That old(ish) saying that “behind every great man is a great woman” can definitely be used when we’re talking about the women who, for better or worse, chose to tie the knot with one of the Fab Four. The women who married into the Beatles’ empire are the ones who not only stole the Fab Four’s hearts, but also became their muses.
These special ladies ranged from socialites to models, hairdressers to actresses and artists. Some dove deep into the world of free love and went on a journey with the guys during their experimental phase. Others, however, were more of the homemaker type, striving to maintain their privacy, while being married to the most famous men in the world. No one said being married to the world’s most famous pop stars would be easy.
These are the women who married the men of the Beatles. We’ll start with the first wives club.
The formal and prissy British gal was known as Cynthia Powell before becoming a Lennon. She would typically be seen in her sweater sets, and dreamed of becoming an art teacher. But her life took a different turn when she met John Lennon at the Liverpool College of Art in 1957. She and the soon-to-be legend were in the same calligraphy class.
She recalled how he would always come to class unprepared, and consistently had to borrow her pens and brushes, even forgetting to return them more often than not. At the time, Powell was engaged to someone else and wasn’t very impressed with Lennon and his antics. That is, until she heard him singing one day, and watched as another girl touched his hair.
With time, Powell and Lennon started chatting and they found common ground, like in the loss of their parents. Lennon’s mother had recently passed away and so had Powell’s father. She developed a liking for this interesting fellow – so much so that she decided to call it off with her fiancé to start dating Lennon.
The couple married on August 23, 1962, after she discovered that she was pregnant. Their son, Julian, was born the following April. While Powell was a part of his Lennon’s life before the Beatles became an international pop sensation, she claimed that she was “usually dismissed as the impressionable young girl who fell for him, then trapped him into marriage”, as she wrote in her 2006 book titled “John.”
According to the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, having a wife and child would hurt Lennon’s image, and so, Cynthia was forced to keep her marriage a secret. It was a lot to ask of a young woman who happened to be dating such a famous personality. But, she had no choice.
“In fact, I was asked many times if I was John’s wife, and I had to refuse and say, ‘No, no, I’m somebody else,'” she explained in an interview with NPR. They had to get married in a minimalist wedding at the Marylebone register’s office, followed by an informal lunch at a nearby restaurant with George Harrison and Paul McCartney. Then, as a sort of foreshadowing to their future together, Lennon took off.
After their uneventful wedding and lunch with the boys, Lennon went off with his bandmates to spend his wedding night performing at the Riverpark Ballroom in Chester. Later in life, Lennon openly admitted to having treated his wife (and other women) poorly, which is something he attributed to his jealous nature.
“I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically — any woman,” he told Playboy. He said that he was a “hitter” who “couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.”
John Lennon admitted to having multiple affairs during the course of his marriage to Cynthia, which was something she tolerated. According to her account of her ex-husband in her book, the “real John” was an “infuriating, lovable, sometimes cruel, funny, needy and talented man who made such an impact on the world.”
But their turbulent marriage ended, rumor has it, when she found Yoko Ono in their Surrey home, wearing her bathrobe. By 1968, the two were divorced. Cynthia later remarried twice: first to Roberto Bassanini, and then to John Twist. After Lennon’s death in 1980 and after her divorce from Twist, she took the last name of Lennon again. She then married Noel Charles, a nightclub owner, in 2002, but he passed away in 2013.
Maureen “Mo” Cox didn’t have her eyes set on the Beatles’ star drummer at first. The truth is the first Beatle she laid her hands on (or her lips rather) was Paul McCartney. She was the daring teenage fangirl who kissed McCartney on a dare. She even dated Ringo Starr’s former bandmate, Johnny Brynne, from his previous band, The Hurricanes.
But once she cast her gaze on Starr, he took notice and responded promptly. Cox had left high school at the age of 16 to become a beautician. She and her friends from the salon would often go to see bands play at a club in Liverpool called The Cavern. It was at one of the shows that Starr asked her to dance.
