Song of the Day #557: ‘The Wind’ – Cat Stevens

When it comes to music in movies, it’s usually the songs I don’t know well that have the biggest impact on me. That way the music and images arrive all of a piece without prior associations. Sometimes when a song I know well is used in a movie it’s jarring and actually takes me out of the film.

One big exception was the use of Cat Stevens’ ‘The Wind’ in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. I knew this song very well and loved it, having worn out my copy of Teaser and the Firecat during high school and college. So when the opening notes kicked in during the kite scene in Rushmore, it could easily have gone wrong.

But instead it felt perfectly right. It helps that the song turns up at the emotional high point of one of my all-time favorite films. It’s the moment where Max Fisher lifts himself out of his funk and reconnects with his closest friends.

After apologizing to Dirk Calloway for spreading rumors about his mother (complete with hilarious hand job reference), Max encounters Margaret Yang and apologizes for mistreating her as well. These mea culpas off his chest, he takes control of the kite Dirk is flying and, as ‘The Wind’ kicks in, starts brainstorming a start-up list for membership in the Kite Flying Society.

One of my favorite scenes ever.

And to top it off, as the song continues we cut to Max’s reconciliation with Herman Blume (Bill Murray) in front of his father’s barber shop. Another of my favorite scenes ever.

So Rushmore managed to take a song I knew and loved on its own and convert it into a song I knew and loved for its place in a movie. I’m sure that’s happened before but I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head.

On a related note, Cameron Crowe later used this song in Almost Famous for a scene of Kate Hudson dancing alone in a gymnasium. It’s a lovely scene but it struck me as all wrong… the song had been claimed already.

I listen to the wind
To the wind of my soul
Where I’ll end up well I think,
Only God really knows
I’ve sat upon the setting sun
But never, never never never
I never wanted water once
No, never, never, neverI listen to my words but
They fall far below
I let my music take me where
My heart wants to go
I swam upon the devil’s lake
But never, never never never
I’ll never make the same mistake
No, never, never, never

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #557: ‘The Wind’ – Cat Stevens

  1. Dana says:

    I don’t distinctly remember this song from Rushmore, but, then again, I saw the movie once. The song is nevertheless a classic in every sense.

  2. Amy says:

    I adore this song yet strangely can’t distinctly remember it in either Rushmore or Almost Famous.

    “Tiny Dancer” is a great example, from that same movie (Almost Famous), of a song I knew well that worked beautifully in the scene. Of course, the characters knew the song as well, and that was the whole point. I guess we’re looking for examples where the music is played on the soundtrack, not where the characters are singing along to it the way they do in Pretty in Pink or Top Gun.

    How about the classics in When Harry Met Sally? Could there be a better use of “It Had to Be You” on film? I’ll be brainstorming other examples for the rest of this rainy day, so thanks for the fun assignment 🙂

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