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The Windmills Of Your Mind

by

Noel Harrison



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was featured in the 1968 Steve McQueen movie The Thomas Crown Affair. Director Norman Jewison wanted a song that sounded like The Beatles "Strawberry Fields Forever" for a scene where McQueen's character is flying a glider. The song provided a contrast to the visual - McQueen appeared firmly in control, but the music made viewers feel the trepidation going through his mind.
Songwriters Michel Legrand and Marilyn and Alan Bergman wrote this. It took them a while to come up with the title, which they chose because they thought it was interesting.
This won the 1969 Oscar for Best Song From A Film.
Harrison was the son of the British actor Rex Harrison. He is best known in the US for co-starring with Stefanie Powers in the popular '60s TV spy series The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for all above)
Dusty Springfield recorded a popular version of this song on her 1969 album Dusty In Memphis. (thanks, Mike - Santa Barbara, CA)
Marilyn Bergman recalled to the ASCAP Extended Songwriters' Workshop how this song came about: "That was an assignment, for a picture called The Thomas Crown Affair. It was a picture about a very wealthy playboy who has been everywhere and done everything, and for a thrill, plans a very complicated bank heist. There was a scene in which he is flying a glider for pleasure while he's planning the bank heist, and the director shot six- or seven-minutes of him circling in the glider -- which is a dream for a songwriter: no dialogue, no sound effects, just a little shoosh of wind. Norman Jewison, the director, wanted a song that exposed no character, that didn't tell any plot - he just wanted the restlessness and uneasiness of the character underlined. Michel wrote six or seven full melodies, and when we work with him, we write to his melodies, because even though he expresses himself perfectly in English, his French accent is such that things can come out sounding a little like calypso songs! He played us these wonderful melodies, and we agreed to sleep on it. The next morning all three of us had independently chosen this oddball melody, almost baroque in feel. It was the opposite of what we had thought we would have chosen the night before."
Alan Bergman added: "I think we chose it because it's kind of a ribbon, a circular melody that reflected the flight of a glider very well."
Noel Harrison once said of this song: "It didn't seem like a big deal at the time. I went to the studio one afternoon, sang it and pretty much forgot about it. I didn't realize until later what a timeless, beautiful piece Michel Legrand and the Bergmans had written. It turned out to be my most notable piece of work."
Noel Harrison
More Noel Harrison songs
More songs that won Oscars
More songs used in movies

Comments (13):

I always loved his cover of Suzanne, by Leonard Cohen.
- Lisa, Ardenvoir, WA
Sorry, I do not know English ....
I have collected >300 covers of "The Windmill ..." at 17 1/2 languages
János Kulka - Szélmalom
Cæcilie Norby - Hvirvelvinden
Dragan Stojnic - Oprosti Mi, Ako Možeš
Enzo Jannacci - I Mulini Dei Ricordi
Frida Boccara - Les Moulins De Mon Coeur
Helena Vondrá?ková - Muzes zustat muzes jit
Herman van Veen - Cirkels
Katri Helena - Samanlainen onni
Kiri Te Kanawa - The Windmills Of Your Mind
Lill Lindfors - Mellan Drom Och Verklighet
Rosario De Alba - Los Problemas De Tu Mente
Queene Ina Muller Edda Schnittgard - Wie sich Muhlen drehn im Wind
Halina Frackowiak - Wiatraki mojej wyobrazni
Massel Tov & Rolinha Kross - Di Miln Foen Majn Harts
Montreal Jazz Club - Windmills Of Your Mind / Les Moulins De Mon Coeur
etc.
- pojuella, Minsk, Belarus
My memory must be very rusty because I remembered this song playing over the titles at the end of this movie. But I saw a version last night, on Starz I think - but I tuned in after the glider scene - and never heard a note of this melody! In fact, the music was awful! Was the glider scene the only place this song played in the entire feature?
- Dorothy, Kansas, IL
The French version of the lyrics is somewhat different, even the title changes "mind" for "heart"
- Oscar, Lima, Peru
I am a singer-entertainer, I have heard this song before, but never really listened to the words, this morning I heard it on the radio sung by Dusty Springfield, what a magnificent job she did,I have decided to record it.

Tony Reno
- Tony, Palermo, Italy
A recording of Windmills by Sting is played in the credits of the Pierce Brosnan version of The Thomas Crown Affair.
- Beth, Winchester Bay, OR
Edward Woodward also recorded a rather disturbing version of this song on his 1972 album 'The Edward Woodward Album' (now sadly very hard to find, but comparble, in places, to William Shatner's 'musical' work from the same period).
- [euchrid], Glastonbury, England
Alison Moyet has also recorded this song on her album "Voices". It is very mellow, quite soft-jazzy and being that Alison Moyet has quite a low, husky voice means that like "Only You" from her days with Yazoo, I can sing this song in the same pitch as her;op
- Dave, London, England
Dusty Springfield charted with this in 1969. It was featured on her classic pop album "Dusty In Memphis".
- Tom, Washington, DC
In the 70's Harrison fled Hollywood following his stint as Mark Slate on The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. He went to Nova Scotia, grew a bushy beard, and built a house with no electricity. The wood stove caused it to burn to the ground and he rebuilt it. He now lives in Los Angeles and is a writer.
- Garry, Anchorage, AK
Noel Harrison hosted the TV show Hullabaloo. He had a parking space at MGM next to Natalie Wood. He toured for a while with The Beach Boys and Sonny and Cher. Those must have been great years.
- Garry, Anchorage, AK
Jose Feliciano sang the song at the Academy Award show because Harrison was busy making a movie and the director would not let him fly to Hollywood to sing it.
- Garry, Anchorage, AK
Noel harrison's best song for me was "A Young Girl" - originally sung (in French) by Edith Piaf "Une Enfant"
- Michael, Villereau, France
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