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Windy by The Association

Album: Insight OutReleased: 1967Charted:
1
  • 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."
  • Bones Howe 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."
  • Hal Blaine was brought in to play drums on this song. Blaine has played on songs by Simon And Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys and many others.
  • 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. (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada)
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Comments: 27

Terry, thanks for stopping by and posting those comments. I am a huge Association fan--your harmonies were amazing and your music meant a lot to millions. One of the top groups of all-time!Rod - Boise, Id
Ruthann Friedman has told so many different tales about writing "Windy", including in a great interview on this site--she has admitted that she was no stranger to the psychedelics of the period. Originally I read that Friedman said "I was looking out a window and a storm was brewing, I was watching this leaf going up and down in the air, it was beautiful and it came to me to write Windy"... now she claims it was about a person?? It really doesn't matter. The Association made it a terrific and happy hit song that could easily brighten up anyone's gloomy day. Friedman also may have actually been the first female to write a hit solo (without a male ). Sharon Sheeley who "Poor Little Fool" is usually given the crown, but James Kirkland (Ricky Nelson's bass player) has recently claimed that he and James Burton reworked the melody of "Poor Little Fool" and changed it to the final version used by Nelson.Coy - Palestine, Tx
I was an usher at Indiana University in 1967. Each spring the University would stage an extravaganza with a variety of entertainers.
That year the Association was on the bill with Bob Hope. Cherish had been released and was hugely popular. Hours prior to the show in the IU football stadium the performers were conducting sound checks. I noticed someone sitting in the stands that looked familiar. It was Jim Yester. I struck up a conversation with him and quickly discovered him to be a friendly guy. During our conversation he confided that his group would be premiering a song that evening and was curious if the crowd would realize the meaning of this particular line of lyric, "Who's bending down to give me a rainbow everyone knows it's Windy." From my lack of reaction it was obvious to him that I had no idea what that meant. Fortunately, he told me what Windy was actually doing.
Mac - Washington, In
Thanks to Terry Kirkman for his comments! I know Terry might not like this comment, but I remember reading in a book by Hal Blaine the drummer, that the Association were great singers but not so good on their instruments, though in all fairness, I know Terry plays tons of instruments, and seems to be more than proficient! I also thought the song was about a hippie, esp since the song came out in 1967. I also thought Terry was playing a recorder on the song, and I appreciate him setting the record straight, and that the group could have played the instruments just fine.

I want to thank Terry for sending me an email in 2002, it is now 2011. I have kept it to this day as a great treasure and memory. Somehow I found Terry's email and he was kind enough to send an email back. I had done a review of their Birthday album for allmusic.com. And yes, it is a very good album! Anyway, thank you Terry for the great music and also sending me that email some years ago.
Michael - Minneapolis, Mn
My name is Windy and I love this song because it fits my personality and it's just a great song period! My husband bought this record for me before we were married so it really is very special to me. You see, I was born in a very bad storm and my middle name is Gail (it was supposed to be Gale according to my father, but my mom liked the other spelling). It's kind of ironic because I have blue eyes and I always imagined stormy eyes would be blue. I know my comment may sound corny, but I understand why this song was #1 for a time. Also, I've actually been asked if this song was named after me, if you can believe that. On occasion, I said yes just to see what reaction I would get. I love The Association for recording this song!Windy - Tampa, Fl
It was a recorder when the group performed it on television. Maybe Terry can fill us in on what happened there. I have clear memories of this because I had just bought a C-descant soprano recorder (with Green Stamps, no less) a few months before the song hit the charts. The sound was identical.Ekristheh - Halath, United States
Thanks for contributing here Terry! I always thought the solo was a flute... then I saw you playing what looked like a recorder live. Nice to know it was a piccolo! How do you feel about what Larry Ramos is doing with the band now?Joe - Boston, Ma
this had to be made into a music video featuring a girl in a yellow dress running around with a handful of balloons in the park on a bright spring day. i know i'm not that only person who thinks that.Michelle - Mcdonough, Ga
It's a very underrated song that should receive more credit.Daniel Adams - Northumberland, Pa
The year {1967} The Association released this song, the great Jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery also released it, his peaked at No. 44!!!Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I've been reading the comments and reviews here with interest....I'm an alumni of Pasadena High School the The Association would occassionally play at our assemblies and they rocked....a lot of us would go to The Ice House (I called it the poor man's Hungry i)....then we would go down to radion station KRLA located at the Huntington Sheraton Hotel and pester their awesome DJ's....Bob Eubanks, Wink Martindale, Casey Kasem for more Association airplay....the sixties in Pasadena ROCKED.....I later worked for Liberty/UA Records....."cruising Colorado Boulevard" (my friends Jan Berry and Dean Torrance)......anyone else remember how great Pasadena was?Dwight - Pasadena, Ca
Thanks for the insight Terry; I'm not sure why but this is one of those songs that, to me, is simply a masterful work that is up there with the best songs that came out of the 60s. I've seen the live performance The Association did on youtube, you guys can definitely play the song. Thank you for such a beautiful song. And thanks again Ruthann for writing such a timeless and wonderful song.Steve - Danville, Pa
hey.... terry kirkman, here, from the Association.
so wonderful to see anyone still talking about the old songs. I actually learned something from your comments I did not know myself. Ruthanne would never tell us the true story behind the song and then Russ told us she had told him and that's where the story of the haight ashbury boyfriend orginated.
leaving us to wonder why it seems that David Crosby seems to have had his hand in so many other people's careers. he was truly obiquitous at that time.
as for my playing recorder on the original single:
I did not. Bud Shank, the famous jazz reed player who also played the great slightly out of key flute solo on CA dreamin', played piccolo on Windy. Like the one comment correctly states, I/We were out of the studio at dawn and on our way to VA to begin a long tour. Warner Brothers had asked for one single song done on the upcoming album before we went and Windy was it. As for the rumor of the original song being done in a 3/4 or 6/8 waltz...that may have originated from me demonstrating in some interview a way that the song may have been originally intended (not remembering myself...having only heard the demo once...just hypothesizing). The difference between hoyt axton's demo of joy to the world...which we passed on...and how it was recorded by 3 dog...is just as vast.... his intent was a very playful kind of kid's tune....which I do remember probably being in 6/8....but could also be wrong... you'd have to ask Chuck Negron about that...I'm told he's the one who came up with the hit approach to the tune.