Soon after that initial dance, the two began dating. According to Beatles’ press officer Tony Barrow, Cox was “the least worldly of the Beatles womenfolk in the ’60s.” He described her as “less glamorous” than McCartney’s then-girlfriend Jane Asher, “less famous” than Harrison’s then-wife Pattie Boyd, and “less smart” than Cynthia Lennon.
But, on the other hand, Mo Cox was “chirpy” with a profane sense of humor. The way Barrow saw it, she suited Ringo “down to the ground.” A friend of Cox’s, Chris O’Dell, said she was the type of girl that got along with everyone. Despite the pressure of dating a Beatle, she wasn’t afraid to be her own person. She dressed the way she wanted to and spoke the way she wanted to.
O’Dell said Cox’s loyalty was one of her deepest qualities, which must have been something Starr appreciated. The two married in 1965; she was 18 and he was 25. At the time of their wedding, Cox was pregnant with the first of what would be three children they would have together.
Mo then took Starr’s real last name, which is Starkey. She always called him “Richie” instead of the more popular “Ringo.” She also gave up her dream of owning a beauty salon; instead, she chose to focus on being a wife and mother. But like his fellow bandmates’ marriages, Starr’s union with Mo wasn’t immune to its own affairs.
Their marriage, too, had its share of extramarital affairs. And this time, it wasn’t just the Beatle who did the messing around. The affairs and complications between the two even impacted other members of the band. At one point, George Harrison confessed his love for Mo, which took a toll on both of their marriages. Starkey, however, denied that their relationship was sexual and told her husband that she wanted to stay together.
But, unsurprisingly, the marriage didn’t last long. They got divorced in 1975 after Mo learned of Starr’s affair with a woman named Nancy Lee Andrews. Later, Mo married Isaac Tigrett, the owner of the Hard Rock Cafe Empire, and the two had a daughter named Augusta. She and Starr remained close. In the 1990s, when she was diagnosed with l-Leukemia, he frequently visited her at the hospital. She passed away at age 48, surrounded by her family and Starr.
Patricia Ann Boyd was an assistant beautician when, one day, she was discovered by a client who suggested she try modeling. She listened and soon took to the runways of Paris, London and New York. In no time, the young woman found herself being called the one of the “It Girls” of the 1960s.
Los Angeles Magazine dubbed her “a mythical muse, a modern-day Helen of Troy.” But being an It Girl wasn’t the only title she would earn. She ended up being the wife and muse of not only one rock legend, but two. The role was a lot less empowering than one might expect. First, she was the apple of George Harrison’s eye.
Boyd met Harrison on the set of the Beatles’ first film, ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ She had a small part, which involved being a schoolgirl who took the Beatles to London. “On first impressions… George, with velvet-brown eyes and dark chestnut hair, was the best-looking man I had ever seen.” During a break for lunch, she found herself sitting next to him. “Being close to him was electrifying,” she admitted.
But despite her infatuation with him, Boyd turned down Harrison when he asked her out the first time. Why did she do such a thing? Well, it proved her loyalty because, at the time, she was still dating photographer Eric Swayne.
But, by their next meeting, Pattie learned just how sought-after her admirer really was, and ended her relationship with Swayne. In 1966, Boyd and Harrison were married. At first, their marriage was a blessing for her career. The day after the paparazzi captured a photo of her and Harrison coming home from a vacation in Tahiti, Vogue booked Boyd for a photoshoot.
Aside from Vogue, Boyd modeled for Honey, Vanity Fair, The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Mirror. But if Cynthia Lennon and Maureen Cox were considered the homemakers of the Mrs. Beatle club, then Pattie Boyd could be called the party girl. Harrison introduced her to the world of drugs, and not just marijuana. According to Boyd, she was with the Beatles when their dentist, John Riley, gave them coffee laced with LSD.
Boyd became Harrison’s muse in many ways. She was the inspiration for many of his songs, including “Something,” “I’d Have You Anytime” and “Let it Down.” But in no way does that mean that their marriage was perfect. Being the Beatle’s muse basically meant that she served to please – to inspire.
