First, she snagged the Beatle most girls idolized. Then they went on to enjoy that rock 'n' roll rarity, a long and, by all accounts, happy marriage. Ordinary folk could be forgiven for envying Linda McCartney before she died of breast cancer on April 17. Born in 1942 to a wealthy entertainment lawyer and his heiress wife in Scarsdale, N.Y., Linda Eastman was an accomplished photographer when she met The Beatles in 1967, at the time that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band appeared. Two years later, she married Paul McCartney, breaking the hearts of millions of besotted teenagers. In 1971 - a year after The Beatles disbanded - the couple formed the group Wings. Meanwhile, the McCartneys had three children (Linda had a daughter, Heather, now a 35-year-old potter, from a previous marriage): Mary, 27, who works for a music publisher, Stella, 25, a designer for the Paris fashion house Chloe, and James, 19, a music student. In 1991, Linda started a vegetarian food manufacturing company, McVege, that became an $86-million-a-year enterprise.
There were a few low points. Linda had to endure the same taunt, though to a lesser extent, that was hurled at Yoko Ono when she married John Lennon: that she was responsible for breaking up the Fab Four. But hers seemed an essentially charmed life until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995. In March, tests revealed that it had spread to her liver.
Still, the McCartneys were able to make the best of misfortune. Two days before her death, Linda indulged in her lifelong passion for horseback riding, taking a final canter on her favorite Appaloosa on their ranch east of Tucson, Ariz. She died with her husband and children at her side. Her body was cremated, and the ashes immediately flown back to England, where they were scattered over their farm in Sussex.
But that wasn't the story the family originally told. It was first reported that her death took place in Santa Barbara, Calif., but last week, the sheriff's department there launched an investigation into why no death certificate had been filed. There was even widespread speculation that her death was an assisted suicide. But the inquiry was closed after a family spokesman, Geoff Baker, admitted that Linda had, in fact, died in Arizona, and the ruse was intended to buy the McCartneys some private time to grieve. Baker also flatly dismissed the speculation about assisted suicide as "rubbish." Paul seemed unconcerned about the controversy. A friend reported him declaring: "It doesn't really matter what they say. The only thing I want is to get her back, and I can't have that."
Maclean's May 4, 1998