as for the song being too complex for us to play on the recording...it was definitely not. We used the same studio guys as everyone else in town because we were only given 40 days to do a whole album... in the case of windy....the tracks were arranged and put down on tape under Ray Pohlman's guidance, beginning at noon....with Clark Burroughs beginning vocal arrangement sketches as the tracks were being done....as larry and russ took a stab at the lead vocals the rest of tried simply getting the song into our conciousness'..... we had devoted absolutely NO time to this tune at all prior to those mid day moments... I still don't know the lyrics...never had to sing them ever... at the end of the tune
ruthanne, judy henski, and everyone who was in the booth...including jim and clark's wives (both pro singers) are singing on the song...mostly in the tenor voice overdubs.... we were completly burned out....

bye for now... cool site... thanks for the forum...
Terry - Pasadena, Ca
I think this has got to be the "happiest" song ever written. It's almost impossible to not feel good when this song is playing. Strangely, I've woken up with this song in my head frequently for years now. I don't understand that but it could be worse.Jonas - Kalamazoo, Mi
I always thought the song was about the wind and the stormy weather itself. I thought that's why the spelling was changed, kind of like a play on words: For the wind itself could be thought of as peaking out from under a stairway, or tripping down the streets of the city, or calling a name that's lighter than air with wings to fly above the clouds. Stormy eyes that flash at the sound of lies, I thought, was the lightning that might come with a windstorm. Very well written lyrics, and not just a "light pop song." I found Ruthann Friedman's original demo version on I-Tunes, and by the way it is not in waltz time as was suggested by an above post.James - San Diego, Ca
I thought this was about the Windy city!Philippe - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
When I was in high school in Kokomo, Indiana, this song came out and I immediately loved it because my real name is Stormy and that's part of the lyrices. Of course, everyone in school asked me if I heard the new Associations song because my name was in it. Later the Classics IV came out with the song "Stormy" and, of course, I loved that one too!
(thanks-Stormy Werbe, Kokomo, Indiana)
Stormy - Kokomo, In
I always thought the song was about Windy the Dog.Joe - Chicago, Il
Depending on the version you get, you can have fun listening to the stereo mix on this and other Association songs. There's almost no mixing between channels: on one side you hear a couple of the instruments, and on the other there are the voices plus other instruments. Peter, Paul and Mary mixed much of their music like this as well.Mark - Lancaster, Oh
Nice comments on the Asssociation. I too am from Jersey, and A big Bruce fan, but that was another time. Windy is no doubt a HUGE love song to those who heard it at the time. Granted I was only eight, but I did manage to fall in love with my wife, and EVERY time I hear this song it makes EVERYTHING we've been through seem worthwhile!Matt - Atlanta, Ga
In high school, my sister and I figured out that "Windy" made no sense as a love song and is actually about electronic surveillance and invasion of privacy. ("peeking out from under a staircase" ... "reaching out to capture a moment" ... "eyes that flash at the sound of lies" e.g. a lie detector).
Anyone else ever heard this theory?
Sanford - Chicago, Il
Basically, this song comes off as consevativly "Hippy Lite" but the person in question is thoroughly on a blissed out Sunshiney "Trip"Steve - Salt Lake City, Ut
Awesome bass at the beginning of this song!!!!!>>>>>>>!!!Jonathan - Johnstown, Pa
The association was a very good group.I was finishing high school in freehold,new jersey when this group was popular.Bruce springsteen was in my graduating class and he told me that this group was good.Alphonse Dattolo - Haledon, Nj
Studio wizards Mike Deasy Sr (guitar) and Larry Knechtel (bass & keyboards) were brought in for this album as the music was too complex for the band themselves.Mike - Seattle, Wa
"Windy" isn't rhymed in the song except with itself, and it became popular for a while to substitute another two- (or even three-) syllable girl's name, especially Cindy.Keith - Slc, Ut
Thanks for the review. I learned a thing or two, and my knowledge of this group is deep. However, even modest fans of the group know that the break in the middle of "Windy" is a soprano recorder, not a flute. Terry Kirkman played recorder on this and "Along comes Mary", as well as a number of other tunes.

You also switched instruments for Ramos and Bluechel.
Jim - Cary, Nc