The Windmills of Your Mind  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"The Windmills of Your Mind" is a song with music by French composer Michel Legrand and English lyrics written by Americans Alan and Marilyn Bergman. The French lyrics, under the title "Les Moulins de mon cœur", were written by Eddy Marnay. The song (with the English lyrics) was introduced in the film The Thomas Crown Affair (1968),

and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in the same year. In 2004, "Windmills of Your Mind" was ranked 57 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top songs in American cinema. A cover by Sting was used in the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.

An oft-sampled version is that by Dorothy Ashby from the album Dorothy's Harp (1969).

Composition/original recording

In the original 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair, the song is heard – sung by Noel Harrison – during opening credits; and, during the film, in a scene in which the character Thomas Crown flies a glider at the glider airport in Salem, New Hampshire: having edited the rough cut for this scene utilizing the Beatles track "Strawberry Fields Forever" producer/director Norman Jewison commissioned an original song be written for the glider scene which would reference the ambivalent feelings of Thomas Crown as he engages in a favorite pastime while experiencing the tension of preparing to commit a major robbery. Alan Bergman: "Michel [Legrand] played us [ie. Alan and Marilyn Bergman] seven or eight melodies. We listened to all of them and decided to wait until the next day to choose one. We three decided on the same one, a long baroque melody... The lyric we wrote was stream-of-consciousness. We felt that the song had to be a mind trip of some kind" – "The [eventual] title was [originally] a line at the end of a section... When we finished we said: "What do we call this? It's got to have a title. That line is kind of interesting.' So we restructured the song so that the line appeared again at the end. It came out of the body of the song. I think we were thinking, you know when you try to fall asleep at night and you can't turn your brain off and thoughts and memories tumble."

Noel Harrison recorded the song after Andy Williams passed on it: according to Harrison: "It was recorded live on a huge sound stage at Paramount, with the accompanying film clips running on a giant screen and Michel blowing kisses to the orchestra." Harrison took issue with the couplet "Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own / Down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone", singing the word "shone" British-style with a short vowel sound making the rhyme with "own" imperfect. Marilyn Bergman: "We said 'No, it's shone [long vowel sound].' And he said 'No, it's our language!' And we said: 'Yes, but it's our song.' So reluctantly, he sang shone [long vowel sound] and our rhyme was intact." However, Harrison evidently had the last laugh; in the finally released version he sings "shone" with a short vowel. Harrison's version had a US single in the US in July 1968 soon after the premiere of the film and similarly was released in the British Isles at the time of the film's 7 February 1969 premiere in the UK and Ireland. As a result, it was a current UK release when "The Windmills of Your Mind" received an Academy Award nomination on 24 February 1969: Harrison's single debuted at #36 in the UK Top 50 dated 4 March 1969 and had risen to #15—abetted by performances by Harrison on the 27 March 1969 broadcast of TOTP and also on variety shows hosted by Rolf Harris and Scott Walker—when the song won the Academy Award on 14 April 1969, an endorsement which facilitated the Top Ten entry of Harrison's single on the UK chart dated 22 April 1969 with its chart peak of #8 effected two weeks later.

"The Windmills of Your Mind" was performed on the Academy Awards ceremony broadcast of 14 April 1969 by José Feliciano; Noel Harrison would recall: "I was invited to sing it at the Academy Awards... but I was making a movie in England at the time, and the producer (who didn't like me) refused to let me go." The film which caused the scheduling conflict has been identified as Take a Girl Like You directed by Jonathan Miller.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Windmills of Your Mind" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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