Themes, Bond Themes: The Music of The James Bond Films

by Amy Gold

James Bond theme songs have become almost as popular as the film series itself, creating their own unique niche in pop music. With the extraordinary pop culture reach of the Bond franchise, it seems only natural that it would extend its way into the world of music. With the recording talents of some of the biggest names in the industry, that reach has only become bigger over the years.

The musical connection with James Bond began in 1962 with the very first Bond movie, "Dr. No." It was for that film that composer Monty Norman created the instrumental "James Bond Theme" which has appeared in almost every film since and become as recognizable as the secret agent himself.

The first two movies featured a combination of themes played over the opening and closing credits, but it was the third film, "Goldfinger," in 1964, that gave birth to the genre that would become known as James Bond theme songs. The "Goldfinger" theme was performed by Shirley Bassey, who would later record two other Bond themes, "Diamonds Are Forever" and "Moonraker."

Over the years, many composers have taken a turn at producing themes for the Bond movies. Everyone from John Barry, Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse to Marvin Hamlisch has popped up on the musical charts with Bond themes. While "Goldfinger" first brought James Bond theme songs to the pop charts, it would soon become a familiar move to have each film tied in to music's top sellers. Tom Jones had a hit in 1965 with "Thunderball," while Nancy Sinatra provided the vocal talent for the 1967 hit, "You Only Live Twice."

1973 saw arguably the biggest link to pop superstardom when Paul McCartney wrote and performed the theme for "Live And Let Die." Carly Simon had the biggest cross-over pop success in 1977 with a Bond theme with her version of Hamlisch's "Nobody Does It Better" from "The Spy Who Loved Me." This was also one of the rare times when a Bond theme did not include the name of the movie in its title.

The popularity of James Bond theme songs has continued from Duran Duran's "A View To A Kill" in 1985 to Tina Turner's "GoldenEye" in 1995. More recent Bond movies have seen contributions from Madonna, Sheryl Crow and Alicia Keys. All of them have provided a unique musical backdrop for the suspense and style that is James Bond.

Mention the title of a Bond film and you can probably hum at least a few bars of its theme. Almost no other film franchise can make such a claim, but the James Bond name keeps drawing in top musicians and composers and leaving listeners both "shaken and stirred."

The main themes for each James Bond movie are listed below in chronological order. Most of them became chart hits in both the US and the UK and, unless otherwise indicated, are the title songs for their respective movies.