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"Live and Let Die" is the main theme song of the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die and was performed by Paul McCartney and Wings on the movie soundtrack and on the soundtrack album. The song was one of Wings' most successful singles, and the most successful Bond theme to that point. Commissioned specifically for the movie and credited to Paul McCartney and his wife Linda, it reunited McCartney with Beatles producer George Martin, who both produced the song and arranged the orchestral break.
After George Martin was hired to score the new James Bond film, Paul McCartney offered to compose the theme song, and Wings recorded a demo of "Live and Let Die". However, Bond producer Harry Saltzman was interested in having an African American female artist perform it instead of Wings. Martin said that McCartney would only allow the song to be used in the movie if Wings were able to perform the song in the opening credits. Saltzman, who had previously rejected the chance to produce A Hard Day's Night, decided not to make the same mistake twice and agreed. A second version of the song, performed by B.J. Arnau, also appears in the film. The Arnau version of the song appears on the soundtrack album as a component in a medley that also contains two George Martin-composed instrumental pieces, "Fillet of Soul - New Orleans" and "Fillet of Soul - Harlem".
Wings recorded "Live and Let Die" during the sessions for the Red Rose Speedway album. The single reached #2 in the U.S. and #7 in the U.K. Although McCartney's previous single, "My Love", had been credited to "Paul McCartney & Wings", the label of the "Live and Let Die" single credited the performing artist simply as "Wings." This is because the B-side of the single, "I Lie Around", was not sung by Paul McCartney but instead sung by Wings guitarist Denny Laine. When the song made its first album appearance on the soundtrack album, however, the song was credited to "Paul McCartney & Wings". "Live and Let Die" was the last Paul McCartney single on Apple Records that was credited only to "Wings".
The single and the soundtrack album also disagree on the composer credit. The single giving sole authorship to Paul McCartney, while the soundtrack album credits Paul & Linda McCartney as the composer. In the 2001 documentary Wingspan, Paul revealed that Linda wrote the bridge section "What Does It Matter To You...".
Despite its first LP appearance on the 1973 soundtrack album, "Live And Let Die" was not featured on a Paul McCartney album until the Wings Greatest compilation in 1978.
"Live and Let Die" was the first James Bond theme song to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (which gave Paul his second Academy Award nomination and Linda her first), but it lost to the theme song from "The Way We Were".
In Wings' live performances, the song's instrumental break featured flashpots and a laser light show that became a highlight. Paul has continued to play the song on his solo tours, often using pyrotechnics when playing outdoor venues. "Live And Let Die" is the only song to appear on all of McCartney's live albums (barring the acoustic-based 'Unplugged.')
Although the most famous version of the song remains Wings' original recording, it was covered by the Stan Kenton big band in 1973 and later by Guns N' Roses in 1991. Due to its status as a Bond theme it was also covered by The Pretenders (released exclusively on the album Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project), and Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas performed the song on Movies Rock 2007, a CBS] special celebrating music in movies. Geri Halliwell, of the Spice Girls, released the song as a b-side track for her solo number one single Lift Me Up, in November 1999.
- Paul McCartney - Vocals, Piano
- Linda McCartney - Backing Vocals, Keyboards
- Denny Laine - Backing Vocals, Bass
- Henry McCullough - Guitar
- Denny Seiwell - Drums
In 1984, McCartney asked "Weird Al" Yankovic when he was going to parody one of his songs. A couple of years later, Yankovic asked for permission to put his "Live and Let Die" parody "Chicken Pot Pie" on an album (as a courtesy; legally he did not need permission). McCartney denied the use because he is a vegetarian and didn't want to promote the eating of animal flesh. Fellow vegetarian Yankovic said he respected the decision; however, he has performed the song live.
Christian parody band ApologetiX performed a parody of "Live and Let Die" as "Didn't Just Die". It was released on their album, ApologetiX Hits: The Road, and was performed back-to-back with "Died and Rose," a parody of "China Grove" by The Doobie Brothers.