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Linda Louise, Lady McCartney (née Eastman; formerly See; September 24, 1941 – April 17, 1998) was an American musician, photographer, animal rights activist, entrepreneur and publisher who was married to Paul McCartney of the Beatles. Prior to marrying Paul, she was a professional photographer of celebrities and contemporary musicians, with her work published in music industry magazines. Her photos were also published in the book Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait of an Era, in 1992.
Linda married McCartney in 1969 at St John’s Wood Church in London. Her daughter, Heather Louise, from her first marriage to Melville See, was adopted by her new husband. Together, the McCartneys had three other children.
In 1971, after they married and following the break-up of the Beatles the previous year, Paul and Linda McCartney recorded the album Ram. Shortly afterwards, they formed the band Wings. She continued to be part of her husband’s touring band following Wings’ break-up in 1981 up until The New World Tour in 1993.
She was an animal rights activist and wrote and published several vegetarian cookbooks, and founded the Linda McCartney Foods company with her husband.
In 1995 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and died from the disease in 1998 at the age of 56.
McCartney was born Linda Louise Eastman, the second-eldest of four children, in New York City. She had one older brother, John, born in 1939; and two younger sisters, Laura, born in 1947, and Louise Jr., born in 1950.
Her father, Leopold Vail Epstein, was born in 1910 to Jewish Russian immigrants. He later changed his name to Lee Eastman. He practiced entertainment law in New York for well-known clients, including bandleader Tommy Dorsey, songwriters Harold Arlen and Jack Lawrence, and fine artists such as Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. At her father’s request, Lawrence wrote the song “Linda” when McCartney was four. The song was recorded by Buddy Clark in 1947 and went to number 1 on the charts. It was again recorded in 1963 by Jan and Dean.
McCartney’s mother, Louise Sara (Lindner) Eastman, was from a German Jewish family and was the daughter of Max J. Lindner—founder of the Lindner Company clothing store in Cleveland, Ohio.
McCartney grew up in the affluent Scarsdale town of Westchester County, New York, graduating from Scarsdale High School in 1959. Following high school, McCartney attended Vermont College, receiving an Associate of Arts degree in 1961.
While her brother John followed in his father’s footsteps, also going to Harvard to study law, Linda was less ambitious and avoided such intellectual pursuits. She was considered the “black sheep” of the family, who lacked serious academic desires, preferring to spend her free time riding her horse or being with her dogs. Nature and animals were her primary interests. John later became Paul McCartney’s attorney and manager.
After graduating from Vermont College, she attended the University of Arizona, majoring in Fine Arts. While there, McCartney’s mother died in the 1962 crash of American Airlines Flight 1 in Queens, New York. McCartney later said that because of her mother’s death, she hated travelling by air. In Arizona she took up nature photography as a hobby.
After her mother died in 1962, and newly divorced from her husband, Melville See, she moved back to Manhattan, New York, with her daughter Heather. McCartney’s mother left her money to live on along with a number of valuable paintings.
She found a job as a receptionist and editorial assistant for Town & Country magazine. During that time, in 1965, she became romantically involved with David Dalton, a professional photographer. She studied the way he worked during photo shoots, learning about how he set up shots and managed lighting and composition. When she began to do more of her own shoots, such as with music groups, he said he was “astonished” at how easily she was able to take control of unruly or uncooperative musicians. She was able to get her subjects to do exactly what she wanted without much fuss. Dalton said that shooting rock groups was “a bloody pain in the neck. But with the lovely Linda, all this changed…Now their eyes were pinned on her.“
Dalton was also impressed by the intelligence of McCartney’s daughter. “Linda and I would get high and Heather would say the most amazing things…I’d think, ‘This is André Breton at six years old!’” He adds that he found Linda’s relationship with Heather a “very charming aspect of her life with this wonderful child.“
On one occasion, when the magazine received an invitation to photograph the Rolling Stones during a record promotion party on a yacht, she immediately volunteered to represent the publication as its photographer. The photo shoot marked a turning point in her life:I was the only photographer they allowed on the yacht. I just kept clicking away with the camera, and they enjoyed it and I enjoyed it, and suddenly I found that taking pictures was a great way to live and a great way to work.