“I felt I had to be flawless, serene, someone who understood every situation, who made no demands but was there to fulfill every fantasy, and that’s someone with not much of a voice,” Boyd wrote in her memoir called “Wonderful Tonight.” Two things essentially ruined the balance of their relationship: a trip to a retreat in India in 1968, and the couple’s extramarital affairs.
While Harrison brought her into the world of drugs, she introduced him to transcendental meditation. But, in a way, she created a monster. Harrison ended up taking his new practice to an obsessive level, and also started drinking and using drugs like never before. One night, Harrison’s best friend, Eric Clapton, confessed to Boyd that he was in love with her.
Boyd, who was still married to Harrison at the time, became yet another muse to yet another rock star. Clapton’s hit song “Layla” was written about his unrequited love for his best friend’s wife. Yes, it was very complicated. After that, Harrison was more transparent in his extra-marital romances. To make things even more inappropriate, he turned to his bandmate’s wife.
When did Harrison confess his love for Starr’s wife, Mo Cox? It was during his marriage to Boyd. It seemed to be a period of time when everyone was confessing their love for someone else. To add another layer of drama, Harrison’s confession of his love for Cox was in front of both Starr and Boyd!
This betrayal was devastating for Boyd and may have been the last straw. She eventually left Harrison for Clapton in 1974. By 1977, she and Harrison were officially divorced. “When I left him for Eric, he had said that if things didn’t work out, ever, I could always come to him and he would look after me.” But her marriage to Clapton was no more successful. They wed in 1979 but split in 1984, due to Clapton’s alcoholism and infidelity. Ever since, she’s been focused on her photography.
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Linda Eastman was the receptionist at Town & Country Magazine when she got her first break, taking photos of The Rolling Stones at a promotional party. After that, she got A-list gigs, photographing the likes of B.B. King, The Doors, The Who, The Grateful Dead, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix and, of course, the Beatles.
Eastman became the first female photographer to see her work — a photo of Eric Clapton — featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 1968. At that point, she was a divorced mother of one living in New York City. She met Paul McCartney a year prior during a photoshoot in London in 1967. They spoke at a concert and again at the launch party for the Beatles’ eighth album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band.”
A few days later, they met in New York City at the home of Nat Weiss, a long-time family friend of his. McCartney asked Eastman for her number as he was leaving the house, and phoned her before she even got home. Since he was flying out the next day, he invited her to ride with him to the airport in his private limo.
Weiss, who was also in the car that day, told author Bob Spitz – who wrote: “The Beatles: The Biography” – that he witnessed a change in McCartney when he was around Eastman. “Paul’s whole demeanor — that cocky defensive shield he wore like armor — melted away, and for a moment he seemed fairly human”, Weiss described.
Before McCartney even met Eastman, he was engaged to Jane Asher, the woman who nearly entered the Beatles’ first wives club. Asher was a well-loved child star and socialite, but she ended up finding her fiancé in bed with another woman and broke off their engagement. While Asher was a poised and classy British woman, Eastman was a confident American.
Eastman had a “congenial hippie-chick looseness,” according to the Daily Mail. She was also genuinely excited about rock n’ roll music and was never intimidated by all the things that came with it – the drugs, press, and pretty girls. For instance, when a TV actress came to his hotel room to profess her love for McCartney, while Eastman was there, she “seemed amused,” Weiss said.
According to Weiss, McCartney was drawn to Eastman’s “slight rebelliousness.” But, of course, there were many McCartney fans who were still stuck on Jane Asher, blaming Eastman for their split. Eastman was actually similar to Asher in that she, too, had high-class lineage; her father, Lee Eastman was a prominent entertainment lawyer and her late mother was the heiress to the Lindner department store fortune.
But Eastman was “a woman with baggage. She had a kid. She was divorced. She was American. She was not conventionally pretty”, said J.D. Heyman, a reporter for People magazine, in an interview with the History Channel for the documentary “The Beatles Women.” But the confident woman she was, Eastman ignored her critics.
