Aged 18, Billie Eilish now becomes the youngest performer of a James Bond song.
As announced yesterday, Billie Eilish will be performing “No Time To Die”, the title song from the 25th James Bond film, due in cinema’s at the beginning of April. It will be Daniel Craig’s fifth and final outing as Ian Fleming’s iconic spy James Bond (007) from the contract he signed in 2005 that began with ‘Casino Royale’, released the following year. At 18, Billie breaks the previous record set by 22 year old Scottish singer Sheena Easton in 1981, when she recorded “For Your Eyes Only“, ironically the fifth (but not final) film to star Sir Roger Moore as 007.
Sheena’s song was a big hit reaching No.4 in America and No.8 in the UK and went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. At the time, only the third Bond song to achieve such a nomination (the other two were “Live And Let Die” and “Nobody Does It Better”). Adele went on to become the first artist to actually win the award in 2013 with her title song, “Skyfall” from the previous year’s film of the same name while Sam Smith did the same in 2016 for “Writing’s On The Wall”, the song used over the main credits for the last film, ‘SPECTRE‘ (2015).
Sam Smith was 23 years old when he recorded his Bond song while Adele was 24 when she recorded “Skyfall”. Sir Tom Jones was a mere 25 year old when he recorded “Thunderball” in 1965 and Nancy Sinatra was 26 when she recorded “You Only Live Twice” in 1967. Shirley (later to be knighted) Bassey was 27 when she recorded the first of her three 007 themes, “Goldfinger”, in 1964, the same age as Alicia Keys was in 2008 when she recorded “Another Way To Die” for that year’s release, ‘Quantum Of Solace’. Lulu was also 27 when she recorded “The Man With The Golden Gun” in 1974 while the three members of a-ha were 28, 26 and 25 when they co-wrote and released “The Living Daylights” in 1987.
Artists all in their 20’s and in the very early stages of their respective careers. At the other end of the scale, come the legends. Those who already boasted of many decades and achievements in the music industry, who were asked to perform a Bond title theme. Having scored her first hit in 1984, Madonna was 44 when she not only sang “Die Another Day” in 2002, but also appeared as Verity Lambert in the film itself! Minus her Pips, Gladys Knight was 45 when she sang “Licence To Kill” for Timothy Dalton’s second outing in 1989. Tina Turner was 56 when she was asked to record U2’s Bono and ‘The Edge’s “GoldenEye”, the first Bond film for six years, in 1995 and the first to star Pierce Brosnan as 007.
But the record for the eldest and most distinguished Bond performer is still unbroken after more than fifty years. That was set in 1969 by the unforgettable Mr. Louis Armstrong, who was 68 years old when he recorded “We Have All The Time In The World” for ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘. Fittingly and also sadly, it was also the last song he ever recorded. Armstrong was ill and was even too weak to play his own trademark trumpet on the track. He sang “We Have All The Time In The World” in one take and as he left the studio, turned to composer John Barry and said “thanks for the gig man”. He died soon after. As yet, there hasn’t been anyone else of a greater age to of recorded a title theme song.
But who knows…it could happen yet. How about Dame Shirley (now 83) returning for a fourth time? 93 year old Tony Bennett is still going strong and has all the credentials to perform a 007 classic. The use in recent years of ‘current’ or ‘trending’ artists keeps Bond music alive and appealing to modern music fans, just as it did in 1965 with Tom Jones and 1985 with Duran Duran. But occasionally, the producers have surprised everyone with the casting of an elder statesperson to bring gravitas and class to accompany the incomparable main titles sequences dreamed up and created by designers Maurice Binder (1918-1991) and his modern day protege Daniel Kleinman (b.1955). One thing we do know…James Bond WILL return!