I was the only photographer they allowed on the yacht. I just kept clicking away with the camera, and they enjoyed it and I enjoyed it, and suddenly I found that taking pictures was a great way to live and a great way to work.
Her father, however, was not impressed with her goal of becoming a photographer on her own. He wanted her to at least take some formal training with a professional. “Well, I never had the patience for that,” she said. “I had to trust my feelings.” She did however study the photography of horses at college in Arizona under Hazel Larson Archer, and became at that time an avid nature hobbyist, using a high quality Leica camera. A few months after her Rolling Stones shoot, she was allowed back stage at Shea Stadium where the Beatles performed.
Having now gained some experience in celebrity photography, McCartney became an unofficial house photographer at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East concert hall. Among the artists she photographed there were Todd Rundgren, Aretha Franklin, Grace Slick, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Eric Clapton, Simon & Garfunkel, the Who, the Doors, the Animals, John Lennon and Neil Young. Her photo of Young, taken in 1967, was used on the cover of Sugar Mountain – Live at Canterbury House 1968 in 2008.
She photographed Clapton for Rolling Stone magazine, becoming the first woman to have a photograph featured on the front cover (May 11, 1968). She and husband Paul also appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone on January 31, 1974, making her the only person to have taken a photograph, and to have been photographed, for the front cover of the magazine. Her photographs were later exhibited in more than 50 galleries internationally, as well as at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. A collection of photographs from that time, Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait of an Era, was published in 1993. She also took the photograph for the cover of Paul McCartney’s and Michael Jackson’s single “The Girl Is Mine“.
After the breakup of the Beatles in 1970, Paul taught Linda to play keyboards and recorded an album with her, Ram, as a duo. Afterwards, he included her in the lineup of his subsequent group, Wings. The group garnered several Grammy Awards, becoming one of the most successful British bands of the 1970s, but had to endure jibes regarding Linda’s singing. She later admitted that the accusations about her singing out of tune in the early days with Wings were true.
In 1977, a reggae-inspired single entitled “Seaside Woman” was released by an obscure band called Suzy and the Red Stripes on Epic Records in the United States. In reality, Suzy and the Red Stripes were Wings, with Linda (who also wrote the song) on lead vocals. The song had been recorded by Wings in 1972, in response to a lawsuit by Northern Songs and Maclen Music alleging Paul violated an exclusive rights agreement by collaborating on the song “Another Day“, which had the effect of transferring a 50% share of the publishing royalties to his own McCartney Music company. The lawsuit, which alleged that Linda’s co-writing credits were inauthentic and that she was not a real songwriter, was “amicably settled,” according to an ATV spokesman, in June 1972.
The McCartneys shared an Oscar nomination for the co-composition of the song “Live and Let Die“, and were photographed together at the event in April 1974. Linda’s album Wide Prairie, which included “Seaside Woman,” was released posthumously in 1998. Along with eight other British composers, Paul contributed to the choral album A Garland for Linda, and dedicated his classical album, Ecce Cor Meum, to his late wife.
Melville See Jr. (1962–1965)
Her first marriage was to Melville See Jr., whom she had met in college. He was born in New York in 1938, making him three years older than McCartney. He studied geology at Princeton and after graduating enrolled in the University of Arizona in Tucson to earn a master’s degree. McCartney followed him there, where she enrolled at the same college to study art history. She was studying there in March 1962 when her mother was killed in a commercial plane crash.
She married See in June 1962; their daughter Heather Louise was born on December 31, 1962. As their lifestyles were too dissimilar, they divorced three years later, in June 1965. He was an academic who spent much of his time studying or doing research, while she preferred a less intellectual home life. She loved the wide open spaces in Arizona and enjoyed riding horses through the desert landscape. The settings, with saguaro cacti, reminded her of scenery from western films, which inspired her to take up photography as a hobby.
Paul McCartney (1969–1998)
On May 15, 1967, while on a photo assignment in London, Eastman met Paul McCartney at the Bag O’Nails club where Georgie Fame was performing. They met again four days later at the launch party for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at Brian Epstein’s house. When her assignment was completed, she flew back to New York City.
