The first time I met Linda was at one of the Beatles’ recording sessions. Paul introduced her to us. She was attractive, obviously—she had a sunshine smile—but I thought that there was a certain vulnerability about her. Later I came to understand that that impression was wrong, because when I think of Linda’s life, I think of a very strong woman.
One day, around the time of that first meeting, Paul brought in to the studio some photographs of Linda in New York, in front of the building where she grew up. She was wearing a camel coat and a white scarf, just looking casual and glancing around. That is the Linda I remember from that time.
During the Beatles’ sessions, Linda and I quickly learned that our husbands were not all buddy-buddy. John and Paul were both talented but very strong-willed people. There was some tension there. Linda and I left them alone. But we didn’t go chummy-chummy, wink-wink, “Aren’t they silly boys?” either. We both stood by our men. That was how we were.
Then came the Beatles’ breakup. The world blamed it on Linda and me. The attack was like a storm. I think the fans needed a scapegoat, and they chose us! We both had the love and protection of our husbands. Linda had that very much from Paul. But still, it could not have been easy for her.
The long years after the breakup were not easy, either. John and Paul were not talking. John and I would play Paul’s latest Wings record in our kitchen. John would say some nice things. He couldn’t say it to Paul, but when Paul was not around, John would say nice things about Paul. When Paul and Linda got a farm in Scotland, John said, “That’s Linda. She’s good for him.”
Was the ice finally starting to melt? In the late Seventies, Paul and Linda came to visit us a few times in New York. In a fine old Liverpool tradition, the two guys did most of the talking, and we sat beside them as Paul held Linda’s hand and John held mine. It was nice to see the guys talk after all those years, even if a little stiffness existed between them.
After John’s passing, Sean and I started to receive Linda’s beautiful calendar every year. We felt her warmth; and as a photographer she was getting into her most creative years.
We both wanted to show our farms to each other. I was about to go to London with Sean at the time. “Mine first, then,” Linda said. So Sean and I were invited to her farm. I say Linda’s farm, because you really felt Linda’s energy there – you just knew that she was the one who had created this environment for her husband and their children. There was something very real about the way they lived. They weren’t surrounded by servants or anything. And it was wonderful. Linda had horses and sheep – it was a working farm, not a manicured estate.
She and her children were doing things together. Seeing them with Sean was great. Hopefully, our children will be wiser than us.
What I noticed with sadness was that Paul and Linda’s children were living with the pain of what their mother went through. Their mother was attacked by the world and for a long time not recognized for her achievements. Everything that was good was considered the work of her husband, and everything the public did not approve of was considered her doing. I didn’t hear any of this from Linda. But when I met her children and saw how protective they were of their mother, I felt the pain of their knowledge that the world was not always kind to her.
When I heard of her illness, my first instinct was to share that with the fans at the concert I was giving in London and to pray together. But, of course, I couldn’t. So I dedicated the concert to “a friend in England who has been taken ill.” “Names!” they shouted. “No names!” I shouted back. That’s how it was. We were no-name friends.
The last conversation I had with her was in January this year. She sounded like the usual powerful and energetic Linda. I thought she had beaten the disease.
Linda and I did not meet up and have coffee and muffins in a corner cafe or anything like that. But we communicated. We communicated in deeds more than in words. When she was strong, I felt strong. She took a sad song and made it better. Her commitment to vegetarianism and animal rights brought her message to a wider audience than that of rock & roll. But her most important contributions were all made in private. Just like so many women before her, she made a difference in silence. It was nice to know you, Linda.