Noel Harrison

Last updated

Noel Harrison
Noel Harrison 1972.JPG
Harrison in 1972
Noel John Christopher Harrison

(1934-01-29)29 January 1934
Kensington, London, England
Died19 October 2013(2013-10-19) (aged 79)
Exeter, Devon, England
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1960–1999
Sara Lee Eberts Tufnell
(m. 1959;div. 1969)

Margaret Benson
(m. 1972;div. 1989)

Lori Chapman
(m. 1991)
Children5, including Cathryn Harrison

Noel John Christopher Harrison (29 January 1934 – 19 October 2013) was an English actor and singer who had a hit singing "The Windmills of Your Mind" in 1968, and was a member of the British Olympic skiing team in the 1950s. He was the son of the actor Rex Harrison.


Early life

Harrison was born on 29 January 1934 in Kensington, London. [1] His mother, Ethel Margery Noel Collette-Thomas, was the first of Rex Harrison's six wives; they divorced in 1942. Ethel and her cousin Richard Michael Collette Thomas (later a Lieutenant-Colonel killed in action, 1944, in France) were brought up together by their grandparents, Major John Cyril Collette-Thomas & Jessie Maud Scott-Brown, in Bude, North Cornwall. As a child he attended Sunningdale School, where his father was also a pupil. [2] When he was 15, Ethel took young Noel out of school at Radley to live in the Swiss Alps.

Harrison never returned to school and began ski-racing. [3] He joined the Ipswich repertory theatre group and taught himself guitar, but his main interest and most of his spare time was spent skiing. At an early age he was a member of the British ski team, becoming its first giant-slalom champion in 1953, and representing Great Britain at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway, and at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

Harrison undertook National Service and, after leaving the army in the 1950s, toyed with the idea of becoming a journalist, but instead, concentrated on his guitar. His early break came when he took a regular part in the BBC Television programme, Tonight , as part of a team who sang the day's news in a calypso style.

When Harrison was 20, he started playing professionally, around the tables in a Greek restaurant in London. He also made a living playing in bars and nightclubs all over Europe, including appearances at the Blue Angel (nightclub), Mayfair, London where one show was recorded for a live album.

Move to United States

After appearing in small roles in British films such as The Best of Enemies (1961), Hot Enough for June (1964) and Where the Spies Are (1965) Harrison left for the United States in 1965, working as a nightclub entertainer at such venues as the Hungry I in San Francisco, and at the Persian Room in New York City. Thanks to his managers Bob Chartoff and Irwin Winkler, who went on to produce the Rocky films, he had a record reach the charts. The track was "A Young Girl", written by Charles Aznavour. In the 1966-67 television season he appeared as Mark Slate in 29 episodes of the NBC series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. as the costar of Stefanie Powers (April Dancer). [1] A year earlier, Norman Fell originated his Mark Slate character on the original U.N.C.L.E. series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in a 2nd season episode titled "The Galatea Affair". In 1968, Harrison appeared on an episode of To Tell the Truth in which the panel had to figure out which of 3 women was Harrison's then-wife Sara.

"Young Girl" was included as one of the tracks on Harrison's debut album, Noel Harrison, in 1966. Two years later, he recorded "The Windmills of Your Mind", the theme tune from the film The Thomas Crown Affair , [1] which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1968, and was also a Top 10 hit in the UK Singles Chart. [4] Despite the song winning the 1968 Oscar for best original song, Harrison did not sing it at the ceremony. Instead his place was taken by Jose Feliciano. The change was made because he was working on the film, Take A Girl Like You in England, with Oliver Reed and Hayley Mills. Coincidentally, his father had sung the Oscar-winning song ("Talk to the Animals") only the previous year (1967). [4]

The television series, plus the Top 40 record, landed Harrison a recording contract with Reprise, who released three of his albums, Collage, Santa Monica Pier and The Great Electric Experiment Is Over. [1] Collage reached #135 in the United States Billboard 200 chart. [5] He also toured with the Beach Boys, and Sonny and Cher, appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show , featured on a music program, Hullabaloo and appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson .

