The song, “Live And Let Die”, was originally recorded by Wings in 1973
Paul and Linda McCartney wrote the title song for the 1973 James Bond film ‘Live And Let Die’ and recorded it with his post-Beatles band Wings. The song was released in June that year, three weeks before the film went on general showing at the box office. It peaked at No.2 in America and No.9 in the UK as well as being a big hit globally. The following year, it became the first 007 theme to be nominated for an Academy Award for best original song.
But it could have been much different. Producer Harry Saltzman wanted Thelma Houston to perform the song, but it took some persuading from composer George Martin that if McCartney and Wings didn’t do it, they wouldn’t have the song. One lady who did get to do it was Brenda ‘BJ’ Arnau (1941-1989). She played the cabaret singer at the Fillet O’Soul bar that Bond and Felix Leiter visit. And her opening number…”Live And Let Die”! Who said this was just a movie?! Arnau’s version combines Soul and Jazz and offers an insight into how a female vocal would have sounded over the opening titles. Her version received only limited commercial release and thus did not chart.
In 1991, American rock band Guns’N’Roses covered the song for their album, “Use Your Illusion Vol.1”, and was released as the second single in December that year. Their version went to No.33 in the US and No.5 in the UK, beating the original for chart position. The song also topped the chart in Finland and New Zealand and was a top twenty placed hit in most other countries around the world.
But whose version is the best? WINGS’ original or GUNS’N’ROSES’ cover?
For Yaphet Kotto (1939-2021)
“Names is for tombstones, baby”