Linda McCartney was an American photographer, musician, publisher and activist. She was married to Paul McCartney of the Beatles. She photographed major music bands and was known as the most talented celebrity photographer. Her love affair with Paul McCartney became the national headline and she married him in 1969. She proved to be unlucky for the band though and just one year later after her marriage to Paul, the Beatles broke up. Her musical aspirations were set free and she started a band ‘Wings’ with her husband in 1971. Linda maintained that she was a hard core vegetarian since her childhood due to her love for animals and she became a part of several campaigns for animal rights. Before dying of cancer in 1998, Linda had published many books of her photographs such as ‘Sun Prints’ and ‘Roadworks’. Linda also co-founded Linda McCartney Foods Company in partnership with her husband Paul.
Childhood & Early Life
Linda McCartney was born in New York City on 24th September 1941 to a famous entertainment lawyer, Leopold Epstein, and Louis Sara. Her father was a prominent man among the celebs and represented them in the court of law, with some of his clients including big names such as Tommy Dorsey, Harold Arlen and Jack Lawrence. On the request of her father, Jack Lawrence even wrote a song titled 'Linda' for Linda when she was young. This constant touch with artists and people from entertainment business encouraged Linda to pursue a career in the field.
Linda grew up along with her siblings at the Scarsdale town and graduated from Scarsdale high school in 1959. By then, she had made up her mind to become an artist and was determined to pursue art as a career, but her father was somewhat non-supportive of this decision. He wanted her to pursue law, like him. But Linda listened to her heart and went on to get a degree in Associates of Art in 1961.
Meanwhile, her elder brother John got enrolled at the Harvard University to study law and her other two younger sisters were also on their way to become lawyers.
For this reason, she was considered as the ‘black sheep’ in the family and she was not much ambitious about a career in law or anything like that. She explored her passion amidst the nature and took up photography as a hobby while in University of Arizona. During her post graduation in Fine Arts, her mother died of a plane crash, which was a major blow to Linda and her family. For that sole reason, Linda always hated travelling by air. Grieving because of her mother’s demise, Linda went into depression and ended up marrying Melville See.
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When Linda came back to her senses, she realized what mistake she had made by marrying Melville and she divorced him and made a move back to Manhattan to her paternal home with her daughter. Town & Country magazine hired her for the job of receptionist and as an editorial assistant in 1965. While working there, she fell in love with a photographer, David Dalton. She got inspired from the way David shot his photographs and she learnt the basic intricacies of lighting, composition, tone and framing from him.
Slowly, Linda started taking up photography assignments on her own, featuring music groups mostly, due to her interest towards music and musicians. David later said that Linda had a certain charm which handled the ‘stubborn’ musicians easily. Her outwardly beauty enchanted them and they could never say ‘no’ to Linda. She was doing what very few people were able to. Somehow, the time went on and Linda rose from an amateur photographer to a professional.
The biggest turning point in her career came when she was selected by the magazine to photograph the Rolling Stones, the biggest band of its era. She went on the yacht and clicked several photographs of the band members candidly. Her father asked her to at least get a formal training in photography but Linda refused, saying she didn’t have the patience for it and learning on the job is much better than learning in theory. In the middle of all this, she got a chance to shoot Beatles backstage during one of their concerts at Shea stadium.
Slowly and steadily, Linda rose to become the photographer at the Fillmore East concert hall, where she photographed the likes of John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, the Doors, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young along with many top rockers. She was having a time of her life and during this period, she met with Beatles’ lead singer and guitarist Paul McCartney and the couple started dating almost immediately, eventually getting married in 1969 and by that time, she had become a keen music enthusiast.
Beatles parted ways in 1970, but Paul wanted to continue his music and he started a band named 'Wings' with Linda in 1971. Paul taught her to play keyboards and the couple came out with their album ‘Ram’, their first effort as a duo in the same year. Paul was appreciated but Linda’s musical talents were questioned by the critics. She quickly improved and the duo became one of the most successful British musical groups in the 70s, garnering acclaim and several Grammy awards.
For the song ‘Live and Let Die’, Linda and Paul received an Oscar nomination and Linda’s album ‘Wide Praire’, which was recorded during that time, was released much later in 1998, after her death. All her life, Linda faced the criticism of being successful in her husband’s shadow and Linda herself admitted that she was nowhere near as talented as her husband and all the credit of bringing her to the limelight goes to him.
Linda McCartney’s personal life was as famous as her professional one, if not more. She married twice; first during the college, right after her mother died. She started dating Melville See while in Arizona University and married in June 1963, and gave birth to his daughter, Heather, six months into the marriage.
Linda was a different person than her husband and wanted a different lifestyle. While he was an academic, she was a free living woman, who wanted to just be in the arms of nature. These differences in ideologies led to a bitter divorce three years after the marriage and Linda went on to win the custody of her daughter.
In May 1965, Linda met Paul McCartney during one of her photography assignments and the couple started meeting regularly. About her, Paul said that other than the fact that she was attractive and loved taking care of him, the biggest quality that attracted him to her was her independent spirit, and her attitude to not take life seriously. Paul met Heather, Linda’s daughter sometime later and said that she was a beautiful kid and one of the many reasons why he always wanted to be around them.
Paul was a Casanova and was known to have affairs with several women at the same time and it was speculated in the media that this relationship was doomed. But Paul proved all of them wrong and openly claimed that he had found ‘the one’ and got married to Linda in 1969. During that time, Beatles was going through a tough time and when it broke in 1970, Paul went into severe depression. He gave his wife all the credit of helping him during that difficult time and the couple remained married to each other until Linda’s death. During their time together, Linda gave birth to three of Paul’s children.
Death & Legacy
First diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995, Linda remained calm and didn’t let anyone know how ill she was. She was always full of life, but despite getting the treatment, the cancer spread to her liver and she died on 17th April 1998, at the age of 56. She left all her possessions, including photographs, to her husband Paul. Paul then donated more than 2 million dollars for cancer research in memory of his late wife.
A great artist and better human being, Linda was a kind hearted woman who fought for animal rights all her life. She remained a vegetarian and attempted to turn Paul into one. Though she was unable to do so while she lived, her death did the trick and Paul became a vegan in order to honour the only woman he truly loved.
‘Open Wide: Photographs’ is one of the many collections of her photographs which were released one year after her death. She also started a food line with the name 'Linda McCartney foods', which sold frozen vegetarian food items.