American and British editions of the album vary slightly, as the UK edition contains the studio version of "Coming Up," while the US edition contains "Coming Up (Live at Glasgow)," which had reached number one on the Billboard singles chart. The Japanese version of the album also includes "Eat at Home," which had been issued as a 1971 single in the non-English-speaking world, as a bonus cut on the "Hits" disc.
McCartney was involved in fifteen albums during this period: five solo albums; one album with his wife Linda; and nine albums with Wings (including a greatest hits compilation). Wingspan features songs from each of those albums, as well as a few singles that had not been included on Wings Greatest.
Wings was active from 1971 to 1980, but this set also includes material from McCartney's albums from earlier (1970–71) and later (1980–84) years. However, it does not include any of McCartney's well-known collaborations with Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson, which took place during the latter period; a particularly notable absence is one of McCartney's biggest hits, "Say, Say, Say", most likely due to his falling out with Michael Jackson in 1985. The album also eschews any singles from the unsuccessful Press to Play or even the critically acclaimed Flowers In The Dirt (1989), the latter of which features tracks such as "My Brave Face", the last US Top-40 single by any ex-Beatle.
The album is separated into two distinct sets: a "Hits" component which highlights commercially successful material, while "History" showcases less generally known McCartney fan favourites from the same period. On the US release, fourteen of the eighteen songs on "Hits" were performed by Wings, but only nine of the twenty-two songs on "History" are by Wings.
Released in 2001 in conjunction with a prime time TV documentary simply called Wingspan, the associated soundtrack was a commercial success. In the United States, it went straight to No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with sales of 221,000 copies in the first week of its release. The album entered the U.S. chart for 14 weeks, selling approximately 970,000 units as of 2005. The album has been certified Double Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and also reached Gold status in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. A DVD release of the broadcast documentary, which dealt with McCartney's relationship with Linda Eastman and their eventual marriage, the traumatic final year of the Beatles' career and his own role in their break-up, and the story of Wings' formation and career through the 1970s toward their final dissolution in 1980, was produced by Mary McCartney, who also interviewed her father in the film.