In 1968, Harrison played the male lead in The Fantasticks , in touring theatres in the round, including The Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis, Massachusetts.[ citation needed ] In 1970, he played the male lead role in "Blithe Spirit" at The Cape Playhouse in Dennis, MA and returned in 1983 for the lead male role in "The Housekeeper".

Move to Canada

In 1972, Harrison left the United States for Nova Scotia, [1] settling in rural Mount Hanley. He bought a farmhouse with 320 acres of farmland, and from there he commuted to Halifax where he hosted a show called Take Time for CBC Television. [1] In winter 1974, the wood stove caught fire and his house burned down, inspiring him to write the humorous song, "The Middleton Fire Brigade", which appeared on his 1979 album Mount Hanley Song. [6] He subsequently built a new house from scratch with no electricity, inspired by the fashionable pioneers Helen and Scott Nearing and their self-help bible, Living The Good Life.

Touring shows

During the 1970s, Harrison toured the United States in productions of Camelot and The Sound of Music . He also played Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady , the part first performed by his father in the musical's original stage production and film version. Other touring roles included King Arthur in Camelot, Baron von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha , Brian Runicles in No Sex Please, We're British and Lloyd Dallas in Noises Off . [1]

He later began acting again, appearing in the cinema films Power , and Déjà Vu. An admirer of Jacques Brel, Harrison created a one-man musical, Adieu, Jacques, and in 2002 released an album of songs from the show.

Return to England

In 2004, Harrison returned to the UK, relocating his home to the county of Devon. He continued to sing, appearing in occasional concerts to finance the recording and release of his self-produced albums, such as Hold Back Time. A compilation album of his work titled Life Is a Dream was released by the American 'Reprise' record label in 2003, and his debut album, Noel Harrison, was re-released in 2008. In 2010, he recorded a new album, From the Sublime to the Ridiculous!. The record was made as part of the Internet event, The RPM Challenge, which challenged musicians to record a new album from scratch during the month of February.

In June 2011, Harrison played Glastonbury Festival's "Spirit of '71" stage, marking 40 years since his appearance at the second staging of the festival. The performance was televised by the British Broadcasting Corporation, including a backstage acoustic version of the song "The Windmills of Your Mind".[ citation needed ]

Personal life

Harrison was married three times. In 1959, he married Sara Lee Eberts Tufnell, with whom he had three children: Cathryn, Simon, and Harriet. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1969. His second marriage was in 1972 to Margaret Benson. The couple had two children, Chloe and Will, and later divorced in 1989. Harrison's final marriage was in 1991 to Lori Chapman, to whom he remained married until his death in 2013. [7] [8]

Harrison died in hospital after suffering a heart attack at his Devon home, several hours after performing a concert locally on the evening of 19 October 2013. [7] [8] [9]




YearSinglePeak chart
1965"A Young Girl (Of Sixteen)"551Noel Harrison
1969"The Windmills of Your Mind"8-The Thomas Crown Affair(soundtrack)
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


1961 The Best of Enemies Lt. Hilary
1964 Hot Enough for June Johnnie
1965 The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders Second Mohock
1966 Where the Spies Are Jackson
1970 Take a Girl Like You Julian Ormerod
1986 Power Leonard Thompson
1997 Déjà Vu John Stoner
1999The Murder in China BasinGeorge Guest(final film role)

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Harrison</span> English musician and singer-songwriter (1943–2001)

George Harrison was an English musician and singer-songwriter who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles. Sometimes called "the quiet Beatle", Harrison embraced Indian culture and helped broaden the scope of popular music through his incorporation of Indian instrumentation and Hindu-aligned spirituality in the Beatles' work. Although the majority of the band's songs were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, most Beatles albums from 1965 onwards contained at least two Harrison compositions. His songs for the group include "Taxman", "Within You Without You", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something".

