From Paul McCartney to Sam Smith: Looking Back at the Music of James Bond

With twenty-four films to date, James Bond is one of the longest running film franchises in history. Though six different actors have played the leading role of Bond, many more musicians and artists have memorably contributed the theme music for these films. So, ahead of tomorrow’s release of the newest James Bond film, Spectre, we thought we would take some time to highlight some of those who have made the soundtracks of 007 so memorable.

Tough Shoes to Fill

sam_smith_spectre

The newest to join the club, Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” was released in late September 2015. The track kicks off with a string-lead orchestral crescendo familiar to previous 007 themes before settling in as a soft piano ballad backed by subtle synth lines and fluttering string swells. The chorus finds Smith at his best, strongly belting “If I risk it all / could you break my fall?” and winding down with the silky falsetto that Smith has become known for. Where the song stands apart from its predecessors is the fact that the film’s title doesn’t appear anywhere in the lyrics – a strange departure from many of the Bond themes we have grown to love.

With the previous Bond film, Skyfall, fellow British vocalist Adele scored a number of accolades including an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song as well as a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media. Given that “Skyfall” was the only song in the history of the Bond franchise to take home those top honors, it will be an uphill climb for Sam Smith to reach the same level of success with “Writing’s on the Wall.” In fact, only three other Bond theme songs were ever even nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song including:

  • “Live and Let Die” (1974) – Paul McCartney and Wings
  • “Nobody Does it Better” (1978) – Carly Simon (written by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer)
  • “For Your Eyes Only” (1982) – Sheena Easton (written by Bill Conti and Mick Leeson)

Though Smith’s effort might not reach the same success as 2012’s “Skyfall” it will undoubtedly go down as, in Sam Smith’s own words, “one of the highlights of my career.”

Shirley Bassey

Shirley Bassey James Bond Album Cover

Credits:  “Goldfinger” (1964), “Diamonds are Forever” (1971), “Moonraker” (1979)

Often lauded as one of, if not the best Bond theme song, 1964’s “Goldfinger” was famously performed by Shirley Bassey, who would go on to record two more theme songs for the franchise, “Diamonds are Forever” (1971) and “Moonraker” (1979).

Bassey’s second crack at the 007 theme, “Diamonds are Forever” was more recently sampled in Kanye West’s song “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” which won a Grammy for Best Rap Song in 2005. 

Paul McCartney & Wings

live_and_let_die

Credits: “Live and Let Die” (1973)

The producers of the 1973 Bond installment, Live and Let Die, commissioned McCartney to write the theme song. At the time, the famous Beatle had been writing and performing with his wife Linda, and they would both share songwriting credits on the recording. Working on Live and Let Die also gave McCartney the chance to reunite with famed Beatles producer George Martin who was hired to arrange the score for the Bond film.

Though Paul McCartney is more commonly known for his success as a Beatle, “Live and Let Die” was recorded by McCartney and his band at the time, Wings. The song became a major success for the group, reaching number 2 in the US and earning multiple Grammy nods including a win for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists credited to the producer George Martin.

Duran Duran

Duran Duran - A view to a KillCredits: “A View to a Kill” (1985)

The new wave/synthpop band Duran Duran is best known for songs like “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “The Reflex”, but they scored a first for a Bond theme when their 1985 song “A View to a Kill” became the first Bond song to hit number 1 on the Billboard Top 100. The hit also landed them a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song and became one of only two number one hits on the bands resume.

A-HA

The Living DaylightsCredits: “The Living Daylights” (1987)

Most of us remember A-HA as the chart topping Norwegians responsible for the catchy 80’s pop tune “Take on Me”, but the trio also joined the Bond family with their 1987 theme “The Living Daylights.” Though the track did not experience much success in the US, peaking at 113 on the US Hot 125, the single sold over 2 million copies worldwide and reached number 5 in the UK and number 1 in Norway.

Jack White & Alicia Keys

Another Wway to DieCredits: “Another way to Die” (2008, Quantum of Solace)

2008’s “Another Way to Die” found White and Keys joining the list of already established artists having a go at the Bond theme. White wrote and produced the song and contributed vocals, guitar, and drums while Keys lent her powerhouse vocals. The vocal collaboration marked the first duet in Bond theme song history.

We know we didn’t cover them all, but you can listen to your all of your favorite Bond Music (and other spy tunes) right here on AccuRadio. Tell us what your favorite Bond theme songs are in the comments!

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1 Response

  1. Andrea says:

    james bond Favoriet themes: Live and let die, diamonds are forever, and gold Finger

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