10 Things You Didn’t Know About Linda McCartney
As an American photographer who was thrust into the spotlight as a bandmate of husband Paul's during his post-Beatles bands, Linda McCartney withstood much criticism, despite being a credentialed artist in her own right. Stories about her – from her family lineage to a particularly damaging tape that supposedly features a truly awful isolated backing vocal – haven't helped her reputation. When she died in 1998 after a three-year battle with cancer, Linda left behind four children (three with Paul and one from a previous marriage) as well as a thriving company built around her vegetarian lifestyle and a wealth of songs devoted to her. And not all of them, it turns out, are by her legendary songwriting husband, as you'll see on our list of the 10 Things You Didn't Know About Linda McCartney.
Paul McCartney wrote many songs with Linda in mind – from hits like "Maybe I'm Amazed" and "My Love" to album cuts "We Got Married" and "Golden Earth Girl." But he wasn't the only one, or even the first. Jack Lawrence (a client of her entertainment-lawyer father) composed "Linda" for the future Mrs. McCartney in 1947, when she was just six years old. It was a hit for Buddy Clark, and was later recorded by Jan and Dean and Perry Como.
In one of her first interviews after marrying Paul, the former Linda Eastman said, "I don't know how that mistake came about, except through the name and the fact that I am a photographer." Yet the rumor has persisted. Her father actually changed his name to Lee Eastman, having been born to Jewish Russian immigrants as Leopold Vail Epstein. George Eastman, who founded the Eastman Kodak camera and film company, was not related to anyone in Linda's family.
Having married Paul during the Beatles' Abbey Road period, and then being a full-time member of his various projects after that, Linda is most associated with her husband's music. But here she waxes poetic about another key '60s figure, guitar god Jimi Hendrix: "Seeing and hearing and hanging around Hendrix, oh, I can't even put it into words. That man ... the greatest moments weren't when he was playing a concert. It was more sitting in a hotel room with him, and he'd start to play and just jam all night. Oh, I tell you maybe the best memory of Hendrix was when he was recording Electric Ladyland. Those sessions when he was playing guitar, organ, drums, everything."
A picture taken of Neil Young in 1968 by Linda was used as the cover image four decades later for Young's 2008 album Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House. Over the years, she also shot Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Grace Slick, Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, the Animals, Simon and Garfunkel, the Doors, the Who and – in her first-ever assignment, for Town & Country magazine – the Rolling Stones.
A committed animal-rights activist, Linda founded a vegetarian-food company in the '90s, just before making a memorable appearance on a 1995 episode of The Simpsons titled "Lisa the Vegetarian." Lisa, after becoming taken with a lamb at a petting zoo, gives up eating meat and succeeds with the help of a cartoon Linda McCartney.
As Linda's breast cancer advanced to her liver, Paul elected not to tell her that the end was near. "I talked it over with the doctor," McCartney remembered on the 10th anniversary of his wife's passing, "and he said, 'I don't think she would want to know. She is such a strong, forward-thinking lady and such a positive girl that I don't think it would do any good.'" Linda continued horseback riding until the day before she died in 1998.
Guitarist Johnny Marr told NME that his indie-rock band the Smiths offered Linda the chance to guest star on their 1986 album The Queen is Dead, and she demurred. Frontman Morrissey had written her, asking if she would take over piano duties on the song "Frankly, Mr. Shankly" because Marr said "we were big fans of hers."
Linda, who admittedly never had plans for a music career before her husband thrust her onstage, was often the subject of fan ridicule. A tape that purported to be Linda singing dreadfully off-key during a performance of "Hey Jude" even made the rounds. In a 1989 interview, Linda said she took such things in stride: "Does it really matter? If I wasn’t married to Paul, it wouldn’t matter. I think I’m the opposite of what most people think – basically a kind person. Some of the criticism I get may be jealousy."
Paul oversaw the 1998 release of a posthumous album of previously unheard Linda recordings called Wide Prairie that included a profanity-laced track that he claimed was banned by the BBC. "The Light Comes From Within," taken from Linda's final recording sessions, mocks those who had criticized her vegetarian lifestyle, animal-rights activism and, yes, musical talents.
Critics can mock her all they want, but Linda is credited as co-writer on a whopping five chart-topping Wings hits, including "Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey," "My Love," "Band on the Run," "Listen to What the Man Said" and "Silly Love Songs." The James Bond theme "Live and Let Die," credited to Linda and Paul, even netted a coveted Oscar nomination. She also co-wrote other Top 10 hits, including "Another Day," "Junior's Farm" and "Let 'Em In."