Bond theme singers and their ages.

The sad announcement of Chris Cornell’s death this morning got me thinking.

His biggest solo hit in the UK was his theme to Casino Royale, ‘You Know My Name’.  The James Bond film series has been running since 1962, and all of them since From Russia With Love in 1963 has had a vocal theme tune.  That’s 54 years of performances.

And surprisingly, all of those singers except Louis Armstrong, Matt Monro and now Chris Cornell, are still alive.

I wondered if these singers had been particularly old to begin with.  Louis Armstrong certainly was (he was 69 when the film came out and died soon afterwards) but the others weren’t particularly.

Here’s the age of each Bond theme singer (two, Alicia Keys and Jack White, for Quantum of Solace) at the time the film was released.

Figure 1

The line in blue is a line of best fit (if you like an average throughout the years).  Noticeably, the average age is getting younger, but only a little, according to this.

I’ve labelled the three singers I’ve already talked about, as well as all those who were significantly older than average and those who were much younger.

As you can see, Louis Armstrong was very old at the time.  Matt Monro wasn’t, but his film (From Russia With Love) was the earliest to have a theme tune (Dr No had the Instrumental James Bond Theme by Monty Norman over it’s credits), so it’s perhaps not surprising that he has since died.

The next three Bond films after From Russia With Love – Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, all had significantly younger than average singers (Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and Nancy Sinatra) and then that takes us up to the 1970s, so it’s not surprising that those singers are still alive.

Chris Cornell really is unusual and the only statistical conclusion that can be drawn from this is that he died tragically young.  R.I.P.

 

However there are some other interesting things going on here.

Firstly, Louis Armstrong was so old that he’s statistically an outlier. (Greater than 1.5 times the Inter Quartile Range added on to the Upper Quartile)  Removing him from the data set therefore, in order to better see what’s going on in the trends show this:

Figure 2

Interestingly, this shows that the average age is slightly increasing.  Still this belies what we can clearly see (which is that the theme singers are getting younger and younger).  Again, there is a spike here at 1995’s Goldeneye (Tina Turner) who was already 66 when she performed the theme (and retired soon afterwards).

I’ve now split this in two, looking at the best fit up to and including Tina Turner, and for all the films since.

Figure 3

 

The purple line shows the mean of that first group of films and the green line shows the films since.

Now really, you can make statistics say what you want to say, and I could have split this into more sections or moved that point.

Clearly though since 2005 the average age of a Bond title singer has been decreasing significantly.  Why is this?  Because Pop singers are getting younger.  Only Madonna and Chris Cornell since then have been over 40.  Only Jack White of the others was over 30.  A return to the heyday of the 1960s?  There is a certain symmetry about this.

Wonder what will happen next…

 

 

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About theinterruptingsheep
Freelance Composer/Arranger/Song-writer. Longer blogs here, shorter ones on twitter @GeraldCmin6 My band is 'The Great Divide'. You can 'like' us on facebook through www.thegreatdivide.co.uk Contact me directly through www.theinterruptingsheep.com if you want me to score your project.

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