Paul McCartney, the composer of some of the rock era’s most beautiful love songs, has consistently told interviewers that all his romantic ballads written after 1968 were about Linda McCartney.
Those songs include everything from the Beatles’ “Two of Us” and “Oh! Darling” to “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “The Lovely Linda” on Paul’s first post-Beatles album, McCartney (1970); “Long-Haired Lady” on Ram (1971) and “My Love” on “Red Rose Speedway” (1973); to more recent songs as “We Got Married” and “Figure of Eight” on “Flowers in the Dirt” (1989) and “Golden Earth Girl” on “Off the Ground” (1993).
Paul McCartney was not the first to compose a song about Linda McCartney. Her father, Lee Eastman, was a prominent show business lawyer in New York, and one of his clients, Jack Lawrence, wrote “Linda” for her in 1947, when she was 6. Buddy Clark had a hit with the song that year, and it was later recorded by Perry Como, and Jan and Dean.
Born to a wealthy American family on September 24, 1941, Linda Eastman grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y. Her father was not, as is often thought, part of the Eastman-Kodak empire. Her mother died in a plane crash when she was 19.
After leaving school, Linda went to college in Vermont for two years. She then transferred to the University of Arizona to major in art history. She moved to New York, and, aged 21, became a receptionist at Town and Country magazine, and through a chance invitation managed to gain exclusive access to photograph the Rolling Stones.
More backstage photographic assignments followed, and she appeared on the arm of many famous stars, including actor Warren Beatty and the manager of The Who, Chris Stamp. She was acclaimed by one critic for her “moody, gritty” studies. Her work was widely published at the time, and has been exhibited worldwide. In 1992, she published a collection of her work in Linda McCartney’s Sixties – Portrait of an Era.
It was during a trip to London in May 1967 that she first met The Beatles’ bass player Paul McCartney, at the launch of the Sergeant Pepper album.
The relationship developed slowly, but in 1968 he took her out almost every night when he went to New York to launch the US Apple Corporation.
They married on a rainy day at a register office in Marylebone, London. Linda was 26.
After the breakup of the Beatles, Paul McCartney recorded a solo album, “McCartney,” in 1970, which sold more than a million copies in mere weeks. The following year, he and Mrs. McCartney, who had learned to play keyboards, synthesizer and percussion, released the album Ram. It was a popular success but received mixed reviews.
The McCartneys, with guitarist Denny Laine and other musicians, then formed the group Wings.
In 1973, both McCartneys were nominated for a best-song Academy Award for the theme they wrote for the James Bond film, “Live and Let Die.”
In 1984, the former Beatle wrote, produced and starred in the 20th Century Fox film, “Give My Regards to Broad Street,” in which Linda McCartney also appeared.
Greenpeace and other environmental organizations have hailed her support for their struggles. An ardent lifelong vegetarian, she eventually came to market her own line of vegetarian foods. In 1991, she published a vegetarian cookbook.
Linda was vegetarian long before it became fashionable. She said in 1995: “I said years ago that we were in the midst of a food revolution in this country, but I was wrong—it is happening now.”
An animal lover with a passion for horseback riding, she was active in animal-rights causes, as well as charities for children and the Third World. She had long been especially active in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Linda received a Lifetime Achievement Award from PETA in December 1996.
The McCartneys avoided the jet set, preferring to quietly bring up their children in out-of-the way houses in southern England and Scotland. Shunning the showbusiness lifestyle, they managed to give their children Mary, Stella and James, along with Heather—Linda’s child from her first marriage—the most normal upbringing possible.
During their marriage—spanning 3 decades—the couple never spent a night apart, except for the 10 days Paul McCartney spent in a Tokyo jail after he was arrested for marijuana possession.
Like her husband, she made headlines as a result of an open fondness for marijuana. In 1972 she was fined for possession of cannabis along with Paul, and in 1984 they both admitted carrying it.
Years later, Paul was knighted by the Queen of England. He became Sir Paul McCartney. Which made his wife Lady Linda.
In December of 1995, it was announced that Linda was suffering from breast cancer.
She used marijuana to ease the discomfort of chemotherapy. In an interview with fellow pot-and-veggie advocate Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, Paul spoke of his wife’s medicinal use of cannabis: “The doctors said [to her], ‘If you’ve got any of that stuff left over from the ’60s, you might smoke a bit.'”
In spite of the surgury, chemotherapy, and her determined optimism, Linda died on April 19, 1998, in Santa Barbara, California. She was 56.
In lieu of flowers, Paul asked that those wishing to honor Linda do so by donating to charities involved in cancer research and animal welfare, “or—best of all—the tribute that Linda herself would like best: Go veggie.”
Paul has since vowed to continue his wife’s animal rights and vegetarian campaigns. Linda McCartney Foods is also an active leader in the battle against genetic engineering of soy and other crops.
Paul and Linda’s last project together was an animated film, The Wide Prairie, about a modern woman who, like Linda, hoped for a more natural way of life.
The McCartney family issued a moving statement after her death: “Linda was not only kind and loving, she was also a courageous and pioneering woman who made stand after stand for those not as strong as herself. For us, her friends, the brightest light has left our lives but she has left us a shining inspiration.”