PDF The Great American Lyricist -- Alan & Marilyn Bergman

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As we noted, Legrand's melody is mostly pairs of quavers - B B, C C, B B, E E, B B - and, excepting that "like a", the Bergmans match the coupled quavers with bisyllabics - circle, spiral, ending, spinning, snowball, mountain, turning, running, sweeping, whirling Marilyn described it as trying to fall asleep at night but your brain's too alert, and vague blurry shapes come cascading through, and always descending deeper and darker, as the circular imagery turns linear:. Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own Down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone Andy Williams was asked to sing it on the soundtrack, but thought it too weird.

So, for reasons not entirely clear, it was offered to Noel Harrison. Before we drift too far from the point, Cathryn's dad, Noel Harrison, was not a second-hand car dealer from the Euston Road. He was, in fact, a former slalom champion who'd skied for Britain in the '52 and '56 Winter Olympics and afterwards decided to become a singer and actor.

At the recording session for "Windmills", he was flummoxed: While Legrand was rehearsing the strings, Harrison asked the Bergmans, "What the hell's this about then? In the old country, the sun has never shonn; in the new world, the sun has never shown:. What happens when you follow the tunnel to another tunnel down a hollow to a cavern? You come out in the third verse, when the circular and linear imagery cease and the song turns personal and questioning and borderline psychotic:. Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle in your head Why did summer go so quickly, was it something that you said?

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Lovers walk along a shore and leave their footprints in the sand Is the sound of distant drumming just the fingers of your hand? Pictures hanging in a hallway and the fragment of a song Half remembered names and faces, but to whom do they belong? Compared to many of the more intense versions that followed, Harrison's voice and interpretation can seem a bit lightweight and offhand - and it's also mixed so that Harrison seems disconnected from the orchestra, much as Steve McQueen is alone freewheeling in the clouds.

That left Best Song. It wasn't a bad year: The other nominees were all title songs - for Funny Girl , Star! But, as it does not always do, the Academy made the right choice, and the Bergmans' old friend from "Nice 'n' Easy" and " Ol' MacDonald ", Frank Sinatra, came out on stage to present the "kids", as he always called them, with the Oscar for Best Song. It's boring just to do the exact same thing the other fellows did thirty years earlier, so changes were made, some of which are rather good: instead of Steve McQueen's long-distance bank heist, Brosnan strolls into the Metropolitan Museum of Art and steals a Monet.

But it has to be said the glider scene suffers by comparison to the original: instead of the enigmatic McQueen alone in the air, Brosnan takes Miss Russo up with him - and leaves "Windmills of Your Mind" down on the ground. It's heard instrumentally at other points in the drama, but not until the end credits do we hear it sung.

Ever since Dusty Springfield's somewhat reluctant recording of this song, I've felt that generally the ladies have had the best of it where this number's concerned. But Sting's version is awfully good:. You'll notice that, like Noel Harrison, he sings "the sun has never shone" in Britannic fashion. I've warmed up to the song, too: At one point it seemed to be playing in eight out of ten elevators, and when you're on hold for twenty minutes trying to make an appointment with the dentist, all of which got in the way of its value as a song.

It's an artfully poised piece: I can see why Dusty Springfield complained at the recording session that she couldn't get into the lyric - it trembles on the brink of overwrought self-conscious artiness. But it tiptoes back to just the right side, and does its job brilliantly in the picture.

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It was the first Oscar for a new songwriting trio. But "Windmills" is the song in which the Bergmans found their distinctive lyrical voice, and it was the hit that made Michel Legrand a hot property in Hollywood.

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There's no song quite like it, and, if you ever heard the composer play it in concert, you'll know that the pianist and conductor and arranger in him understood that, too. I always liked this couplet, in which for just a brief moment conventional pop-standard songwriting appears to meet and gently brush the psychedelic hallucinations of rock lyrics:.

When you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware That the autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair We are suddenly aware that the autumn leaves are turning.

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Rest in peace. Miller and Steyn will be kicking things off on Friday February 22nd at the Santander Center in Reading, Pennsylvania where tickets are disappearing fast , followed by Syracuse, New York on February 23rd at the Crouse-Hinds Theatre where they're not disappearing quite so fast , and then Rochester and Wilkes-Barre the following weekend. And remember that with VIP tickets you not only enjoy the best seats but you also get to meet Dennis and Mark after the show, have a picture with them, and take an autographed gift home.

We hope to see you there! All rights reserved. No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of Mark Steyn Enterprises. If you're a member of The Mark Steyn Club and you take issue with this article, then have at it in our comments section.

