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50 years of James Bond in music

Few characters in the history of cinema, if any, are more iconic than Ian Fleming’s debonair super-spy, James Bond; few, too, can boast of any comparison to the equally iconic music which accompanies the intrepid agent 007’s exploits. Since the series’ beginning, the Bond films have been marked by exceptional music, including contributions from Paul McCartney, Shirley Bassey, Louis Armstrong and Madonna, and, of course, John Barry’s instantly recognizable recording of Monty Norman‘s “James Bond Theme.” (Adele will sing the theme for the 23rd film, Skyfall, which releases in the United Kingdom on 26 October and in the United States on 9 November.)

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of the first Bond film, Dr. No, we’ve put together a playlist of every theme from the series’ run (with the exception of Gladys Knight’s “Licence To Kill,” which can’t be found on Spotify but which you can listen to here). Also included are a few different takes on the themes from notables like Count Basie and Moby. Listening through, you get the sense that while the styles have changed with the fashions of the day, the sense of adventure, danger, and perfect sang-froid which epitomizes 007 has stayed very much the same.

Jon Burlingame is the author of the upcoming book, The Music of James Bond, slated for release this fall to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the billion-dollar movie franchise and the release of Skyfall. One of the nation’s leading writers on the subject of music for film and television, he writes regularly for Daily Variety and teaches film-music history at the University of Southern California. His other work has included three previous books on film and TV music; articles for other publications including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Premiere and Emmy magazines; and producing radio specials for Los Angeles classical station KUSC. Read his previous blog post: “James Bond at the London 2012 Opening Ceremony.”

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Recent Comments

  1. Gordon Thompson

    And on the anniversary of the first film, let’s not forget the great Vic Flick who played the iconic guitar theme. Others have imitated him, but he’s the original.

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