McCartney, Linda (1941–1998)

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McCartney, Linda (1941–1998)

American photographer, vegetarian cookbook author, entrepreneur, animal-rights activist and wife of Paul McCartney . Name variations: Linda Eastman. Born Linda Louise Eastman on September 24, 1941, in Scarsdale, New York; died of breast cancer in Tucson, Arizona, on April 17, 1998; daughter of Lee V. Eastman (an entertainment lawyer) and Louise (Linder) Eastman; graduated from Scarsdale High School, 1959; attended University of Arizona in Tucson; married Joseph Melville See (a geology student), around 1960 (divorced 1963); married Paul McCartney (British composer, musician, and member of the Beatles), on March 12, 1969; children: (first marriage) Heather See (a potter); (second marriage) Mary McCartney (a photographer); Stella McCartney (a fashion designer); James McCartney (a musician).

Discovered photography while a student at University of Arizona; moved to New York City with daughter (1965); began career as a photographer (1966), getting exclusive photos of the Rolling Stones rock band; specialized in photos of pop and rock bands, often at the beginning of their careers; photographed the Beatles in London (1967), and met Paul McCartney; continued to pursue career as a rock photographer, with work published in magazines around the world, while conducting an on-and-off romance with McCartney; moved to London to live with McCartney (1968); married McCartney (1969); sang harmonies on husband's solo albums post-Beatles (1970–71); became a vegetarian in early 1970s, campaigned for animal rights until her death; sang and played keyboards despite no musical training with husband's band Wings (1971–80), and with husband's unnamed band (1980–97); published first cookbook (1989); launched McVege line of frozen vegetarian products (1991); company had grown to sales of $50 million by 1998; first solo album, 20 years in the making, released posthumously; photographs appeared in two posthumous exhibits: in Liverpool, England, and as part of a traveling exhibit of Rolling Stone magazine covers (1998).

Selected writings:

Linda's Pictures: A Collection of Photographs (Random House, 1976); Photographs (Simon & Schuster, 1982); Linda McCartney's Sun Prints (Salem House, 1989); Linda McCartney's Home Cooking (Arcade Pub., 1989); Linda McCartney's Sixties: Portrait of an Era (Bulfinch Press, 1992); Linda's Kitchen: Simple and Inspiring Recipes for Meatless Meals (Little, Brown, 1995); Roadworks (Bulfinch Press, 1996); Linda McCartney on Tour: 200 Meat-Free Dishes from Around the World (Little, Brown, 1998).

Album credits:

(backing vocals) McCartney (Apple/Capitol, 1970); (with husband) Ram (Apple/Capitol, 1971), McCartney II (Columbia, 1980), Tug of War (Columbia, 1982), Pipes of Peace (Columbia, 1983), Give My Regards to Broad Street (Columbia, 1984), Press to Play (Capitol, 1986), All the Best (Capitol, 1987), Flowers in the Dirt (Capitol, 1989), Tripping the Live Fantastic (Capitol, 1990), Off the Ground (Capitol, 1993), Flaming Pie (1997); (withWings) Wildlife (Apple/Capitol, 1971), Red Rose Speedway (Apple/Capitol, 1973), Band on the Run (Apple/Capitol, 1973), Venus and Mars (Capitol, 1975), Wings at the Speed of Sound (Capitol, 1976), Wings Over America (Capitol, 1976), London Town (Capitol, 1978), Wings' Greatest (Capitol, 1978), Back to the Egg (Columbia, 1979); (with husband, as Suzy and the Red Stripes) single "Seaside Woman" (1977), single "The White-Coated Man" (1994); (solo) Wide Prairie (1998).


Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984); Get Back (1991).

Linda McCartney, a non-technical photographer who could not be bothered much with shutter speeds and f-stops, nonetheless produced an impressive body of work, resulting in several published photography collections. As a nonviolent animal-rights activist and passionate proponent of vegetarianism, she also authored cookbooks and established a successful business featuring a line of frozen vegetarian products. As well, she was an indifferent vocalist and keyboard player who freely admitted her lack of talent, but her enduring celebrity resulted from her 29-year marriage to Paul McCartney of the Beatles, the seminal British rock band of the 1960s.

