When I'm in a slump, I comfort myself by saying if I believe in dinosaurs, then somewhere, they must be believing in me. And if they believe in me, then I can believe in me. Then I bust out.
~Mookie Wilson, World Series champion
Friday Jam: Windmills of Your Mind-Dusty Springfield
Posted Friday, March 1, 2019, at 3:01 PM
Legendary singer Dusty Springfield died 20 years ago tomorrow on March 2, 1999.
I can’t claim to be an expert on Dusty’s work, though I certainly know a lot more about it than I did back then, as a senior in high school who preferred my music a bit more ... um ... aggressive.
But I do recall reading of her death, probably in the next day’s paper. With no social media and dial-up internet (urrrr EEEE urrr NNNGGGG CRRRRcrrrr KEEEEEEE grrr nnnnnng), we didn’t tend to experience celebrity deaths in real time.
I seem to recall my mom being surprised (and probably a bit scandalized) to learn that Dusty was gay. I think it had pretty much been an open secret that Dusty never directly addressed, and her privacy was her right.
However, when the paper was passed to me, I was less interested in her choice of companions than I was to learn that she was a white woman from England.
Really? The woman who sang “Son of a Preacher Man”? If ever there was a song that seemed to my young mind like it came straight from a southern black woman, it was that.
Granted, all of my knowledge of the song came from its use in “Pulp Fiction” and a Dr. Pepper commercial (that didn’t even use Dusty’s version). But still, picturing a blond woman singing it made me reassess who can actually make music that sounds like that.
It also probably didn’t hurt that the song is drawn from “Dusty in Memphis,” Springfield’s classic album that — as the title indicates — was recorded in that mecca of southern soul with American musicians and producers.
But I’m not here to play you “Son of a Preacher Man” today. (Though, by all means, go listen to it. It’s a classic.)
In fact, “Windmills of Your Mind” isn’t much of a soul song. But, damn, is it a good song.
First of all, I’m a sucker for a song that builds as it goes. It starts so slow, with a fairly simple arrangement, just Dusty backed by some strings.
But as it goes it gets bigger, more interesting. A guitar and some simple percussion join (with the strings disappearing). A few flourishes emphasize key lyrics. Then the strings come back and that flamenco-style guitar is suddenly front and center. The strings get louder, longer. Dusty’s lyrics get louder, more emotive. A flute accents the lyrics before drums kick in and suddenly it’s on — a full band/orchestra joins Dusty for the last 50 seconds or as her tempo quickens and things quickly fade to an end.
It’s really a lot of ground to cover in under four minutes. While I didn’t know of the song’s original incarnation as the theme from “The Thomas Crown Affair,” it’s not exactly surprising. Something cinematic about the whole thing.
Anyway, enjoy your weekend, folks.