Paul McCartney's family-man image remains.
NEW YORK (AP) -- "You can knit a sweater by the fireside, Sunday mornings go for a ride." It was an idyllic picture of marriage in the golden years that Paul McCartney sang of in the 1967 Beatles hit "When I'm 64."
It also was an image that McCartney -- now 64, as it happens -- epitomized in his own life for years, showing a turbulent world that even a rock star could have what was by all appearances a loving, stable, long-lasting family life with his first wife, Linda, ending only with her death from cancer in 1998.
Now, British tabloids are buzzing with unsavory allegations connected to the sensational divorce of McCartney and his second wife, Heather Mills McCartney, with unsubstantiated claims flying of physical abuse, callousness, an alleged assault with a broken wine glass by him, a bottle of ketchup thrown by her.
There may well not be an iota of truth among them. Yet the public airing of this nasty dispute is depressing to many who've followed McCartney -- the optimistic one who wanted to "fill the world with silly love songs" -- for four decades of music and life (and briefly, rumored death.) For some of these fans, it even signals an end to an arc that began with heady innocence, then met tragedy with the murder of John Lennon, more sadness with the death of George Harrison, and now, on a smaller scale, Paul's ugly mess.
"I am amazed, and yet not really surprised, that their lives have spiraled this way," says John Pisani, a longtime fan who, at 57, is just seven years younger than Paul and part of the baby boomer generation that grew up with the Beatles. "It kind of mirrors the way the world has changed for all of us, the way we feel about our lives. Their early music was so innocent. And now, life is so insane."
"It just makes sense to me that Paul is going through this," said Pisani, a house painter in Cape Cod, Mass. "But I wouldn't wish it on anybody. And I feel bad for both of them."
First marriage strong
Many people find the mere discussion distasteful, preferring to let the sordid case speak for itself in the tabloids. "It's just sad, for all this to go so bad so quickly," said Jason Fine, deputy managing editor at Rolling Stone magazine. Like others interviewed, he noted how so many long admired McCartney for the strength of his first marriage.
"They were such a unit," Fine says. "They had made it through those times when so many people got divorced. And they worked together, too -- it was a partnership."
Also unfortunate, Fine says, is that the messy divorce comes at a time when McCartney, one of two surviving Beatles along with Ringo Starr, is on a creative upswing, with a well-received album last year, "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard," that was "really a refreshing record."
"He seems to have come back into the creative spotlight," says Fine. "It's a shame that this is happening now."
A shame, but will this affect McCartney's image or legacy in any lasting way? Hardly likely, says Bruce Spizer, author of six books about the Beatles.
"Most people understand that Paul, like any person, has faults, but they know him as a family man, based on the wonderful marriage he had with Linda," said Spizer. "So they would take all this with extreme skepticism." Of the Beatles fans he's heard discussing it, he says a good 90 percent don't believe the reported allegations against Paul.
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