<i>Magical Mystery Tour</i> 1967 EP/soundtrack and LP by the Beatles

Magical Mystery Tour is a record by the English rock band the Beatles that was released as a double EP in the United Kingdom and an LP in the United States. It includes the soundtrack to the 1967 television film of the same name. The EP was issued in the UK on 8 December 1967 on the Parlophone label, while the Capitol Records LP release in the US and Canada occurred on 27 November and features an additional five songs that were originally released as singles that year. In 1976, Parlophone released the eleven-track LP in the UK.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michel Legrand</span> French film score composer (1932–2019)

Michel Jean Legrand was a French musical composer, arranger, conductor, and jazz pianist. Legrand was a prolific composer, having written over 200 film and television scores, in addition to many songs. His scores for two of the films of French New Wave director Jacques Demy, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967), earned Legrand his first Academy Award nominations. Legrand won his first Oscar for the song "The Windmills of Your Mind" from The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), and additional Oscars for Summer of '42 (1971) and Barbra Streisand's Yentl (1983).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Andy Williams</span> American singer, songwriter, and actor (1927–2012)

Howard Andrew Williams was an American singer. He recorded 43 albums in his career, of which fifteen have been gold certified and three platinum certified. He was also nominated for six Grammy Awards. He hosted The Andy Williams Show, a television variety show, from 1962 to 1971, along with numerous TV specials. The Andy Williams Show won three Emmy awards. He sold more than 45 million records worldwide, including more than 10 million certified units in the United States.

<i>Cloud Nine</i> (George Harrison album) 1987 studio album by George Harrison

Cloud Nine is the eleventh studio album by English musician George Harrison and the final released in his lifetime. The album was recorded and released in 1987 after Harrison had taken a five-year hiatus from his career as a solo artist. The hit single "Got My Mind Set on You" from this album re-established Harrison as a critically acclaimed and commercially significant recording artist. Cloud Nine was Harrison's last solo studio album released during his lifetime, as his next album Brainwashed was released in 2002, almost a year after his death.

Tomorrow were an English musical group active in the 1960s, whose music touched on psychedelic rock, pop and freakbeat. Despite critical acclaim and support from DJ John Peel, who featured them on his "Perfumed Garden" radio show, the band was not a great success in commercial terms. They were among the first psychedelic bands in England, along with Pink Floyd and Soft Machine. Tomorrow recorded the first ever John Peel show session on BBC Radio 1 on 21 September 1967. The band included Steve Howe on guitars, who would later join the British prog band Yes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Suzanne (Leonard Cohen song)</span> 1968 single by Leonard Cohen

"Suzanne" is a song written by Canadian poet and musician Leonard Cohen in the 1960s. First published as a poem in 1966, it was recorded as a song by Judy Collins in the same year, and Cohen performed it as his debut single, from his 1967 album Songs of Leonard Cohen. Many other artists have recorded versions, and it has become one of the most covered songs in Cohen's catalogue. In 2021, it was ranked at No. 284 on Rolling Stone's "Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".

<i>Wonderwall Music</i> 1968 soundtrack album by George Harrison

Wonderwall Music is the debut solo album by English musician George Harrison and the soundtrack to the 1968 film Wonderwall, directed by Joe Massot. Released in November 1968, it was the first solo album by a member of the Beatles, and the first album issued on the band's Apple record label. The songs are all instrumental pieces, except for occasional non-English language vocals, and mostly comprise short musical vignettes. Following his Indian-styled compositions for the Beatles since 1966, he used the film score to further promote Indian classical music by introducing rock audiences to instruments that were relatively little-known in the West – including shehnai, sarod, tar shehnai and santoor. The Indian pieces are contrasted by Western musical selections, in the psychedelic rock, experimental, country and ragtime styles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Danny Williams (singer)</span> South African singer

Danny Williams was a South African-born British pop singer who earned the nickname "Britain's Johnny Mathis", for his smooth and stylish way with a ballad. He is best known for his 1961 UK number one version of "Moon River" and his 1964 U.S. top ten hit, "White on White".

<i>The Thomas Crown Affair</i> (1968 film) 1968 heist film by Norman Jewison

The Thomas Crown Affair is a 1968 American heist film directed and produced by Norman Jewison and starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. It was nominated for two Academy Awards, winning Best Original Song for Michel Legrand's "The Windmills of Your Mind". A remake was released in 1999.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Got My Mind Set on You</span> 1987 single by George Harrison

"Got My Mind Set on You" is a song written and composed by Rudy Clark and originally recorded by James Ray in 1962, under the title "I've Got My Mind Set on You". An edited version of the song was released later in the year as a single on Dynamic Sound Records credited to James Ray with Hutch Davie Orchestra & Chorus.