In 1968, Eastman moved to London to be closer to her beau. The next year, they were married, and in the same year their daughter, Mary was born. Their second daughter, Stella, was born in 1971, and son, James, in 1977. McCartney also adopted Eastman’s daughter, Heather, from her first marriage to geologist Melvin See.
The McCartney family made a home together, living in the Scottish countryside. In 1997, Eastman officially became “Lady McCartney” when McCartney was awarded a knighthood. After the Beatles broke up, the couple made music together. They recorded an album called “Ram,” and Linda joined her husband’s band Wings, as the keyboard player and singer. She also played in a little-known group called Suzy and the Red Stripes.
Their marriage lasted a good 29 years, which is basically a millennium in the rock ‘n’ roll world. In those three decades, they spent only ten days apart, when McCartney was arrested and jailed in Tokyo under marijuana charges. As a strict vegetarian and animal rights activist, Linda wrote two vegetarian cookbooks, and designed a line of frozen vegetarian meals in 1991.
Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995, and it quickly spread to her liver. On April 17, 1998, she passed away at the McCartney family ranch in Arizona. She was just 56 years old. Paul McCartney held a “Concert for Linda” in London, performing with George Michael, Elvis Costello, Tom Jones, and the Pretenders. They raised more than $2 million for cancer research.
Paul once said that Linda was the inspiration for all of the love songs he wrote during their time together, including “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
Now onto the second wives club…
Yoko Ono is a painter, sculptor, photographer, singer-songwriter, poet, filmmaker, and peace activist. But she’s most famous for being John Lennon’s wife and muse. The two met in 1966 at the Indica Gallery in London, while Lennon was still married to Cynthia. Ono herself was also married, to Tony Cox. At the gallery, which included her art, Ono handed Lennon a card that said “breathe.”
Lennon sauntered to a piece of her performance art, which was called “Painting to Hammer a Nail”, where people were hammering a nail into a piece of wood. Since the exhibit didn’t officially open until the next day, Ono didn’t allow Lennon to participate, but told him that he could if he paid five shillings.
Lennon responded by saying: “Well, I’ll give you an imaginary five shilling and hammer an imaginary nail in.” He later said that when their eyes met, “She got it and I got it.” While his wife, Cynthia, was on vacation in Greece, Lennon invited Ono to his home for what could be considered their first date.
According to Jonathan Cott, a reporter for Rolling Stone (who conducted one of the last interviews with Lennon before he died), the two recorded an album in his attic studio. “The Beatles Bible” described it as a strange mix of musical instruments, feedback, nursery rhymes and bird sounds, according to “The Beatles Bible.” “It was midnight when we started,” Lennon said. “It was dawn when we finished and then we made love. It was very beautiful.”
The album they recorded that night was later titled “Two Virgins” and went into production in 1968. Its cover was quite astonishing – it featured them completely naked – and it was sold in a paper sleeve. Ono said: “We were both so excited about discovering each other, we didn’t stop to think about anyone else’s feelings, and we just went ahead gung-ho. What we had was more precious than anything else.”
In 1968, Lennon left his wife and their son, Julian. Ono, too, left her husband a year later. In 1969, Yoko and Lennon married. In 1973, the couple separated, during what Lennon called his “Lost Weekend.” He started courting her assistant May Pang, and apparently it was with Ono’s blessing.
Eighteen months later, Lennon was together again with Ono. Their only child, Sean Lennon, was born in 1975. “I felt that I had a world in me that I couldn’t share… And so that that was the loneliness. The loneliness was created because of that. So all my life, I was feeling a touch lonely until I met John. And of course, John was like that, too.”
Only a few days after their wedding, they held their legendary “bed-in for peace” during their honeymoon in Amsterdam, even inviting reporters to observe. While many called it a publicity stunt, others referred to it as performance art. But to John and Yoko, it was a gesture of world peace.