Born Linda Louise Eastman in 1941 in Scarsdale, New York, she was one of four children, and grew up in a wealthy and artistic environment. Her mother Louise Linder Eastman was an heiress, the daughter of the head of the Linder department store chain. Her father Lee V. Eastman, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants named Epstein, was a self-made man who received a scholarship to Harvard University when he was 16, changed his last name to Eastman, and became a show-business lawyer. His friends and clients, who were frequent dinner guests, included Hopa-long Cassidy, Fritz Kline, Hoagy Carmichael, and Willem de Kooning. One of them, composer Jack Lawrence, wrote the song "Linda" for Eastman's six-year-old daughter. A hit in 1947 for Buddy Clark, it was later recorded by both Perry Como and the duo Jan and Dean.

An animal lover even as a child, Linda recalled for OK Magazine that she "was forever filling the house with injured squirrels or birds that needed nursing." She was very close to her mother, who died in a plane crash when Linda was 18. Moving to Tucson, for a time she studied art history at the University of Arizona, where she was an unexceptional student. (She did not attend Sarah Lawrence College, as has often been written.) At 19, she married geology student Joseph Melville See, with whom she had a daughter, Heather See , before the marriage ended in 1963.

Discovering photography through her friend Hazel Archer , Linda was struck by the idea that photography could be art. "Photography made me a different person," she told Barry Miles, "because it was something I loved doing and just nothing else mattered." Without formal training, she learned by trial and error. When a visiting Shakespearean actor performing in Tucson asked her to take a publicity still, it resulted in her first published photo, in the British actors' directory Spotlight.

Moving to New York City with her daughter in 1965, Linda found employment as a receptionist at Town and Country magazine. In that position, she was able to intercept a press pass for a Rolling Stones press conference in 1966. Because the reception was being held on a yacht, space was limited, and a decision had been made to bar all photographers. Wrote Miles, "Linda refused to take no for an answer, and the Stones… so enjoyed the ensuing argument that they … let her stay." As the only photographer present, she was in a unique position; the journalists begged for her photos to go with their copy, and valuable contacts were made. As a result, Linda quit her job to pursue photography full time. Australian rock critic Lillian Roxon began to use her work in her Sydney Morning Herald column. Linda also did publicity stills for the Blues Project, a rock band, and soon was making a decent living. Her photos of the British supergroup Cream were included in the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine, and she continued to photograph many of the practitioners of rock before it became an industry, including Bob Dylan, the Doors, Janis Joplin , Simon and Garfunkel, Frank Zappa, and Jimi Hendrix. "There are few rock photographers with such a complete portfolio of sixties stars, in most cases taken at the very beginning of their career[s]," wrote Miles. "Linda always used natural light, never flash, which partially accounts for the intimate feeling of her portraits." Her collection would be published in 1992 as Linda McCartney's Sixties: Portrait of an Era.

In 1967, while photographing the Beatles in London, she met Paul McCartney; their romance was off-and-on for the next year. Although she was becoming well known in her field and her income was rising, by 1968 she had become disenchanted with the evolving big-business atmosphere of the music industry. That September, at Paul's invitation, the 25-year-old Linda moved to London, where their relationship flourished. Heather was brought over to join them, and the couple married on March 12, 1969, at London's Marylebone Registry Office. The Beatles had released the White Album in 1968 and would release both Yellow Submarine and Abbey Road in 1969; their fame was enormous, and Paul was the last unattached member of the band. Huge crowds of weeping female fans jammed the sidewalks in front of the registry office, although the wedding was supposed to have been a secret. Linda paid dearly for marrying Paul. "They would get back home and there was graffiti—American Slut Go Home," said her friend Danny Fields. "She had to deal with the hatred of fans. That was a difficult time for her."

But when the Beatles disbanded in 1970, Entertainment Weekly observed that Linda "more easily sidestepped the 'she broke up the Beatles' accusations that dogged Yoko Ono …. Indeed, with her grace and affability, Linda came to be seen as the good Beatle wife." Paul persuaded her to sing harmony on his first two post-Beatles solo albums, McCartney (1970) and Ram (1971). Although she was untrained musically, he wanted her with him as a member of Wings, the band he formed in 1971. "Her unpolished vocals invited derision," noted People, and although she frequently thought of quitting, a stubborn dislike of being told what to do and the lure of being with her husband always held sway. She stayed in the band, and the couple toured and performed together for many years; eventually, the fans were won over. In addition to her contributions to Wings, Linda wrote a few songs of her own. Two of these, "Seaside Woman" (1977) and "The White-Coated Man" (co-written with Carla Lane , 1994) were recorded with her husband under the name Suzy and the Red Stripes. As well, Paul has long told interviewers that any love song he has written since 1968 has been written for his wife, including "The Lovely Linda" and "My Love."

