Paul McCartney’s James Bond theme was almost very different

Paul McCartney famously provided the theme tune for the Roger Moore James Bond Movie Live and Let Die, but he almost didn't sing it

Roger Moore as James Bond

Paul McCartney almost didn’t sing the theme tune for Live and Let Die. Live and Let Die is one of the most well-known instalments in the James Bond movie series. It’s the first time Roger Moore stepped into the shoes of the internationally renowned spy, who he subsequently proceeded to play for over a decade, in six additional spy movies.

However, among audiences today, Live and Let Die might be best known for its theme tune. The theme tunes to to the spy thriller movie series are almost as iconic as the spy himself, from Shirley Bassey’s ‘Diamonds are Forever’, the much more recent ‘Spyfall’ from Adele.

Live and Let Die’s own theme tune, a song of the same name, was written by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, and performed by the singer along with the band Wings. It stands out among other Bond themes, eschewing the stripped-back, vocal-led style for something more bombastic.

However, the song was almost very, very different. The 2022 documentary on streaming service Amazon Prime, titled The Sound of 007, reveals that Paul McCartney almost didn’t end up singing the song.  George Martin (who worked a lot as a producer for The Beatles) also produced the song ‘Live and Let Die’. Speaking in the documentary, he said that it was him who initially got Paul McCartney to write the song, but that McCartney was initially looked over to actually sing it, and provide the performance.

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According to Martin, when the written song was shown to the action movie‘s producer Harry Saltzman (who was working on Live and Let Die) Saltzman initially suggested Aretha Franklin and Thelma Houston.

Speaking on the documentary, Martin said: “[Harry Saltzman] said, ‘By the way, who do you think we should get to sing the song?’ I said, ‘Well, you do have Paul McCartney,’ [and he said] ‘Yeah. Yeah. What do you think of Thelma Houston?’ I said, ‘I think she’s great, but Paul…’ [Harry continued] ‘How about Aretha Franklin?’ I said, ‘Fantastic.’ But Paul and I had suddenly realized that I had to put it to him, as delicately as I could, that if he didn’t take Paul, he wouldn’t get the song.”

It’s a fun bit of alternate history to consider, and it will no doubt leave Bond fans wanting to listen to an Aretha Franklin version of the song. ‘Live and Let Die’ as performed by Paul McCartney is many people’s idea of the perfect Bond song, though it does also have its detractors, so we’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not the change would have been a good idea.

For more spy-thriller fun, check out out guide to The Gray Man 2 release date.