The legendary singer first lost his mother and later, his wife to breast cancer. Even 20 years since Linda's death, he still misses her presence.
One of the pillars of The Beatles band and musician extraordinaire, Sir Paul McCartney was left devastated when he lost his wife Linda, a celebrated photographer, to breast cancer. They had been married from 1969 to the day she died and he was right by side through it all. The singer had also lost his mother, Mary McCartney, to breast cancer.
Linda, as he puts it, put everyone at ease. She helped him find himself even when he was lost. "Until I met Linda, I panicked when I got lost, you know?” he told the Guardian. The couple would just take off on long drives to "just anywhere" and when they landed in places they didn't know he would say he's a "bit lost." Her response to that was always "great." Everything they saw and did became an inspiration for the award-winning photographer and for him too.
In fact, he wrote the "song Two of Us about that – ‘Two of us riding nowhere / Spending someone’s hard-earned pay.’ That was one of those excursions, when we were first going out together, this great idea of getting lost."
The award-winning photographer's identity had become shadowed by his fame somewhere along the way and in later years people saw her talent for what it was. In 1968, her photo of another legend Eric Clapton was the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine and she was the first female photographer to have that achievement on her belt, according to Metro UK.
"I always used to joke that I ruined Linda’s career,” says Paul McCartney. “She became known as ‘Paul’s wife’, instead of the focus being on her photography. But, as time went on, people started to realize that she was the real thing. So, yeah, she eventually did get the correct reputation, but at first it was just blown out of the water by the headline-grabbing marriage.”
The couple married in 1969 and had four children, Heather, 56, Mary, 49, Stella, 47, and James, 41. Their time together had been so life-changing for him that when she passed away in 1998 after struggling for three years with breast cancer, he was left entirely bereft.
When they met, the NYC photographer asked him, "When I met Linda and we were becoming a couple she said 'haven't you got a place up in Scotland?'...We went up and she totally fell in love with it. She loved the wildness and she loved horse riding and animals generally," he said. He describes their time together as "domestic."
In Kintyre, Scotland she would photograph "old biddies and bonnie babies in prams," he says. The family would escape to Scotland often for the "freedom" it gave them.
"I think I cried for about a year on and off. You expect to see them walk in, this person you love, because you are so used to them," he said. "I cried a lot. It was almost embarrassing except it seemed the only thing to do," he told BBC. He remembers her fondly even though it has been two decades since she left. "She always put people at ease. She had a way of disarming you," he said.
She wasn't the first loved one he lost to breast cancer either. He lost his mother, Mary, after whom he named a daughter, and the worst thing about that period in his life was that nobody spoke about their grief. The 14-year-old Paul was forced to grapple with the grief of losing his mother on his own.
"We had no idea what my mum had died of because no-one talked about it. She just died. The worse thing about that was everyone was very stoic, everyone kept a stiff upper lip and then one evening you'd hear my dad crying in the next room. It was tragic because we'd never heard him cry. It was a quiet private kind of grief," he said.
In contrary to that, his grief had been very open. He even now makes sure that the world knows how talented she was. He makes sure that there are books of her photographs and exhibitions of work so that the world can see what he saw in the love of his life. Their love, despite their fame, was a slow-burning flame that is still lit because of him.