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Paul McCartney said the 'spirit' of his first wife Linda is in his new choral work, set for release Tuesday and to be premiered at Royal Albert Hall in London on Nov. 3. ((Laura Rauch/Associated Press))

British tabloids may be focused on Paul McCartney's failed second marriage, but the former Beatle said Monday his latest work harkens back to his first wife.

On the eve of the release of his latest classicalalbum, Ecce Cor Meum (Behold My Heart), McCartney wouldn't commentabout his divorce proceedings with second wife, Heather Mills McCartney.

Instead, hesaidthe inspiration for his new classical oratorio was his first wife, Linda, who died of breast cancer in 1998.

Magdalen College Oxford, the constituent college of the University of Oxford known for its choral foundation, commissioned McCartney to create the work more than eight years ago to celebrate a new concert hall. However, the 64-year-old musician and songwriter said his first wife's death "stalled" his progress.

"I took a year or so before I could get back into it. The interlude in the middle is a particularly sad melody and is what got me going again," he told reportersin London Monday.

"Her spirit is very much in this. It would have been her birthday yesterday, so it's very appropriate."

He also said the lyrics of the work, sung inEnglish and Latin,were inspired by what he considers important in life.

"I just wrote down a whole load of things that interest me about truth, about love, about honesty and about kindness," McCartney said.

Linda and Paul McCartney were married for 30 years and had three children. McCartney is also father to Linda's daughter from a previous relationship.

When asked how he had been coping with the personal turmoil in his life in recent months, McCartney replied, "I'm doing fine, thank you.

"I'm enjoying music. It's something I love to do. It's something that sustains me. So I'm enjoying it, finishing this project off and also the next one."

Ecce Cor Meum, an oratorio in four movements composed for choir and orchestra, is McCartney's fourth classical work, following 1999's Working Classical, 1997's Standing Stone and 1991's The Liverpool Oratorio.

The studio recording will be released Tuesday by EMI Classics.

With files from the Associated Press