They got together again the following May in New York, while he and John Lennon were there to inaugurate Apple Records. A few weeks after he returned to London he invited her to spend some time with him there. When she arrived, they went to his home where they spent the evening. “He must have been really happy that night,” said one of the fans who often loitered outside his home. “He sat on the windowsill with his acoustic guitar and sang ‘Blackbird’ to us” from his upstairs room.
Paul was attracted to her for a number of reasons, he explained: “I liked her as a woman, she was good-looking with a good figure, so physically I was attracted to her.” But he also liked her sense of independence: “Her mental attitude was quite rebellious…[growing up] she was the kind of kid who would hang out in the kitchen with the black maids” to learn cooking. She disliked socializing. They both liked natural surroundings, he said, and they shared a love of nature, which became one of their most important emotional links. He knew that because of her “very free spirit,” she was considered a rebel and a black sheep by her family for avoiding excelling in education, unlike her father and brother. “She was an artist,” Paul said, “and was not cut out to be an academic.“
In addition, according to biographer Howard Sounes, Paul appreciated that having been raised in an affluent household, she didn’t seem all that interested in his wealth, but instead preferred a simple life. She had “loads of American confidence and a congenial hippie-chick looseness,” and wanted Paul to have the traditional masculine role in their relationship. Peter Brown, a Beatles manager, adds:
She was very, very vigilant in watching his back, totally and utterly loyal, and looked after his needs domestically and in every other way.
Linda’s daughter, Heather, created another strong bond between them, since he had always liked and wanted children of his own. When he first met Heather, who was then six, he insisted that she and Linda move to London to live with him. After they did, he devoted time to Heather, playing with her, reading her stories, and drawing cartoons with her. He sang her to sleep at bedtime.
Biographer Philip Norman notes that Linda had some personality aspects which Paul admired. She seemed less concerned with clothing or her public appearance, preferring to dress casually, even in semi-formal settings. She typically held his arm when they were together, often “gazing up at him in awe,” and seeming to idolize him. However, Paul’s friends claimed that his own appearance also became noticeably less formal, whether shaving less often or just wearing simpler clothes. “He could go on the bus down to Apple,” said his maid, “and no one would recognize him.“
Linda’s relaxed attitude about everyday things began to affect him in other ways. He recalls once feeling guilty because he was exhausted from work, and having trained himself to never appear tired, apologized to her. She simply replied, “it’s allowed,” which amazed him. “I remember thinking, Fucking hell! That was a mind-blower. I’d never been with anyone who thought like that…it was patently clear that it was allowed to be tired.“
Around this time, Paul fell into a deep depression due to the Beatles’ pending break-up. He would spend days in bed and drink excessively, not knowing what to do with his life. “I nearly had a breakdown,” he said. “I was going crazy.” Sounes writes that “McCartney sank into whisky-soaked oblivion, [and] only Linda knew how to save him.” McCartney later said that Linda helped him pull out of that emotional crisis by praising his work as a songwriter and convincing him to continue writing and recording.
After he got through that troubled phase of his career, he wrote “Maybe I’m Amazed” in Linda’s honor. He explained during an interview that the song was written “for me and Linda,” and that with the Beatles breaking up, “that was my feeling: Maybe I’m amazed at what’s going on… Maybe I’m a man and maybe you’re the only woman who could ever help me; Baby won’t you help me understand… Maybe I’m amazed at the way you pulled me out of time, hung me on the line, Maybe I’m amazed at the way I really need you.” He added that “every love song I write is for Linda.“
They were married in a small civil ceremony in the Marylebone area of London on March 12, 1969. The reaction to the marriage by British fans was mostly negative, partly because it ended McCartney’s status as the last unattached Beatle. And along with John Lennon’s new wife, Yoko Ono, whom Lennon married a week later, Linda was perceived as one of the causes of the group’s break-up. Lennon at one point publicly criticized the way the press had treated Linda: “She got the same kind of insults, hatred, absolute garbage thrown at her for no reason whatsoever other than she fell in love with Paul McCartney.“
During the 29 years of their marriage, they had four children: in addition to her daughter Heather from her first marriage (who Paul later formally adopted), Paul was the biological father of Mary (born in London August 28, 1969), Stella (born September 13, 1971) and James (born September 12, 1977 in London).