For many Beatles fans, however, their new union was proof that Ono was leading the Beatle down a radical and political path. Rumors began, blamed her for destroying the band. And the fact of the matter is, Lennon didn’t even dispute it. “The old gang of mine was over the moment I met her,” he said in an interview with Playboy.
“I didn’t consciously know it at the time, but that’s what was going on.” McCartney and Ono tended to clash in those days, but in 2012, he actually defended Ono, saying she wasn’t the reason the band split at all. He even credited her with being the inspiration behind some of Lennon’s best work.
McCartney explained how, when Yoko came along, a large part of Lennon’s attraction to her was because of her avant-garde side and her view of things. She showed him another way to be… So it was time for John to leave; he was definitely going to leave.” Ono is now in her late 80’s and still lives in the iconic Dakota building in Manhattan.
It is the same building where Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980. But even after his death, her celebrity status hasn’t faded. In 2013, she sang songs from her latest album, “Take Me to the Land of Hell,” with her band and continues to work as an activist, artist and performer.
On their 44th anniversary, Ono tweeted a photo of Lennon’s blood-stained glasses, with a demand for stronger gun control laws.
If Barbara Bach didn’t get passed over for a role in the series ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ she might never have met Ringo Starr. After the director gave the part to Shelley Hack, Bach accepted a role in the comedy film ‘Caveman’ instead. It was on the set, in Mexico in 1980, that she met the famous drummer, who was also cast in the movie.
Bach had actually seen him before; she and her sister went to a Beatles concert in 1965; but at the time, she was more of a Bob Dylan, Ray Charles and the Rolling Stones fan. But by the time the filming of the comedy was finished, she and Starr were already living together.
After the couple survived a serious car accident in London, they “decided we wouldn’t spend any time apart,” Starr told People in 1981. “So far, the longest break was five days, and that was too long. I want to live every minute with Barbara.” A few months after the accident, on April 27, 1981, they married.
A native New Yorker, Barbara started modeling at the age of 16 and was soon a cover girl. She changed her last name from Goldbach to Bach and ventured onto an acting career. In 1977, she became known as Bond girl Anya Amasova, in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me,’ and she quickly became a star. She was also married before ever meeting Starr.
Before Starr, she was married to Italian businessman Augusto Gregorini, who was more than a decade older than her, and with whom she had two children. But in 1975, they divorced. Bach had been in 28 films, but since 1983, she hasn’t been in any. In an interview in 1986, she explained: “I don’t want to go back to full-time working. I’ve learned to love just living with the family.”
She and Starr were living in Massachusetts at the time. He had his own recording studio and worked from home, while Bach spent her time riding horses and looking after the family. During a particularly turbulent time in their marriage, Starr was abusing cocaine and other drugs and tended to get violent.
According to Starpulse, there was one incident where he beat Bach severely before blacking out. After that, both Starr and Bach (who was also drinking heavily and using cocaine) spent six weeks in a rehabilitation center in Arizona in 1988. The good news is that they both have been sober ever since.
They currently live in Monaco. Bach founded the Self Help Addiction Recovery Program (SHARP) with George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Pattie Boyd. She also earned a master’s degree in 1993 in psychology from UCLA. She’s very much involved in charity work, including The Lotus Foundation that she founded with her husband, and the Romanian Angel Appeal, founded by Olivia Harrison, George Harrison’s second wife.
Not long after Pattie Boyd left him, George Harrison met the woman who would become his second wife. Olivia Arias, the daughter of a dry cleaner and a seamstress, had been working as a secretary at A&M Records when she met Harrison at a Los Angeles party in 1974. They soon began dating, and Arias eventually moved in with him.
In 1978, she gave birth to their son, Dhani, and the couple married just a month later. Arias was one of the few Beatles wives to maintain a fairly private life. She founded the Romanian Angel Appeal in 1990. When her husband was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997, she devoted herself to taking care of him.
