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)
“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. 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. 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. 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.”
“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.”
John named his first son Julian after her.
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.”