A play on the phrase "live and let live," this was the title song for the eighth James Bond film. It was the first to star Roger Moore as Bond.
Wings co-founder and original drummer Denny Seiwell said of this song: "Everybody thought it was cool that we were doing something for James Bond. I remember what Paul told us - he said a couple weeks before we did the actual recording, he said they wanted him to write the theme to the next James Bond movie, and they sent him the book to read. And we were up at the house one day and he had just read the book the night before, and he sat down at the piano and said, 'James Bond... James Bond... da-da-dum!', and he started screwing around at the piano. Within 10 minutes, he had that song written. It was awesome, really. Just to watch him get in there and write the song was really something I'll remember the rest of my life."
McCartney was given a copy of the Ian Fleming novel to read and he read the book one Saturday, during a break from sessions for the Red Rose Speedway album before penning the tune on the following day. The former Beatle recalled the writing of the song in an interview with the October 2010 edition of Mojo magazine: "I got the book and it's a very fast read. On the Sunday, I sat down and thought, OK, the hardest thing to do here is to work in that title. I mean, later I really pitied who had the job of writing Quantum Of Solace. So I thought, Live And Let Die, OK, really what they mean is live and let live and there's the switch.
So I came at it from the very obvious angle. I just thought, 'When you were younger you used to say that, but now you say this.'"
George Martin produced this and arranged the orchestra. Martin produced most of The Beatles work, so this was McCartney's chance to work with him again.
This was the most successful Bond theme up to that point. Other hits from James Bond movies include "Nobody Does It Better
" by Carly Simon (from The Spy Who Loved Me
), "For Your Eyes Only" by Sheena Easton, and "A View To A Kill
" by Duran Duran.
McCartney performed this on his solo tours in 1989-1990 and 1993.
McCartney was initially asked to write a song for the movie for someone else to perform. He agreed to write it only if his band Wings could perform it.
Guns N' Roses covered this in 1991 on Use Your Illusion I. Shannon Hoon from Blind Melon sang backup on the track.
When this song was played live, Linda McCartney was often criticized for having a lack of musical ability, because she played her piano-like instrument one-fingered. The instrument was, in fact, an Electone, which only plays one note at a time.
McCartney's James Bond connection was Albert Broccoli, who produced many of the films. Someone at Apple Records knew Broccoli, who wanted McCartney to do the title song for the 1971 Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. That fell through because of contractual problems, but they were able to connect for the next film, Live and Let Die.
In 1973, this song took home the Grammy award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocals. It was credited to Wings and George Martin.
Weird Al Yankovic wrote a parody of this song and called it "Chicken Pot Pie." Although legally not required to, as a professional courtesy Yankovic seeks permission from the original artists before he releases parodies. McCartney, a vegetarian (as is Yankovic), didn't approve of the carnivorous title, so Yankovic never released a recording of the song, although he did perform it in concert as part of a medley of food-centric parodies. Any concert release that includes the food medley has "Chicken Pot Pie" edited out.
Roger Moore told the London Times August 1, 2008 about Bond producer Harry Saltzman's reaction when he first heard the demo of this song. He recalled: "Saltzman was unconvinced, and he turned to George Martin and said: 'Ok, but who are we going to get to sing it?' George replied that he had just listened to Paul McCartney, one of the biggest recording stars of all time."
This song spent three weeks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Nothing unusual in that. However, it was the first hit in chart history to spend those three weeks at #2 when a different song was #1 for each of those three weeks! It's first week at #2 was the week of August 11, 1973 and "The Morning After
" by Maureen McGovern was ending its two week stint at the top. On August 18, "Touch Me in the Morning
" by Diana Ross leapfrogged "Live And Let Die" to assume the #1 spot. Then, on August 25, "Brother Louie
" by the Stories did exactly the same thing. The same thing happened in 1975 to "I'm Not In Love
" by 10cc.
McCartney played this at halftime of the 2005 Super Bowl. It was the only non-Beatles song in his set.
This was voted the best Bond theme ever in a poll of BBC Radio 2 and 5 Live listeners conducted in 2012 to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Dr. No
. Carly Simon's "Nobody Does it Better
" was the runner-up, while "Goldfinger
," sung by Shirley Bassey, came in third.
On a whim, director David O. Russell decided to have Jennifer Lawrence perform this in the Oscar-nominated film American Hustle... only he didn't have permission. He called cast member Colleen Camp (Brenda), who was close friends with Barbara Broccoli, daughter of Bond producer Albert Broccoli. Unbeknownst to the director, Camp was laid up in a hospital gurney after a blood-clot scare and was being scolded by hospital staff for using her cell phone. She was already meeting with Broccoli, who was flying in from London the next day, and she didn't want to wake her - couldn't it wait until then? No, Russell wanted confirmation within the next half hour so he could plan the next day's shoot.
Amazingly, Camp and Broccoli pulled off the feat with a frenzy of phone calls from their respective beds. Camp told Media Mayhem: "This was a back-and-forth phone call over the next half hour, while I was on the gurney... [Russell] never knew I was on the gurney. All they know was they got to sing the song the next day."
Jennifer Lawrence discussed the song choice in a press conference: "We were going to go over the script before we started shooting and David said he had a vision of me (as Roslyn) wearing yellow cleaning gloves and running through the entire house singing 'Live and Let Die.' I thought that sounded incredible, but how is it going to make sense? I was just like 'sure, I'll dance. I'll sing. Whatever.' She (Roslyn) is so angry and she's at this point where she's been lied to for so long and she's been left out of everything and she's getting to the point that this marriage she' been fighting for for so long, she's been imprisoning this man and this marriage for so many years, she's finally ready to just let it die. So I think that was a really great moment. I threw my neck out actually!"
The Guns N' Roses version was used in the action comedy Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), starring John Cusack and Minnie Driver. An easy listening rendition from Adam Fields was also used in the movie.
A version of McCartney's song mixed by producer Ralph Sall was used in the 2003 comedy The In-Laws, starring Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks.