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Album: Insight OutReleased: 1967Charted:
This was written by Ruthann Friedman, who was singer/songwriter entrenched in the San Francisco and Los Angeles music scene in the '60s. She became friends with Beach Boys lyricist Van Dyke Parks
, who introduced her to The Association, who were the first to record the song. They turned "Windy" into a girl.
Although Ruthann Friedman won't reveal the identity of "Windy," she tells us that he was another singer/songwriter, and not "a freewheeling Haight Ashbury Hippy" as often reported. Friedman says of the song: "I have heard so many different permutations of what the song was about. Here is the TRUTH. I was sitting on my bed - the apartment on the first floor of David Crosby's house in Beverly Glenn - and there was a fellow who came to visit and was sitting there staring at me as if he was going to suck the life out of me. So I started to fantasize about what kind of a guy I would like to be with, and that was Windy - a guy (fantasy). The song took about 20 minutes to write."
produced this song, making significant changes to Ruthann Friedman's demo to give the song more pop appeal. The song was written in waltz time, but Howe changed it to a standard 4/4 beat. He also opened the song with the bassline, added the recorder solo, and had the group sing the "ba-ba-ba-ba-ba" backing vocals.
The song became Howe's first #1 as a producer. He would top the chart again with two more productions: "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In
" and "Wedding Bell Blues
," both recorded by The 5th Dimension.
This was The Association's second #1 hit. Their first was "Cherish
," recorded the previous year.
After "Windy"'s run at #1 on the Hot 100, "Never My Love
" almost matched the feat in late 1967, peaking at #2 on the singles chart (it did hit #1 on "Cashbox"). "Never My Love" was composed by Don and Dick Addrisi, The Addrisi Brothers of "We've Got to Get It On" and "Slow Dancin' Don't Turn Me On" fame.
Association guitarists Larry Ramos and Russ Giguere shared lead vocals on this song. It wasn't easy - the session started in early afternoon and ended at 6:30 the next morning (they had to catch an 8:30 a.m. flight to perform in Virginia). Their voices were so burned out that Bones Howe had everybody in the studio singing on the ending of the song.
The song's composer Ruthann Friedman was 25 years old when she wrote this song. She had written at least 100 songs, but hadn't placed one with a major artist. When The Association turned "Windy" into a massive hit, it gave her both rent money and validation. Her mother pegged her as a secretary, and made her take a course hoping she would go that route. Instead, she left her family behind in the Bronx and headed for California to make music.
"I was more of a beatnik than a hippie," she told us. "I was too old to be a hippie. I was the black sheep in my family, the one who was immediately influenced by Bob Dylan and Timothy Leary. So for me it was a moment to look at my family and say, 'Na na na na na na.'"
Friedman released a solo album in 1969 called Constant Companion, it didn't include "Windy," since she didn't want to be known just for that song, especially since the hit version was such a departure from her original. She did play the song at her shows, but did it as more of a Blues number and never included the "ba-ba" vocals, which she hated. Music remained a part of her life into the '10s, when she could still be seen performing around Los Angeles. She plays "Windy" because the crowd wants to hear it. "It's a very important song. People love it," she said. "People love me because I wrote that song."
This is a rare hit song with a recorder solo, with was played by group member Terry Kirkman. It comes in about 1:07 into the song.
In our 2014 interview with Ruthann Friedman
, she said that she later came to understand the true meaning of the song. Said Friedman: "These days, looking back at myself in my mid to late 20s, I finally realized I was talking about me in that song, and how I wanted to be."
Top session musicians - the same folks who played on songs by Simon And Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra and The Beach Boys - played on most early tracks for The Association. "Windy" was recorded in a few different sessions helmed by producer Bones Howe, so it's hard to determine who played on the final version, but musicians who played at these sessions include Hal Blaine on drums, Joe Osborn on bass, Ray Pohlman on guitar and Larry Knechtel on keyboards.
This was one of the first Hot 100 chart-toppers composed entirely by a female songwriter. In 1960, Ricky Nelson brought "Poor Little Fool
," written by Sharon Sheeley, to the top spot, and in 1963 The Singing Nun (Sister Luc-Gabrielle) had a #1 that she wrote herself called "Dominique
." "Windy" came next on the list, and was followed a month later by another: "Ode To Billie Joe
," written and performed by Bobbie Gentry.
On an episode of The Drew Carey Show
entitled "Drew and Katie Become Friends," Nigel Wick plays this on his harp and sings it (Drew and Steve Carey eventually join in). The song was followed by wild applause.