Julia was killed on July 15, 1958 when she was knocked down by a police car (driven by an off-duty policeman who had been drinking) on Menlove Avenue, where John lived with his Aunt Mimi. As well as "Julia" she was also the inspiration for the songs "Mother" and "My Mummy's Dead" (both on the album "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band"). John's first son Julian was named after her.

"Julia" was written in India while the Beatles were visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968. It was here that the Scottish musician Donovan taught John the fingerpicking guitar style he uses on both this song and "Dear Prudence".

"The interesting thing for me on 'Julia' is the finger-picking 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."

The song was also inspired by Yoko Ono. Her first name can be translated from the Japanese to mean "child of the sea" or "ocean child". "Ocean child calls me, so I sing a song of love, Julia," he sings, as if telling his mother about his new love, Yoko.

"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."

A few lines of the song were taken from "Sand and Foam" by the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran. "Sand and Foam" is a collection of thought-provoking proverbs which you can read at Juan Cole's Kahlil Gibran Page.

The lines from "Julia" are: "Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you" and "When I cannot sing my heart, I can only speak my mind". (This is the line from which this blog takes its name.)

Gibran wrote: "Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you" and "When life does not find a singer to sing her heart, she finds a philosopher to speak her mind."

Song Trivia

"Julia" was recorded on 13 October 1968 and included on the White Album. None of the other Beatles appear on the track.

"Julia" was performed live by Sean Lennon in 2001 as part of the Come Together – A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music concert.

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