Sally Anne Marsh is a British actress and singer. She was a member of Faith Hope & Charity, later becoming the vocalist for a number of groups, including Xpansions, Ariel and Hysterix. Her film credits include The Princess and the Goblin and A Monkey's Tale, and she also appeared in a number of TV productions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Sandpipers</span> American band

The Sandpipers were an American easy listening trio who carved a niche in 1960s folk rock with their vocals and innovative arrangements of international ballads and pop standards. They are best remembered for their cover version of "Guantanamera", which became a transatlantic Top 10 hit in 1966, and their Top 20 hit "Come Saturday Morning" from the soundtrack of the film The Sterile Cuckoo in 1970.

"The One on the Right Is on the Left" is a country song written by Jack Clement. It was recorded by Johnny Cash on November 29, 1965, and included on his novelty album Everybody Loves a Nut (1966). It was the album's third and most successful single, reaching #2 on the U.S. Billboard Country Singles chart and #46 on Billboard's Pop Singles chart.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Windmills of Your Mind</span> 1968 single by Noel Harrison

"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.

Thomas Evans was a British musician and songwriter, most notable for his work with the band Badfinger. He co-wrote the song "Without You".

The Midnight String Quartet were an easy listening chamber music quartet, consisting of two violins, a viola, and a cello, made up of students or graduates from the University of Southern California. They played covers and standards over several albums from 1966 to the early seventies, supplemented by a professional rhythm section, often including bass, drums and guitar and sometimes piano and harpsichord.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">My Mistakes Were Made for You</span> 2008 single by The Last Shadow Puppets

"My Mistakes Were Made for You" is the third single released by The Last Shadow Puppets. It was released on 20 October 2008 in the United Kingdom on Domino Records, featuring three b-sides: a live version of the album track "Separate and Ever Deadly" plus two covers. The US-only 8-song expanded EP was released in digital format on 21 October and on CD on 4 November 2008. It was the final release of the band's first period of activity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime</span> 1980 single by the Korgis

"Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime" is a 1980 single written by James Warren and first performed by British pop band the Korgis; Warren was lead singer in the band. It has subsequently been covered by numerous other artists.

"Dream Scene" is an experimental composition by English rock musician George Harrison. It was released in November 1968 on his debut solo album, Wonderwall Music, which was the soundtrack to the psychedelic film Wonderwall, directed by Joe Massot. The track is an instrumental piece, apart from occasional non-English language vocals and a spoken word segment. It comprises three sections and combines meditative Indian sounds and singing with passages of Western instrumentation and avant-garde styling, including backwards tape loops and sound effects. After viewing an early edit of Wonderwall at Twickenham Film Studios, Harrison devised the piece to accompany a psychedelic dream sequence in the film. The song serves as the narrative for the sequence, in which a strait-laced professor imagines himself duelling with the fashion photographer boyfriend of the young woman he obsessively spies on through a hole in the wall separating their apartments.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Biography by Linda Seida". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  2. "Old Boys". School Notes. Sunningdale School: 4. 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2022.
  3. "Noel Harrison". Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  4. 1 2 Roberts, David (2005). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 135, 245. ISBN   978-1-9049-9400-8.
  5. Seida, Linda. "Noel Harrison | Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  6. "Mount Hanley Song (about the album)". The Windmills of Your Mind (Noel Harrison fan site). Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  7. 1 2 ""Windmills of Your Mind" singer Noel Harrison dies". Entertainment Weekly . Associated Press. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  8. 1 2 Sweeting, Adam. "Noel Harrison obituary". The Guardian . London. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  9. "Noel Harrison, Actor and Singer of 'Windmills of Your Mind,' Dies at 79" . The New York Times . Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  10. "Noel Harrison | Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  11. "Noel Harrison". Official Charts Company . Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  12. "Results: Top Singles". RPM . Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2011 via Library and Archives of Canada.
  13. "Noel Harrison Album & Song Chart History - Hot 100". Billboard . Retrieved 1 May 2011.