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    Paul McCartney Loses His "Lovely Linda"

    She was a photographer. A member of the 1970s band Wings. A vegetarian activist.

    But most of us remember Linda McCartney as the wife of a Beatle.

    Paul McCartney's wife of 29 years lost a two-year-plus battle with cancer Friday in Santa Barbara, California. Her husband and children were by her side. She was 56.

    "Paul is absolutely shipwrecked but his bravery is astonishing," a friend, Carla Lane, told London's Sun.

    "He told me, 'We will never get over it but we will have to get through it.' "

    The ex-Beatle, who lost his mother to breast cancer at age 14, was said to be at his southern England home Monday. Funeral services are pending.

    A spokesman for Sir Paul said there would be no statement from the knighted rocker until Thursday, at the earliest.

    "The coming days are going to be very difficult for Paul," his spokesman Geoff Baker said, in a statement. "People may not realize that with the exception of one occasion, Paul and Linda never spent a night apart in the 30 years that they have loved each other."

    Former bandmates, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, were both said to have called Paul with condolences.

    John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono, with whom Paul has feuded over the years, was "in a state of shock--very saddened" by Linda's death, her spokesman said.

    Denny Seiwell, the original drummer for Wings, the post-Beatles band that Paul formed with Linda in 1971, said the couple "had a great love for each other."

    "Anytime you saw a picture of Paul, Linda was there on his arm," Seiwell said.

    Linda McCartney was last seen in public five weeks ago. She and Paul attended a Paris fashion show for their designer daughter, Stella.

    In 1995, Linda disclosed she was suffering from breast cancer. Last month, it was learned the disease had spread to her liver.

    "The blessing was that the end came quickly, and she didn't suffer," a statement from Paul McCartney's office said.

    The statement added that the McCartneys had gone horseback riding, "one of her main passions," just two days prior to Linda's death.

    The former Linda Eastman nabbed the last eligible Beatle bachelor March 12, 1969.

    Paul set the tone for their coupledom on the very first track of his very first solo album--the song, simply, "The Lovely Linda."

    She later joined his band Wings--often ridiculed by rock critics for her perceived lack of vocal and keyboard skills--and shared songwriting credits with her husband on such post-Beatle classics as "Live and Let Die."

    The couple had three children--Mary, 27; Stella, 25; James, 19. Linda also had a daughter by a previous marriage, Heather, 34, who was adopted by Paul.

    In the statement released Sunday, Paul asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to cancer-research and animal-welfare charities.

    Or, he suggested, if you really want to offer a tribute to his wife, "Go veggie."

    (UPDATED AT 8:05 a.m. on 4/20/98)

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