To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movies as well as the upcoming 23rd film, Skyfall, here are my top 10 favorite songs to appear in Bond movies (including links to those songs):
- Shirley Bassey, “Goldfinger” (film of the same title, 1964): From the moment the song starts, you know it’s going to be brilliant, epic, awesome and every other adjective. By the time you get to 2:08 in the song, you’re excited to hear the instrumental Bond theme again.
- Nancy Sinatra, “You Only Live Twice” (film of the same title, 1967): I love the string part of the melody, then morphing into electric guitar. Hearing the strings come back at the end is a nice touch.
- Louis Armstrong, “We Have All the Time in the World” (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969): This song, slower than some other Bond songs, has a certain poignancy because Armstrong died only two years later, in 1971. The song is really sweet, with a message of love that I often associate with Armstrong.
- Shirley Bassey, “Diamonds Are Forever” (film of the same title, 1971): The first ten seconds always give me chills. I love how the song gets more uptempo as it goes on but the orchestration, especially the horns, keeps it grounded. Given that Bassey recorded three Bond songs – this one, the earlier “Goldfinger” and later “Moonraker” in 1979 – it’s obvious that she is the premiere interpreter of James Bond through songs.
- Paul McCartney & Wings, “Live and Let Die” (film of the same title, 1973): It took me a while to get used to this song. The shifts in style and tempo confused me during my first listen to the song. After a while, though, the song grew on me and now I love it. It’s weird, over-the-top and exciting.
- Carly Simon, “Nobody Does It Better” (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977): Thom Yorke once referred to this song as “the sexiest song ever written.” The song was in fact composed by the late, great Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager.
- Duran Duran, “A View to a Kill” (film of the same title, 1985): I suppose that after that top 6 of established Bond song classics, this particular choice seems off-kilter. Truth be told, I’m very much looking forward to seeing the film since Christopher Walken is the villain. Also, I’m a fan of Duran Duran and the song is pretty catchy.
- Gladys Knight, “Licence to Kill” (film of the same title, 1989): R&B is not generally associated with the music of James Bond, but in this case it works well.
- Garbage, “The World Is Not Enough” (film of the same title, 1999): Even though I’m not a fan of Garbage or its lead singer, Shirley Manson, this seductive track is tied with Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” as my second-favorite Bond song after Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger.”
- Chris Cornell, “You Know My Name” (Casino Royale, 2006): The usage of “You Know My Name” in the film’s opening credits is, as you would hope, definitely effective. The viewer/listener’s adrenaline is amped up to get ready for the supreme action and coolness of a James Bond movie.