This article is about the song. For the album by Paul Motian, see The Windmills of Your Mind (album). For the album by Bud Shank, see Windmills of Your Mind (album).
"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 melody was inspired by the theme of Mozart's second movement of his Sinfonia Concertante. 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 remake by Sting was utilized in the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.
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.
Dusty Springfield version
Jerry Wexler, president of Atlantic Records, heard "The Windmills of Your Mind" on the soundtrack of The Thomas Crown Affair and championed having Dusty Springfield record the song for her debut Atlantic album Dusty in Memphis, overcoming the singer's strong resistance; Springfield's friend and subsequent manager Vicki Wickham would allege: "Dusty always said she hated it because she couldn't identify with the words." During the first sessions for the track at American Sound Studio in Memphis, problems with getting the proper chords down arose, and at Springfield's suggestion the song was arranged so the first three verses were sung in a slower tempo than the original film version.
In April 1969 the third A-side release from Dusty in Memphis was announced as "I Don't Want to Hear It Anymore" with "The Windmills of Your Mind" as B-side: however Wexler was prepared to promote "Windmills" as the A-side if it won the Oscar for Best Song, reportedly instructing mail-room clerks at Atlantic Records' New York City headquarters to listen to the Academy Awards broadcast the night of 14 April 1969; hearing "The Windmills" announced as the Best Song winner was these clerks' cue to drive a station wagon loaded with 2500 copies of a double-sided promo single of Springfield's version – identified on the label as "Academy Award Winner" – to the New York City general post office, where the copies of the single were mailed out to key radio stations across the US. Although its Hot 100 debut was not effected until the 5 May 1969 issue of Billboard and then with a #99 ranking, Springfield's "The Windmills" made a rapid ascent to the Top 40 being ranked at #40 on the Hot 100 dated 24 May 1969 only to stall over the subsequent three weeks peaking at #31 on the Hot 100 dated 14 June 1969 with only one additional week of Hot 100 tenure, being ranked at #45 on the 21 June 1969 chart. Local hit parades indicate that Springfield's "Windmills" had Top Ten impact in only select larger markets: Boston, Southern California, and Miami. The track did reach #3 on the Easy Listening chart in Billboard a feat matched by Springfield's third subsequent single "Brand New Me" which therefore ties with "The Windmills" as having afforded Springfield her best-ever solo showing on a Billboard chart.
José Feliciano version
"The Windmills of Your Mind" was recorded by José Feliciano for his 1969 album 10 to 23, and Feliciano performed the song on the Academy Awards ceremony broadcast of 14 April 1969; the song's original singer Noel Harrison would later opine of Feliciano's performance: "A wonderful musician and compelling singer, he made much too free with the beautiful melody in my humble opinion. But that's jazz." It was Feliciano's version of "The Windmills" which became a hit in the Netherlands, reaching #11 on the Dutch chart in November 1969. and Nr. 4 in the Turkish hit parade in April 1970.
In French: "Les Moulins de mon cœur"
The lyrics for the French-language rendering of "The Windmills of Your Mind" were written by Eddy Marnay and this version, entitled "Les Moulins de mon cœur", was first recorded in 1968 by Marcel Amont who was resultantly afforded a minor French chart hit (peak #49).
"Les Moulins de mon coeur" has subsequently been recorded by:
In other languages
In 1970 Helena Vondráčková, prior to recording "The Windmills of Your Mind" with its original English lyrics for her album Isle of Helena (1972), recorded the song as rendered in Czech: "Můžeš zůstat, můžeš jít", and also Japanese: "Kaze no sasayaki". Introduced on the album Ostrov Heleny Vondráčkové, "Můžeš zůstat, můžeš jít" has become a signature song for Vondráčková: in 2012 when her three CD retrospective (Nejen) o lásce was issued, Vondráčková cited "Můžeš zůstat, můžeš jít" as "the song on the [anthology] dearest to [her] heart". An alternate Czech rendering of "The Windmills of Your Mind": "Mlýnské kolo v srdci mém", was recorded by Hana Hegerová to serve as title cut for her 2010 album of renderings of famous French-language songs.
