Call them the lonely hearts club. On March 12, 1969, starstruck girls took to the streets to weep: Paul McCartney, the 26-year-old Beatle, was kissing bachelorhood goodbye.
The lucky bride? Linda Eastman, a 27-year-old American, divorced, affluent, and already pregnant with Paul’s child. Detractors had dubbed Eastman — a professional rock photographer who’d reportedly slipped Paul her phone number while shooting a 1968 Beatles press conference in New York City — the Park Avenue Groupie, a judgment would-be Mrs. McCartneys were all too willing to accept.
”A Backstreet Boy could get married today and there would be a lot of boo-hoos…but I don’t think hysteria would follow,” says Danny Fields, a longtime friend of Linda’s and author of the upcoming biography Linda McCartney: A Portrait.
Eastman and McCartney seemed to click almost instantly. And though she had joked about marrying the cute Beatle ever since their first meeting, it wasn’t until Christmas of 1968 that Paul phoned Linda’s father — a prominent New York lawyer — to ask for her hand in marriage.
News broke of the wedding a day before the ceremony, so when the lovers arrived at London’s Marylebone Registry Office they were mobbed even as they tried to sneak in the back door. They said their I do‘s in a seven-minute civil ceremony while hundreds of fans waited outside. Having almost forgotten to buy a ring, Paul had persuaded a storekeeper to stay open late the night before. He settled on a simple gold band costing 12[pounds].
When the newlyweds emerged, the swarm was such that police had to lift Linda’s 6-year-old daughter, Heather (from her first marriage, to geologist Melvin See), above the crowd and whisk her back to the car. Linda tossed her bouquet to the crowd, Paul threw candy, and then they were off to an Anglican church in St. John’s Wood, where their union was blessed by a minister. Only a few close friends attended the ceremony or the reception that followed at the Ritz Hotel. In a futile attempt to prevent a mob scene, none of the Beatles showed.
For the next 29 years, the McCartneys seemed to enjoy one of the happiest showbiz marriages. They spent most of their time at their home in the Sussex countryside with their children (Stella, Mary, and James Louis eventually joined Heather). And when Paul did hit the road, Linda was at his side, first as a backup vocalist and keyboardist for Wings, and then as a constant companion during his solo years.
On April 17, 1998, Linda lost her battle against breast cancer. She was only 56 years old when her long and winding road with Paul tragically came to an end.