His marriage to Linda, viewed as such a disastrous misstep at the time, became by far the happiest and most durable in pop. Despite the immensity of his fame and wealth, the couple managed to lead a relatively normal domestic life and prevent their children from becoming the usual pampered, neglected, screwed-up rock-biz brats. If the public never quite warmed to Linda, thanks mainly to her militant vegetarianism and animal-rights activism, she was acknowledged to have been the right one for him, just as Yoko had been for John.
They sometimes went to his farmhouse retreat in western Scotland, which he purchased before they met, a hidden place he used to “escape Beatlemania.” They both liked and needed time away from the city, and were equally attracted to natural surroundings, writes biographer Barry Miles. “We’d just enjoy sitting out in nature,” Paul said. The song “Two of Us” on the Let it Be Album was written by Paul during one of their country drives. “This song was about that: doing nothing, trying to get lost…[and] the wonderfully free attitude we were able to have”. Linda recalled the setting:
Scotland was like nothing I’d ever lived in. It was the most beautiful land you have ever seen, way at the end of nowhere. To me it was the first feeling I’d ever had of civilization dropped away…so different from all the hotels and limousines and the music business, so it was quite a relief.
He also began writing more of his songs away from the studio. “I found that I was enjoying working alone,” he said. He wrote the song “The Lovely Linda” for his debut solo album while they were staying in Scotland. In 1971 they both recorded the album Ram.
She became Lady McCartney when her husband was knighted in 1997. Her brother, entertainment lawyer John Eastman, has represented McCartney since the breakup of the Beatles.
McCartney introduced her husband to vegetarianism in 1975, and promoted a vegetarian diet through her cookbooks: Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking (with author Peter Cox, 1989), Linda’s Kitchen and Simple and Inspiring Recipes for Meatless Meals. She explained her change to vegetarianism by saying that she did not “eat anything with a face… If slaughterhouses had glass walls the whole world would be vegetarian“.
The McCartneys became outspoken vegetarians and animal rights activists. In 1991, she introduced a line of frozen vegetarian meals under the Linda McCartney Foods name, which made her wealthy independently of her husband. The H. J. Heinz Company acquired the company in March 2000, and the Hain Celestial Group bought it in 2007.
As a strong advocate for animal rights, Linda lent her support to many organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Council for the Protection of Rural England and Friends of the Earth. She was also a patron of the League Against Cruel Sports. She narrated a TV advertisement for PETA, in which she said: “Have you ever seen a fish gasping for breath when you take it out of the water? They’re saying, ‘Thanks a lot for killing me. It feels great, you know.’ No! It hurts!” After her death, PETA created the Linda McCartney Memorial Award.
In 1984, McCartney was arrested in Barbados for possession of marijuana; her husband had been arrested in Los Angeles on the same charge in 1975. After flying to Heathrow Airport, London, she was arrested on charges of possession. She later commented that, while hard drugs are “disgusting“, marijuana is “pretty lightweight“.
McCartney was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995, and her condition soon grew worse as it spread to her liver. She died of the disease at the age of 56 on April 17, 1998, at the McCartney family ranch in Tucson, Arizona. Her family was with her when she died.
She was cremated in Tucson, and her ashes were scattered at the McCartney farm in Sussex, England. Her husband later suggested fans remember her by donating to breast cancer research charities that do not support animal testing, “or the best tribute – go veggie.” A memorial service was held for her at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, which was attended by George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Billy Joel, Elton John, David Gilmour, Peter Gabriel and other celebrities among a congregation of 700. A memorial service was also held at Riverside Church in Manhattan, two months after her death. “She was my girlfriend,” McCartney said at her funeral. “I lost my girlfriend.“
She left all her property to Paul, including royalties from books or records, and all rights to her photos. He has pledged to continue her line of vegetarian food, and to keep it free from genetically modified organisms.
Tributes and dedications
A few months after her death, the Edinburgh International Film Festival premiered Wide Prairie, a six-minute cartoon fantasy film she made with director Oscar Grillo.