"The Windmills of Your Mind" has also been rendered as:
- "Cirkels" (Dutch): recorded by Herman van Veen (1968),Marco Bakker (nl) on his album Marco Bakker zingt romantische sfeersongs (1980),Hans Dorrestijn with Martin van Dijk (nl) for their collaborative album Cirkels (2002).
- "Samanlainen onni" (Finnish): recorded by Jarkko & Laura (1968), Katri Helena (1970), Kristian (fi) on the multi-artist album Trio (1970), Tapio Heinonen (fi) on his album Julian Grimau (1971), Petri Salminen (fi) on his album Tien päällä (1997), Anneli Sari (fi) on her 1999 album Les Chansons, and Marita Taavitsainen (fi) on her album Yksi Ainoa Katse (1999).
- "Vinden I Min Själ" (Swedish): recorded by Lill-Babs on her album Till Mina Vänner (1979),Anders Ekborg on his album Äkta Vara – 11 Sångfilmer 100% Live (2006),Anita Strandell (sv) on her album Sommarbaravara (2011).
- "Wie sich Mühlen dreh'n im Wind" (German): recorded by Vicky Leandros on her album Ich glaub' an Dich (1969),Caterina Valente on her concert album Caterina Valente Live (1969),Katja Ebstein on her album ''Wunder gibt es immer wieder (1970),Bibi Johns (1970).
- "I Mulini Dei Ricordi" (Italian): recorded by Enzo Jannacci on his album Come gli aeroplani (2001).
- "Los molinos de tu espíritu" (Spanish): recorded by German singer Katja Ebstein on her Spanish-language album En Español (1971).
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After winning the International Mozart Competition of the Vienna State Opera in 1991, she received invitations for concert and recital appearances, most notably an all-Mozart recital on the stage of La Scala. She also made a recital recording with EMI Classics of Mozart arias that was an extraordinary success.
Quickly engaged by major opera houses around the world, she sang Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Madame Herz in Der Schauspieldirektor, the title role in Zaïde, Adele in Die Fledermaus, and Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos.
In 1992, Dessay debuted as Olympia in Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, and in 1993, she sang at the opening of the New Lyon Opéra. In the same year she joined the roster of the Vienna Staatsoper with a triumphant performance as Blondchen. She sang there in an acclaimed production of Tales of Hoffmann with Plácido Domingo, and as Sophie in Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier opposite Anne Sophie von Otter.
Another Strauss opera was the vehicle for her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1994, where she sang Fiakermilli in Arabella. Also that year, she added to her credits the Queen of the Night (Mozart's Magic Flute) in the Aix-en-Provence Festival, and the title role of Delibes' Lakmé at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.
Dessay enlarged the scope of her repertory in the mid- to late '90s, singing Strauss' rarely heard Die Schweigsame Frau (The Silent Woman) on her home stage in Vienna, Stravinsky's Nightingale at the Châtelet under Boulez, and Ophelia in Thomas' Hamlet at the Geneva Opera. Since then she has added Offenbach's Orphée aux Enfers, La Sonnambula, Lucia di Lammermoor, Massenet's Manon, and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro to her repertory. She has made a specialty of Bellini and Donizetti heroines, excelling in roles both comic (La Fille du Regiment) and tragic (Lucia). Her performances in those roles were featured in Live from the Met Simulcasts in 2008 and 2011, respectively.
Her recital album, Vocalises, won a Diapason d'Or award and a Classique d'Or RTL in 1998. Despite the need for vocal cord surgery, which put her career on hold from 2002 until 2005, EMI's recording of Lakmé with Michel Plasson conducting and Dessay in the title role won the award for French Recording of the Year at the Victoires de la Musique Classique. Other releases include Offenbach's Orphée and a Mozart aria disc on Virgin. She has recorded both the original French and Italian versions of Lucia di Lammermoor. Her list of awards also includes the Opera News Award and the Laurence Olivier Award (both 2008), and her designation as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor (2011).
In 2013, Dessay retired from live operatic performance (her final role was as Massenet's Manon in Toulouse, France). But she has continued to record, taking on several projects beyond the scope of opera (something she had previously avoided). Her 2013 release, Entre elle et lui, was a duo project with veteran French film composer and jazz pianist Michel Legrand. In 2017, Dessay released Pictures of America, her first English-language album, featuring a program of selections from the Great American Songbook.