Another Star Helped John Lennon Write The Beatles’ ‘Julia’

The BeatlesThe White Album includes many great songs. For example, it includes The Beatles’ “Julia,” a moving ballad about John Lennon’s mother. Another 1960s rock star revealed he helped write the song.

The Beatles' John Lennon, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney near microphones
The Beatles’ John Lennon, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney | Keystone Features/Getty Images

John Lennon’s mother and Yoko Ono helped inspired 1 of The Beatles’ songs

The book All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono includes an interview from 1980. In it, John was asked about The Beatles’ “Julia.” John said the song was partly about his mother, Julia Lennon, and partly about Yoko Ono. John said he didn’t write the track alone but he didn’t name the song’s co-writer.

Donovan is a rock star most known for songs such as “Sunshine Superman” and “Season of the Witch.” During a 2016 interview with Vulture, he discussed co-writing The Beatles’ “Julia” when he was in India.

“As John was in this period of tuition with me, he told me he wanted to write a song about his mother,” Donovan recalled. “He said, “Donovan, you’re the king of children’s songs. Can you help me?'” 

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Donovan helped add an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel to the song John Lennon was writing

Donovan asked John about his artistic intentions.” He said, “I want to write a song about the childhood that I never really had with my mother,'” Donovan remembered. Julia Lennon died in 1958 when John was 17. She was absent from much of her son’s life.

“He asked me to help him with the images that he could use in lyrics for a song about this subject,” Donovan said. “So I said, ‘Well, when you think of the song, where do you imagine yourself?’ And John said, ‘I’m at a beach and I’m holding hands with my mother and we’re walking together.'” 

Donovan drew inspiration from a famous author. “I helped him with a couple of lines, ‘Seashell eyes / windy smile’ — for the Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland feel that John loved so much,” he said. Donovan felt the final song was “amazing.”

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How The Beatles’ ‘Julia’ and ‘The White Album’ performed on the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom

The Beatles never released “Julia” as a single, so it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. The Fab Four released “Julia” on The White Album. The album topped the Billboard 200 for nine weeks, staying on the chart for 215 weeks in total.

The Official Charts Company reports “Julia” never charted in the United Kingdom either. Meanwhile, The White Album peaked at No. 1 for eight weeks. It stayed on the chart for 37 weeks in total.

“Julia” is a classic Beatles song — and it wouldn’t be the same without Donovan.

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