In April 1999, Paul McCartney performed at the “Concert for Linda” tribute at the Royal Albert Hall, which had been organized by two of their friends, Chrissie Hynde and Carla Lane. Among the artists that performed, besides Paul, were George Michael, the Pretenders, Elvis Costello and Tom Jones. Paul closed the concert by dedicating the event to Linda, whom he called his “beautiful baby,” and all their beautiful children.
In January 2000, Paul announced donations in excess of $2,000,000 for cancer research at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson, where Linda received treatment. The donations, through the Garland Appeal, were made on the condition no animals would be used for testing purposes. Also in 2000, The Linda McCartney Centre, a cancer clinic, opened at The Royal Liverpool University Hospital. In November 2002, the Linda McCartney Kintyre Memorial Trust opened a memorial garden in Campbeltown, the main town in Kintyre, with a bronze statue of her made by her cousin, sculptor Jane Robbins.
Portrayals on screen
Linda McCartney and husband Paul appeared as themselves on an episode of Bread in 1988, and an episode of The Simpsons, called “Lisa the Vegetarian“, in 1995. After her death, The Simpsons’ 200th episode “Trash of the Titans“, which aired on April 26, 1998, and Paul McCartney’s Tuesday from 2000 (directed by Geoff Dunbar) were both dedicated to her memory. Simpsons executive producer Mike Scully said, “It just seemed like the right thing to do. Everyone here was surprised and saddened by her death.“
Elizabeth Mitchell and Gary Bakewell played the McCartneys in the 2000 TV movie The Linda McCartney Story. She was portrayed as “Linda Eastman” in the 1985 TV movie John and Yoko: A Love Story.
Paul’s statement on Linda’s death:
This is a total heartbreak for my family and I. Linda was, and still is, the love of my life, and the past two years we spent battling her disease have been a nightmare.
She never complained and always hoped to be able to conquer it. It was not to be.
Our beautiful children – Heather, Mary, Stella and James – have been an incredible strength during this time, and she lives on in all of them.
The courage she showed to fight for her causes of vegetarianism and animal welfare was unbelievable. How many women can you think of who would singlehandedly take on opponents like the meat and livestock commission, risk being laughed at, and yet succeed?
People who didn’t know her well, because she was a very private person, only ever saw the tip of the iceberg. She was the kindest woman I have ever met; the most innocent.
All animals to her were like Disney characters and worthy of love and respect. She was the toughest woman who didn’t give a damn what other people thought. She found it hard to be impressed by the fact that she was Lady McCartney. When asked whether people called her Lady McCartney, she said, “Somebody once did once, I think.”
I am privileged to have been her lover for 30 years, and in all that time, except for one enforced absence, we never spent a single night apart. When people asked why, we would say – “What for?”
As a photographer, there are few to rival her. Her photographs show an intense honesty, a rare eye for beauty.
As a mother, she was the best. We always said that all we wanted for the kids was that they would grow up to have good hearts; and they have.
Our family is so close that her passing has left a huge hole in our lives. We will never get over it, but I think we will come to accept it.
The tribute she would have liked best would be for people to go vegetarian, which, with the vast variety of foods available these days, is much easier than many people think. She got into the food business for one reason only, to save animals from the cruel treatment our society and traditions force upon them.
Anyone less likely to be a businesswoman I can’t think of, yet she worked tirelessly for the rights of animals, and became a food tycoon. When told a rival firm had copied one of her products, all she would say was, “Great, now I can retire.” She wasn’t in it for the money.
In the end, she went quickly with very little discomfort, and surrounded by her loved ones.
The kids and I were there when she crossed over. They each were able to tell her how much they loved her.
Finally, I said to her: “You’re up on your beautiful Appaloosa stallion. It’s a fine spring day. We’re riding through the woods. The bluebells are all out, and the sky is clear blue.”
I had barely got to the end of the sentence, when she closed her eyes, and gently slipped away.
She was unique and the world is a better place for having known her.
Her message of love will live on in our hearts forever.
I love you, Linda.
Last updated on November 10, 2018