Submission of reader comments is restricted to Mark Steyn Club members only. If you are not yet a member, please click here to join. If you are already a member, please log in here:. Thank you so much for this, it really lifts me up every time I read any of your song or music reviews.

So honoured to be a small part of the support that allows this to happen. Mark, this is simply superb, one of the very best reviews I've read -- not just by you, but by anyone. I remember sitting in the dark theater, watching "The Thomas Crown Affair" during its initial run, and thinking, "this glider scene is amazingly cool, but would be much more so if Noel Harrison could actually sing.

Excellent review! There's some indescribable excitement in a yearning heart that beats to no rhyme nor reason. It's a thrill that defies logic, knowing the object of desire is forever out of reach, yet it keeps flapping around and around in the gusty winds of our souls as a tease to cause one to dispose of one's hold on reality. The dream keeps resurfacing as a very attainable goal, a perceived object to vanquish, yet, we know deep down in our hearts that event or encounter will never transpire or if it did it would reveal itself as a mere illusion, something our minds created with a profusion of details.

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The hanging in for the ultimate fight and thought of the impossible conquest is worth the trouble of keeping on. Very good. I watched McQueen's movie the other day. Are you tracking my movie watching, Mark? Great soundtrack. I thought the Thomas Crown movie song was a tad breathless, like Noel Coward as a boy.

Sting's version - the music was in the way. I would love to hear it naked. Mark you are our champion in the, probably vain, struggle for civilizational sanity and I am proud to support your struggle in my very small way. But, your music columns alone are more than worth the price of membership. And I would add that one of my favourites from M. The sequel Four Musketeers was disappointing in comparison not least because of Lalo Schrifin's music.

I haven't posted in over three weeks since I just returned from the Jazz Cruise Jan.

Alan & Marilyn Bergman

I was unaware of his death as I walked from the rather dismal evening program of Robert Glasper's trio in the main show. He brought tears to my eyes and I told him so , especially since I had not heard the great composer had died. I'll cover LeGrand's music on his upcoming birthday February 24 on my radio show. Louis Blues" launched our song cavalcade. On the Jazz Cruise, I won the "Name that Tune" contest for the fifth time running, nailing all 11 questions on the first clue.

I could share the questions some time later, to see how the Steyn crowd does on this test. I'm sure Mark could nail all 11 titles as well. I'd love to go up against Mark on a future Jazz Cruise contest! A masterpiece. Not the song, though of course it is. But your presentation of it. That final couplet would soften the stoniest heart, and your own sign-off will long echo in the windmills of my mind.

So what exactly are these windmills of your mind supposed to be?


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  6. Darn the Sixties and its surrealist psychedelic songwriting! While a glider does not have an engine, it is a device for converting potential energy, provided by the tow plane, into kinetic energy, with forward speed and the energy to perform loops like the one the song starts with on the first word, "Round". As quiet as it looks, it has a lot of forward momentum, real weightiness, energy that is shed in the roaring turn the glider makes as it comes in to land. The song and the glider flight and its final sudden roar describe a pent up energy, an angular momentum that runs beneath the calm surface of Crown and his flight.

    Oh, and the marvelous last line, that takes us back to the circular theme of the beginning, with the autumn leaves "turning".

    Michel Legrand made an album with Phil Woods in Windmills of Your Mind is the first track. He actually told the class that if you were with a date, played this album and didn't 'get anywhere' Oh how many micro-aggressions would that cause today!

    Barbra Streisand - "So Many Stars(Alan & Marilyn Bergman, Composers)"

    Thank you Mark for bringing back those memories. Mark: Thanks for mentioning this great album, one of my favorites by Phil. It won the Grammy for best large jazz ensemble LP in Michel is such a genius that he scored the entire minute "Images" suite in his first-class airplane seat flying overnight from NYC to London. It's a masterpiece. As for the romantic songs on side 1 to which you refer , Phil writes in the liner notes, "Some of the purists a truly unfortunate word will of course object to the songs.

    But, to the best of my knowledge, melody did not go into the channel with Glenn Miller and is reported alive and well and living in Buenos Aires, Bangkok, and Bismarck, North Dakota. Also -- I just happen to like beautiful tunes. I thank you, my creditors thank you, and my mother thanks you. I'm glad I finally got to meet him on the Jazz Cruise a couple of years ago. There's something hauntingly special about this song. Your piece is brilliant, and there seems to be something particularly personal about this essay.