Less than three years after it was announced that she was being treated for breast cancer, Linda McCartney, noted photographer, animal rights activist and wife of Beatle Paul for twenty-nine years, passed away on April 17th , 1998 at the young age of 56.
Although her chemotherapy treatments had seemed to have her cancer in check, she took a turn for the worse in March when the disease spread to her liver.
Throughout their twenty-nine year relationship, Linda and husband Paul were inseparable; the pair reportedly only spent ten nights apart, a separation due to Paul’s stint in a Tokyo jail for marijuana possession.
When Paul formed Wings after the dissolution of the Beatles, the couple’s partnership extended to the musical realm. Although Linda’s keyboard playing and backup vocals raised a few critical eyebrows, she did share an Oscar nomination with her husband for their composition “Live and Let Die.”
But it was through a camera lens that she made her biggest impression in rock music. While working as a receptionist at Town and Country magazine in the mid-Sixties, she snagged a press pass to a Rolling Stones promotional yacht party, finagling her way on board through sheer persistence while every other photographer was left standing on the dock.
Her exclusive photos of the band were snatched up by dozens of papers and magazines, and she quickly made a name for herself shooting publicity photos for a number of bands and capturing them on tour by assignment.
On May 11, 1968, she became the first woman photographer to shoot a Rolling Stone cover of Eric Clapton. She appeared on the front of the magazine herself with Paul on January 31, 1974, making her the only person to have shot — and been shot — for the publication’s cover.
Eschewing flash for natural light, she captured her subjects in intimate backstage moments that often revealed a private side of performers rarely seen.
Her work has been reprinted in several books and exhibited at more than fifty galleries around the world, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Linda’s reputation quickly established her as insider in celebrity circles, and at one point she dated actor Warren Beatty.
She first met Paul, the object of affection for thousands of girls worldwide, at a launch party for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. He invited her back to London during the recording of the White Album. A romance ensued, and the couple wed on March 12, 1969. They spent much of their time out of the public eye on their farm in West Sussex, England. She became the inspiration for all of Paul’s post-1968 love songs, including “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
Born Linda Louise Eastman on September 24, 1941, McCartney was the daughter of show business lawyer Lee Eastman and mother Louise (whose family owned the Linder department stores). Her father, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, had changed his name from Epstein, and was not part of the Eastman-Kodak photography legacy as was frequently reported at the time of Linda’s marriage to Paul.
Although not an heiress, she did become Lady Linda when her husband was knighted in 1997.
Outside of her photography and famous marriage, McCartney was also widely recognized as a staunch supporter of animal rights and die-hard vegetarian. The latter passion spawned two cookbooks and a successful line of frozen vegetable dinners. The couple were even featured on The Simpsons supporting little Lisa in her decision to give up meat.
In lieu of flowers, Paul has asked that people wishing to honor his wife’s memory contribute to cancer research, animal welfare, “or — best of all — the tribute that Linda herself would like best: Go veggie.”
At the time of her death, Linda, Paul and their children had been vacationing in Arizona, with the couple reportedly horseback riding earlier in the week. In addition to her husband, she is survived by their children Mary, Stella, and James; her daughter Heather from a previous marriage; her sisters Laura and Louise and brother John, McCartney’s business manager and lawyer.
“Linda means beautiful in Spanish, and my Linda was certainly that – inside and out. Anyone who met her, however briefly, was touched by her genuine interest and gentle kindness. I never stop thinking of her as my girlfriend, even though she became my wife, my children’s mother, and my Lady.
The beauty of her spirit never failed to communicate itself to those she encountered, whether they were young or old, male or female, or whatever, they were worthy of respect and so she treated them exactly the same and they invariably felt very comfortable being with her.
Our love of animals was something we discovered, we shared as time went by, and they too enjoyed the same deep respect given to them by her. Her vision of the world was, and is, a simple one.
Love, kindness, respect and thoughtfulness for one another and for our fellow species and a deep distrust of people who neglect these values.
I am blessed to have shared thirty loving years with this uniquely special woman, a fact which I will remain eternally grateful for. This, of course, makes our loss that much more painful to bear, but the kids and I know that she would want us to be happy, even though at this moment it isn’t an easy thing to do.
Her spirit will live forever in those of us who believe in the magic she stood for.”-Paul
RUSHES by “The Fireman” was released on September 21st of 1998.
After Linda passed Paul and James finished up mixing and editing all the songs Linda had recorded and on October 26th, 1998 WILD PRAIRIE was released.
Paul worked as hard as he could (like when he worked with his brother Mike on McGEAR) to make her only solo release as good as possible. While it does have some very nice moments, it remains at best a fair album, but an important emotional project that Paul had to accomplish as a tribute to her, and the huge strides she took from a musical novice back in 1969.
RUSHES by “The Fireman” was released on September 21st of 1998.
Other things Paul did in 1998 were lending his vocals to “Little Children Part 2” with the Peter Kirtley Band. It was issued as a charity CD single for Jubilee Action in aid of Brazilian street children.
Paul also helped out Ringo on his 1998 album, VERTICAL MAN. He played bass and helped vocally on “What in the World” and sang backup vocals on “I Was Walkin’” as well as bass and vocal help on “La De Da.”
Otherwise he chose to grieve and remain out of the spotlight.
Next, 1999. The slow return….