Linda McCartney, who died of breast cancer at age 56, is remembered as more than the wife of a former Beatle - she was a successful photographer, musician and animal rights activist who built a multi-million dollar vegetarian food business.
Raised in Scarsdale, New York, she was a Fine Arts major at the University of Arizona. It was while living in Arizona that her passion for photographs began. But it was not until she returned to New York that this self-taught photographer began her career - while working for Town and Country magazine in the early sixties.
Seizing an opportunity to photograph the Rolling Stones on a yacht on the Hudson River, Linda discovered that her work was immediately in demand.
Coupling photography with her love of rock and rhythm & blues, Linda specialized in capturing the character of the musicians. She worked with Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, the Who, Simon and Garfunkel, B. B. King, Bob Dylan, Otis Redding and the Beatles - subsequently meeting her husband of 29 years, Paul.
Linda was a Rolling Stone photographer, and her work with rock stars has appeared in magazines around the world. Exhibitions of her photography have also appeared in galleries worldwide.
A vegetarian and ardent animal-lover, Linda did much to help the causes of Lynx - the U.K. anti-fur lobby - and the People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). She also worked extensively for The Council For The Protection of Rural England and Friends Of The Earth, highlighting environmental dangers.
In 1989, Linda published Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking. The book became the biggest-selling vegetarian cookbook ever in the U.K. and a best-seller in the States.
In the '90s, she introduced a very successful line of animal-free food products.
Shortly after Linda passed away in April 1998, Sir Paul issued this touching statement to her fans and the press:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was traveling in Jerusalem when the death was announced, issued a statement saying he and his wife Cherie were very saddened by the news. "Linda showed extraordinary courage throughout her illness," Blair said. "She made a tremendous contribution across a whole range of British life."
Former Wings drummer Denny Seiwell said the McCartneys were inseparable. "His security was Linda ... having her there all of the time was very important to him. He was let down in the whole Beatle breakup thing; he had an ill feeling from that whole period. Linda was a security blanket for him. They had great love for each other," he said.
Anthony DeCurtis, a music critic for Rolling Stone, noted that "Paul and Linda got together as the Beatles were splitting up. She was a tower of strength for him during that period. This was not celebrity marriage, not a rock-and-roll marriage."
"She led Paul in a domestic direction, in a concentration on their family," DeCurtis said. "They were both a little wild in the '60s but when they met each other, they settled each other down and just stayed together."
During the British Academy Awards following Linda's death, there was a moving tribute from movie producer David Puttnam who called Linda McCartney "a remarkable woman who was half of a remarkable marriage."
Andrew Butler, a spokesman for PETA, said Linda McCartney's greatest legacy will be her animal rights work, including her line of vegetarian foods. "We'll work harder in her name," said Dan Mathews, a campaign director for the Washington-based group.
Calling her a "visionary," The Vegetarian Society said "her contribution to vegetarianism was tremendous. Linda had a passion and a desire to change people's attitudes. Her positive outlook and dedication to promoting a diet that would bring about the end of animal suffering was absolute."
Paul paid an emotional tribute to Linda at a memorial service for her at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London.
Standing alone in front of members of his family and 700 friends, Paul compared her to a diamond with many glittering facets.
Speaking without notes and visibly checking his emotions, Paul said, "She was my girlfriend."
Pointing to two Shetland ponies, Schoo and Tinsel, which he had given to his wife, Paul said, "She would have loved this."
Sitting in the front row with the McCartneys' children, Heather, Mary, Stella and James, were George Harrison and Ringo Starr, the three Beatles together in public for the first time in three decades.
Family and friends congregated in Manhattan's Riverside Church for a stateside memorial service two months after she succumbed to breast cancer. The service was closed to the public and press, but Paul released a transcript of his speech.
"It's a very sad time for all of us, but she would not want us to be sad, but to count our blessings as there are so many of them," Paul said. "I was so lucky to be the one she chose. I want to thank New York. Linda was born here, and she was a true New Yorker. She was a friend, a beautiful friend, to so many people."
Among the mourners attending the service were director Mike Nichols and his wife, broadcaster Diane Sawyer, as well as recording artists Paul Simon, Twiggy, Neil Young, and Chrissie Hynde.
Sir Paul McCartney had made few appearances in the year after Linda's death, but did manage to appear and perform at his March, 1999 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. He dedicated his induction to Linda.
Paul unexpectedly performed on stage at an animal charities concert held in Linda's honor at Royal Albert Hall in April, 1999.
Paul said he mustered the strength to appear at the tribute concert because of the emotional support he's received from his late wife's fans. George Michael, the Pretenders, Elvis Costello, Tom Jones and others appeared to celebrate the life of the photographer and dedicated animal welfare supporter. Michael, who made his first live performance in three years at the event, noted that his mother also lost a battle with breast cancer.
