John L. Eastman, a lawyer for musicians and artists whose representation of famous clients like Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Willem de Kooning made him a force within the entertainment world, and who played a key part in an influence struggle over the control of the Beatles’ business within the last days of the band, died on Aug. 10 in East Hampton, N.Y. He was 83.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, said his son Lee, a partner of their longstanding family firm, Eastman & Eastman in Manhattan.
Mr. Eastman and his father, who was also named Lee, worked with a protracted roster of big-name clients through the years, including Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Bowie, Elton John and the estates of Tennessee Williams and the painter Francis Bacon. But of all of them, the lawyers were most closely related to Mr. McCartney, whom Mr. Eastman represented for greater than 50 years.
Their connection was each skilled and private. Mr. Eastman was the brother of Linda McCartney, Mr. McCartney’s first wife, and Lee was her father.
The Eastmans became involved within the fight over the Beatles’ business empire in early 1969. Mr. McCartney had hired the Eastmans, each father and son, to be his representatives and tried to influence his three bandmates to place them answerable for the group’s affairs. Despite its enormous success, the Beatles were then getting ready to insolvency.
But John Lennon and the opposite Beatles had chosen one other Latest Yorker to administer the group: Allen Klein, who had worked with Sam Cooke and the Rolling Stones. Mr. Klein had a status as a ferocious negotiator and, as Mick Jagger once described him, a “gangster figure” — the alternative of the refined Eastmans, whose townhouse office in Manhattan was lined with museum-quality paintings by de Kooning and others.
The conflict between Mr. Klein and the Eastmans, and the disagreement throughout the group over those men, would eat the Beatles for years to come back, even after their official breakup in 1970.
To interrupt Mr. Klein’s grip over the band, and to secure Mr. McCartney’s independence, Mr. Eastman masterminded a lawsuit, filed in London on Dec. 31, 1970, to dissolve the Beatles’ partnership agreement. As a part of their preparations for the case, Mr. Eastman suggested that his brother-in-law wear a suit and tie to court. Mr. McCartney half-complied: He appeared in a suit, but no tie.
The opposite Beatles responded to the suit in frustration. “I still cannot understand why Paul acted as he did,” George Harrison said in an affidavit. In March 1971, the judge ruled in Mr. McCartney’s favor, appointing a receiver for the Beatles’ business interests until the dissolution of their partnership may very well be negotiated, which got here several years later.
Early of their work with Mr. McCartney, the Eastmans helped him arrange what would grow to be MPL Communications, his entertainment company. It owns many helpful copyrights, including the music publishing rights to songs by Buddy Holly, Fats Waller and Carl Perkins and from hit Broadway shows like “Annie” and “Grease.”
With the Eastmans’ guidance, Mr. McCartney also acquired ownership of all of his recordings and songwriting rights because the breakup of the Beatles. Lee Eastman died in 1991, and Linda McCartney died in 1998.
In 2017, Mr. Eastman steered a lawsuit by Mr. McCartney against Sony/ATV, the music publisher (now referred to as Sony Music Publishing), to regain his share of america copyrights in Beatles songs that he wrote with Mr. Lennon, citing an amendment to federal law that enables creators to recapture those rights after set periods. The case was settled, but Mr. McCartney has been registering the American ownership of those rights under MPL.
“John was a fantastic man,” Mr. McCartney wrote on Twitter last week, together with a photograph of him with Mr. Eastman in yoga poses. “Not only did he help me massively in my business dealings as my lawyer but as a friend he was hard to beat.”
John Lindner Eastman was born on July 10, 1939, in Manhattan, and grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y., the eldest of 4 children of Lee and Louise Lindner Eastman. His mother had inherited a fortune from the Lindner department store in Cleveland.
His father, who had modified his name from Leopold Epstein, arrange a successful legal practice representing high-profile musicians, artists and writers, amongst them the bandleader Tommy Dorsey and the songwriters Harold Arlen and Hal David.
John Eastman graduated from Stanford University in 1961 and from the Latest York University School of Law in 1964. The subsequent 12 months, after briefly working within the office of america Attorney for the Eastern District of Latest York, he and his father arrange Eastman & Eastman.
They developed a specialty in working with pop musicians whose business had suffered under previous representatives. Apart from Mr. McCartney, they were best known for working with Mr. Joel within the late Nineteen Eighties and early ’90s, when he sued his former manager and lawyer. The case was settled, and the Eastmans helped Mr. Joel rebuild his business.
“He was fierce when it got here to protecting artists’ rights,” Mr. Joel said in an announcement to The Latest York Times, “and I credit him with whatever longevity I even have achieved in my profession.”
Mr. Eastman served on the boards of numerous outstanding organizations, including the American Museum of Natural History, and two music groups, the National Music Publishers’ Association and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, referred to as ASCAP.
Along with his son Lee, he’s survived by his wife, Josephine; one other son, Jay; a daughter, Louise; two sisters, Louise Weed and Laura Malcolm; and 11 grandchildren.