In the early 1970s, the McCartneys sat down to a meal of lamb, only to observe lambs ambling about outside their window. In that moment, they became vegetarians and advocates for animal rights. Linda's activism led the McCartneys to campaign against veal crates in France, to write letters to governments protesting whale hunting, and to spend thousands of pounds to save animals from slaughterhouses or testing facilities. The animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) awarded the McCartneys its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. The first of her vegetarian cookbooks, Linda McCartney's Home Cooking, was published in 1989. It was a bestseller in the United States and the biggest-selling cookbook ever in Great Britain. She also published Linda's Kitchen (1995) and had finished putting together Linda McCartney on Tour (1998), which featured 200 international vegetarian recipes, just before her death. In 1991, she introduced a successful line of frozen vegetarian foods called McVege; by 1998, sales had reached $50 million. Linda once noted that "vegetarianism isn't a business for me, it's a mission."

In 1995, Linda McCartney was diagnosed with breast cancer. With aggressive treatment, it was thought that she was beating the illness, but in March 1998 she received word that the disease had spread to her liver. She died the following month, while vacationing with her family in Tucson. (In an effort to deflect the attention of the press, an emissary for the family initially announced that she had died in Santa Barbara, California.) Her ashes were scattered at the family's estate in Sussex, England.

Following her death, several of her projects were brought to completion. Her last cookbook was published, and a photographic exhibit was mounted in Liverpool, England. An album, Wide Prairie, featuring 13 songs Linda had written over a 20-year period, was finished and released in 1998. Paul vowed to keep alive her crusade for animal rights, and two California performances of his Standing Stone Symphony were dedicated to her memory.

Mary Riddell , in recognition of Linda's stable 29-year marriage to a public icon, suggested in the New Statesman that despite her activism, talent and bravery, perhaps the most important aspect of Linda McCartney's legacy was her fulfillment of the role of wife and mother. (It has often been noted that in the course of their marriage the McCartneys never spent a night apart, except for Paul's short stint in jail for marijuana possession in 1980.) Calling the marriage "a bucolic vista of family togetherness and contented children," Riddell noted that Linda "exemplified the success of a mutually supporting, enduring relationship although McCartney herself noted that all marriages are difficult. She showed couple power was more exciting than power couples."

Linda McCartney's photographic work appeared on her husband's album covers for years, and has been shown all over the world, including exhibits at the International Center for Photography in New York City, the National Museum of Photography in Yorkshire, England, London's Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Royal Photographic Society in Bath, England. The first woman to shoot a Rolling Stone magazine cover (May 11, 1968), and the only woman both to have photographed (three) as well as appeared on Rolling Stone covers (twice, with her husband), she was represented in the touring commemorative show "30 Years of Rolling Stone covers," launched in May 1998. "I've had all sorts of labels stuck on me," she told OK Magazine in March 1998. "Now the new label is 'businesswoman.' Sure, I have this business. But what I am, what I am in myself, is a photographer."


The Day [New London, CT]. April 20, 1998; April 22, 1998.

Entertainment Weekly. May 1, 1998.

Helander, Brock. The Rock Who's Who, 2nd ed. NY: Schirmer Books, 1996.

The International Who's Who 1998–99. 62nd ed. London: Europa Publications, 1998.

Kansas City Star [MO]. April 19, 1998.

Los Angeles Times. July 21, 1998.

Media Industry Newsletter. April 27, 1998.

Miles, Barry. Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. NY: Henry Holt, 1997.

The New York Times. April 20, 1998; May 20, 2000.

OK Magazine. March 6, 1998.

People Weekly. May 4, 1998.

Press-Enterprise [Riverside, CA]. August 7, 1998; September 4, 1998; September 18, 1998.

Riddell, Mary. New Statesman. April 24, 1998.

suggested reading:

Fields, Danny. Linda McCartney: A Portrait. Renaissance, 2000.

related media:

"The Linda McCartney Story" (television movie), starring Elizabeth Mitchell and Gary Bakewell, was first shown on CBS on May 21, 2000.

Ellen Dennis French , freelance writer in biography, Murrieta, California

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McCartney, Linda (1941–1998)

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