Paul performed one of Linda's favorite songs, Ricky Nelson's Lonesome Town, followed by the Beatles' All My Loving. He was joined by all the headliners in a rousing version of Let It Be. His voice cracked with emotion as he told the audience, "She's with us, she's loving it."
Paul was equally as enthusastic over a display of Linda's photos at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
"It's lovely that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be showing her stuff," said McCartney. "I think her collection of '60s photographs is the definitive collection. I'm her proud husband. I'm obviously going to be over the top about it."
At the suggestion of a fan, Paul and Linda had been compiling an album of Linda's musical recordings shortly before her death. Supervised by Sir Paul, Wide Prairie was released posthumously.
Another project didn't meet with Paul's approval: a four-hour miniseries based on a biography by longtime family "friend" Danny Fields, which Paul considered factually challenged. Paul said the project cheapened Linda's memory, and urged fans to ignore it.
Another annoyance for Sir Paul was the discovery that some of Linda's food products tested positive for genetically-modified soya in a TV news exposé. Just days after the broadcast, Paul announced that all soya had been removed from the vegetarian ready-meals. As part of a £3,000,000 refit, Linda McCartney Foods put its stamp on the anti-GM debate with new packaging bearing the words "Say No To GMO."
"Before we start messing around with nature, I think we've really got to think very hard," the former Beatle told reporters. "I hope it's not too late."
In a July 1999 classical music tribute to Linda, Paul and eight classical musicians premiered new compositions at Charterhouse School in Surrey. Royalties from the pieces - including Noma, composed by Paul - go directly to cancer research. Eight compositions for string quartet on McCartney's subsequent Working Classical CD were dedicated to Linda.
"I think the song 'Warm And Beautiful' works really well and it's my favorite of the arrangements and that one really does get to me. It captures some of my innermost feelings for Linda," said Paul upon the album's release in 2001.
Two months later, Sir Paul hosted the PETA Gala in Los Angles and performed songs from his newly-completed Run Devil Run album. In addition to three new compositions, the album contained cover songs of his and Linda's all-time favorites. Paul was reduced to tears by Sarah McLachlan's performance of Angel - a song he said described the qualities of his late wife. PETA's first Linda McCartney Memorial Award was given to Pamela Anderson Lee for her campaign against fur.
In November 1999, Paul & Linda's daughter, fashion designer Stella McCartney, said she'd like to see women be more vigilant for the signs of breast cancer. She said she wanted to use whatever fame she gained for calling attention to the importance of frequent breast exams.
In January 2000, Paul announced donations in excess of $2,000,000 for cancer research at facilities in Tucson and New York where Linda had received treatment. The donations, through the Garland Appeal, were made on the condition no animals would be used for testing purposes.
Sir Paul joined British composer John Tavener to launch a classical album dedicated to Linda. A Garland For Linda featured contributions by the two along with seven other contemporary composers.
"What happened to Linda happens to many others. We must do all we can to fight cancer," Paul wrote in a booklet to accompany the CD. "Music does have an extraordinary power to move people and to provide a source of hope."
"I pray that through A Garland For Linda, the Garland Appeal can achieve its worthwhile goals to the benefit of music, musicians and cancer sufferers everywhere."
More tragedy struck the McCartney family in early 2000 when Linda's first husband shot himself to death at his home in Tucson. Joseph Melville See, Jr. had reportedly suffered from severe depression since Linda's death. He was the father of Heather, whom Paul adopted when he married Linda in 1969. See, who was assumed to be the Jo Jo character in the Beatles' tune Get Back, was 62.
In a letter to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in February 2000, Sir Paul urged him to fight the corruption that leads to the transport and slaughter of cows from India. "The skins of these 'sacred cows' end up in stores in New York, London and all over the world," he said.
In March 2000, the conglomerate which acquired Linda McCartney Foods, the H. J. Heinz Company, announced initial results of its Lycopene Research Project, concluding that the anti-oxidants in processed tomatoes appear to reduce the risks of breast cancer. Ketchup, tomato soup and tomato juice are efficient sources of lycopene, the pigment which makes tomato products red. Concentrated levels of lycopene occur in reduced foods, with 12 milligrams per 100 grams in tomato kethcup, compared to fresh tomatoes, which have just 3 milligrams per 100 grams.
Linda's long-time friend, architectual artist Brian Clarke, completed designs for a 62-foot-long stained glass wall in late March 2000. The project was dedicated to the memory of Linda. The public was invited to watch the complex installation process for the massive piece. The wall - which depicts sky, land and water - was designed to create a compelling glow at night when lit from within the Corning Glass Museum building.
