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“Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings is one of the most iconic James Bond theme songs. Since the song’s debut in 1973 alongside the movie of the same name, McCartney and producer George Martin have suggested that the former Beatle was almost replaced by another artist, specifically a female singer. However, new documents reveal that the movie’s producers never wanted to replace McCartney. 

Producer George Martin believed Paul McCartney was almost replaced for the James Bond theme

Paul McCartney performs at Lollapalooza in Chicago, Illinois
Paul McCartney | C Flanigan/FilmMagic

The James Bond themes are always fantastic songs and have been performed by famous artists such as Adele, Billie Eilish, Gladys Knight, Duran Duran, Madonna, and Sam Smith. As a former Beatle, McCartney held a legendary status in 1973, and the producers wanted him to make a song for 1973’s Live and Let Die. However, in the Prime Video documentary The Sound of 007, Martin alleged that the producers wanted McCartney to write the song but wanted another artist to perform it

“And I thought, ‘Well, [Live and Let Die producer Harry Saltzman] was gonna look me over,’” Martin added. “And at the end of it, he 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…‘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.”

New documents show there were no plans to replace McCartney

Authors Allan Kozinn and Adrian Sinclair have unearthed documents that prove there were no plans to replace Paul McCartney on the James Bond theme. Shared by The Guardian, the documents include contracts that show that Lee Eastman, McCartney’s father-in-law, had negotiated him a fee of $15,000 for composing the song with his then-wife, Linda. McCartney also received a share of the profits. 

Ron Kass, former head of The Beatles label Apple Records, issued a statement saying that McCartney would be making “Live and Let Die” with Wings and that the song would play over the opening credits. According to Kozinn, the plan was that McCartney would create the main theme while a different version, performed by a female singer, would be used in the film, possibly creating some confusion. 

“So we can pretty definitively say that they were not going to replace Paul,” Kozinn confirmed. “One of the versions was going to be with Wings, which would play over the opening titles of the film and the closing credits. There would be a live version of the song performed during the club scene by BJ Arnau, a soul singer. When we saw those documents, we couldn’t help but think it was just a misunderstanding. Martin wouldn’t have been familiar with the terms of that contract, but Paul certainly would have. One of the things we discovered is that if it’s a good story, Paul will go with it. He didn’t have any reason to assume that anybody would see that contract.”

‘Live and Let Die’ was a massive hit upon its debut


Why Paul McCartney Says Wings’ Formation Was Similar to The Beatles

The producers made a good decision going with McCartney as “Live and Let Die” was a hit outside of the movie. The track reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 9 on the Official Charts in the U.K. 

“Live and Let Die” became the first Bond song to be nominated for an Academy Award but lost to Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were.” Since then, several Bond songs have been nominated for Best Original Song, and several have won.