Not many people may know, but years later, a disturbed man broke into their family home in Friar Park, England. He stabbed Harrison in the chest multiple times, which ended up puncturing his lung, but luckily he survived. Arias was there, too, and even hit the intruder with a heavy lamp. The stabbing didn’t claim Harrison’s life. Cancer did.
While his throat cancer was treated with two rounds of chemotherapy, he developed lung and brain cancer, too. In November 2001, the Beatle passed away. The “fresh, forthright, no-B.S. kind of gal” (as described by Vanity Fair) spoke after his death, expressing her awe of her husband’s spiritual side. She talked about how he felt about cancer and relinquishing control.
Arias was devoted to her late husband, but that didn’t mean that she was blind to his flaws. In a documentary that she co-produced with Martin Scorsese, called ‘George Harrison: Living in the Material World,’ she admitted that there were “hiccups” in their marriage. “He liked women and women liked him… If he just said a couple of words to you, it would have a profound effect. It was hard to deal with someone who was so well-loved.”
Arias produced a memorial concert a year after his death. It featured Harrison’s long-time friend Eric Clapton and the remaining Beatles, as well as Tom Petty, Billy Preston, Ravi Shankar, and Harrison’s son, Dhani. A recording of the event won a Grammy in 2005. Arias wrote the book “Concert for George: A Celebration of the Life of George Harrison” in 2006, and another book in 2011 based on her documentary.
Heather Mills was a model turned activist and philanthropist, who met Paul McCartney at a charity event in 1999. A year later, their relationship became public. In 2002, Mills and McCartney married in a $3.2 million private ceremony in a 17th Century chapel in Ireland. When she was a teenager, Mills was a runaway from a broken home, working as a semi-successful model.
Mills became famous in 1993, after her left leg was amputated below the knee due to an accident in which a police motorcycle crashed into her. She continued her modeling career in spite of this, and established the Heather Mills Health Trust, which is an organization that recycles used prosthetic limbs, as well as advocates for the removal of land mines.
After marrying McCartney, she added animal rights to her passion projects. Her 2002 memoir, “A Single Step,” chronicles her difficult childhood, her accident, and her rags-to-riches journey. She also describes what it was like to be living with a Beatle. Their daughter, Beatrice Milly, was born in 2003, but their marriage quickly dissolved.
The couple found themselves in a nasty divorce in 2006, which only was settled by 2008. Mills blamed McCartney’s fashion-designer daughter, Stella, for their breakup. According to Mills, Stella was “jealous” and “evil.” Mills fired her lawyer and represented herself in court, saying the cost was the reason. In the end, Justice Hugh Bennett awarded her a fifth of what she wanted, which was still close to $33 million.
Mills’ divorce from McCartney wasn’t her first. She was also married to Alfie Karmal, a dishwasher salesman, between 1989 and 1991. “She has a very tender, caring, compassionate side, which is what makes her so attractive in the first place,” Karmal said. “But she also has this other fiery, confrontational side and a very elastic relationship with the truth.”
Mills has been a contestant on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and ‘Dancing on Ice.’ She also continues to develop her business side. In 2009, she bought Redwood Wholesale Foods. Mills is a dedicated animal rights activist, lobbying against using cat and dog fur in apparel, and protests seal hunting in Canada. She is a member of PETA and is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations.
Nancy Shevell, now 61, is from New Jersey and vice president of her family’s trucking business. Since trucks were part of her childhood, she explained how “While other kids would go feed ducks at the park, we would go to my father’s truck terminals, to places like Pennsauken, every single weekend.” Before McCartney, Shevell was married to New York attorney Bruce Blakeman for over 20 years. They had a son, Arlen, and were divorced in 2007.
The second cousin of Barbara Walters, Shevell credits Walters with introducing her to Paul McCartney the same year both she and McCartney divorced their spouses. By 2011, Shevell and McCartney were engaged, and he wrote a love song for her called “My Valentine.” They exchanged vows at the Marylebone register’s office in England, the same place McCartney and Eastman wed in 1969. They invited a very modest number of 30 guests.