Maureen Cleave, an American journalist and author who worked for Rolling Stone and The New York Times and wrote numerous pop autobiographies as well as memoirs of her time with The Beatles in the late 1960s, died on June 9, at the age of 87, the Post-Standard of Syracuse reported.
Cleave began her career as a reporter with The Times in 1969, working mostly on the front page, and was a singer/songwriter and longtime member of the New York Post’s late, great Horsford Horsford stable.
She later co-wrote and co-edited the astoundingly successful two-volume bestseller Rock of Ages: Inside The Beatles, published in 1993. Her former Beatles colleagues, such as George Martin, told The New York Times that Cleave “had her own style and was all her own person. She’d read every book and research it, and you’d never know if you were talking to a rock and roll fan or a journalist, because it didn’t really matter.”
After dabbling in journalism and theater, Cleave moved into music journalism, writing for Rolling Stone and its rival, Spin. She made her mark in Rolling Stone when she began profiling her friend, Simon and Garfunkel, in the late 1970s.
Cleave was a close confidante of The Beatles. She was interviewed in the 1980s by John Lennon’s manager, Brian Epstein, just a few months before his untimely death. Later, when the band wanted to interview her for their own books and a film project, Cleave refused, saying she was no longer speaking to the band.
One of her final interviews with the band was for a 1999 documentary, And They Called It a New Day. She spent time at their London studio, where they recorded Give Peace a Chance, their last studio album.
“In this very studio, just down the corridor, I found myself an hour and a half later with Abbey Road, and John, Paul, Ringo, George and Yoko and just having dinner,” she said. “And this is where we’ve been together since that time, and this is where we came up with Give Peace a Chance … There’s a real sense of continuity of history that goes back.”
The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney, has been the subject of numerous books over the years, including one by Cleave in the ’90s. But no book has got as close to the band’s private life as hers, which was seldom, if ever, published until well after the band’s death.
“I was on the phone with my grandmother and was just about to hang up when a voice said, ‘Maureen. There’s some stuff coming up in the paper today.’” she told a concertgoer in concert in 2004, according to The New York Times. “So I go to the paper, and they don’t even know I’m dead. So I pick up the telephone, and there’s Paul. And I said, ‘This is Paul McCartney’s voicemail.’”
Photo credit: Lynn Romney/The Collection/RANDALL VAN DIEBURGH/ANNE HAPPEINK/RANDALL VAN DIEBURGH/ANNE HAPPEINK/RANDALL VAN DIEBURGH/Courtesy of Ron Honaker