In May of 2000, daughter Mary McCartney spent three hours photographing Leo, the first baby born to a serving British prime minister for 150 years. Tony & Cherie Blair had been offered six-figure sums by celebrity magazines, but opted for a 14-picture portfolio by McCartney that could raise up to one million pounds for cancer charities. Cherie Blair was deeply moved by the photos of a smiling Linda taken by Mary just weeks before her mother died.
"Her mother would, to say the least, have been incredibly proud of her - and she probably is,'' said Paul.
Daughter Stella, who rose to the status of world-famous fashion designer after joining French fashion house Chloe, struck a deal with Gucci in 2001 to start her own line. Stella was announced as creative director of the new company - owned jointly by her and Gucci Group NV - with full creative control and autonomy, according to the official statement from Gucci.
"Gucci and Stella McCartney announce ... they have entered a definitive agreement to develop a new Stella McCartney label as a global luxury brand, focused on luxury women's ready-to-wear and accessories," the Italian firm said in a statement.
Stella was credited with helping turn around the fortunes of the ailing fashion house Chloe, whose sales quadrupled since she joined it in 1997.
In 2001, MPL Communications announced that America's ABC-TV would air Wingspan, a comprehensive rockumentary on Paul & Linda's post-Beatles band. The broadcast would be accompanied by the release of a compilation CD.
"Wingspan," announced MPL, "tells how McCartney, devastated by the breakup of the Beatles, tried to restart his career from scratch; and how he would take his entire family (including pets) and the rest of the band around Britain, humbly asking for work. The group drove themselves in a van to small halls and venues - sometimes unannounced and uninvited - with admission prices to see them costing as little as 33 cents."
Among the revelations in Wingspan: the depth of emotions McCartney felt after the breakup of the Beatles, and Linda's role in helping him through it. Although the transition seemed smooth then, with the McCartney solo album coming out at the same time as the Beatles' swan song "Let It Be," McCartney told Launch.com that it was actually a very dark period in his life.
"I was quite broken up by the end of the Beatles," he said. "I'd been trying to hold them together, but it was something that wasn't to be. So, you know, I went into a bit of a depression after that. And I'm normally quite optimistic, but, you know, I'd just lost the best job in the world, and anyone who's just even ever lost a job knows how that feels."
McCartney added that it was Linda who helped him to recover. "To have lost such a great job ... it was quite a shock," Sir Paul said. "So that took a little while, but Linda helped me out of that and encouraged me to sort of get back on my feet and said, 'What are you gonna do now?'"
In July of 2001, Sir Paul proposed to model-activist Heather Mills during a trip to Britain's Lake District. McCartney & Mills were married at Castle Leslie in Ireland on June 11, 2002, exactly one week before Paul's 60th birthday. They had a child, Beatrice, two years later. In May of 2006, Paul and Heather announced they were separating; their divorce was finalized in March 2008.
In the late summer of 2002, Stella and Mary McCartney made their first visit to a cancer clinic named after their mother Linda. The Linda McCartney Centre - at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital - was opened in 2000 after a five-year campaign to raise £4 million. Daughter Heather said she was delighted by the facility being dedicated to her mother, adding, "She should be here telling you this herself."
In November of 2002, a memorial garden was opened near Scotland's Mull of Kintyre with the dedication of a bronze statue of Linda by sculptor Jane Robbins, commissioned and donated by Sir Paul. A statement issued by Stella and Mary read: "Scotland was one of mum's favourite places and it is wonderful to have a permanent statue to remind us of the great times we spent with her there." The garden is in the Kintyre Peninsula's main town, Campbeltown.
In 2006, Paul released his fourth classical album, Ecce Cor Meum (Behold My Heart). Containing passages inspired by the memory of Linda, Ecce Cor Meum had been more than eight years in the making. Its origins followed in the historic tradition of composers that have been commissioned to write music for the world-renowned Magdalen College Oxford.
To observe the 10th anniversary of Linda's passing, Paul announced a special exhibit of her photography would take place at London's James Hyman Gallery in April 2008. Paul and his daughter, photographer Mary McCartney, spent three years preparing the exhibit.
"The photographs not only illustrate her incredible talent as an artist, but as someone who was very much connected to the culture of the times and wasn't afraid to challenge herself or her subject," said Paul.
Sources: Paul McCartney, Archer & Valerie Productions, Carbray News Service, MPL Communications, Ltd., PR Newswire. Images courtesy of EmiCap Promotions & MPL Communications, Ltd., except 'The Simpsons' courtesy of Gracie Films, glass mural courtesy of Corning, Inc., Linda McCartney Foods logo ©1999 H. J. Heinz, Inc.