Why Paul McCartney’s James Bond Theme Almost Gone to Another Artist
Every James Bond movie comes with a great theme song. Some of these songs are forgettable, while others became instant classics. Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” is one of James Bond’s most famous songs, and it was almost completely different because it could have been attributed to another artist.
James Bond Theme Songs Have Been a Huge Hit
In every James Bond movie there is a song that plays during the long opening credits. It’s typically an original song by a famous singer. The first original song was “Goldfinger” from the movie of the same name, performed by Shirley Bassey. Many of these songs were hit singles outside of film, and a few won Oscars.
Three James Bond songs won Best Original Song at the Oscars: Adele’s ‘Skyfall’, Sam Smith’s ‘Writings on the Wall’ Spectrum, and “No Time to Die” by Billie Eilish. However, the most successful Bond theme is Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill”, which peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and is the only Bond song to achieve this feat.
Paul McCartney’s ‘Live and Let Die’ Almost Moved to Another Artist
Paul McCartney is a legendary rock star, and the producers of James Bond wanted someone of his status to attach to the theme of Live and Let Die. According to Cinemablend, in the Prime Video documentary The sound of 007McCartney and record producer George Martin. Live and Let Die producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman wanted the former Beatle to write the song but wanted a different artist to perform it.
“I said, ‘Okay, send me the book.’ They didn’t have a script at the time, I don’t think,” McCartney said in the documentary. “He sent me Ian Fleming’s book and I read it. I read it, thought it was pretty good, and that afternoon I wrote the song. It was co-produced with George Martin. I worked with George, which I hadn’t done since the Beatles. George pulled out an acetate of it, I think it was in the Bahamas, where they filmed it. He took it to Harry Saltzman.
“And I thought, ‘Well, he’s going to look at me,'” Martin added. “And at the end he said, ‘By the way, who do you think we should sing the song? I said, ‘Well, you have Paul McCartney,’ [and he said] ‘Yeah. Yeah. What do you think of Thelma Houston?’ I said, ‘I think she’s great, but Paul…’ What about Aretha Franklin?’ I said, ‘Fantastic.’ But Paul and I suddenly realized that I had to tell him, as gently as possible, that if he didn’t take Paul, he wouldn’t get the song.
‘Live and Let Die’ has become one of James Bond’s most iconic songs
Luckily, McCartney performed “Live and Let Die,” and both the movie and the audience are better off for it. Not only is it a memorable song, but it’s been successful outside of the movie. It was Bond’s first song nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were.”
On the charts, “Live and Let Die” peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number nine in the UK. Guns N’ Roses did a cover of the song which ended up being a commercial success, continuing to prove how popular the song was outside of James Bond.
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