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Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes

Album: Mistaken IdentityReleased: 1981Charted:
1
10
  • This was originally recorded in a 1920s Jazz style by Jackie DeShannon on her 1975 album, New Arrangement. DeShannon wrote the song with the songwriter Donna Weiss. According to DeShannon, she got the idea for the song after watching the 1942 Bette Davis movie Now Voyager. It was Donna Weiss who submitted the demo to Carnes, who along with her band and producer Val Garay, came up with the hit arrangement for the song.
  • This was a huge hit in the US, where it was #1 for nine weeks. It was not, however, the year's biggest hit. "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John was #1 for ten weeks.
  • The producer of this song had an assistant go out and buy the cheapest (and cheapest-sounding) drum set for this particular song. Combined with the sound of an early synthesizer called a Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, they found the sound they were looking for and the song was a hit. Carnes credits her keyboard player Bill Cuomo making significant contributions to the chord changes and arrangement. (thanks, W.C. - Los Angeles, CA)
  • Carnes had several other hits before and after this, but none even close to this big. She was a member of The New Christy Minstrels before recording as a solo artist.
  • Bette Davis was an actress known for playing strong, independent women. Her movies include What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? and All About Eve. She was famous for her New England accent and her eyes. Check her out in the Song Images.
  • This won the 1981 Grammy for Record Of The Year, and in America, it was the third best-selling single of the '80s, after Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" and the Diana Ross/Lionel Richie duet "Endless Love."
  • After this song became a hit single, Bette Davis wrote letters to Kim Carnes and the songwriters to say she was a fan of the song and thank them for making her "a part of modern history." One of the reasons the legendary actress loved the song is that her granddaughter thought her grandmother was "cool" for having a hit song written about her.
  • Carnes raspy vocals led many listeners to believe Rod Stewart was the vocalist.
  • The video was directed by Russell Mulcahy, who made many of the early MTV favorites. His videos were very artistic and filled with unexpected scenes. The costumed crowd smacking the floor and each other in time to the drum machine was a typical Mulcahy touch. The video was huge on MTV and gave the song a big boost.
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Comments: 28

Bruce "Baby Man" Baum parodied this song; his version: "Marty Feldman Eyes," reached #108 on the national Record World charts in 1981. Kim Carnes called the song "Sub-par trash!"Jeff - Columbus, Ga
The demo given to the Carnes team by Donna Weiss sounded like a ragtimey honky-tonk song. It can be heard in the Val Garay interview on Taxi TV at the 21:35 mark. Garay siad, "See what a little imagination can do," referring to the Carnes record's arrangement.

The discrepancy between the lyrics "make a pro blush" and "make a crow blush" are true. DeShannon recorded it on her 1975 album with the original "crow blush" line as it was written, which was an obscure and dated backwoods expression (playing on the fact crows are loud feisty birds and black in color, to imply behavior so outrageous it could actually make a crow blush. Some say it was a transcription error while others say it was a deliberate change on the Carnes record from "crow" to "pro" which gave it a more modern and even overt connotation. The term "pro" has long been used (especially through the 70s and 80s) in regard to a certain type of woman to imply she is a sexual pro meaning a professional, as in the world's oldest profession. So when when Carnes sings, "She's precocious and she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush," she is basically saying the character could make a hooker blush.
Steven - Lincoln Park, Mi
Always sounded to me like Carnes needed a cough drop. I also shuddered at the thought of her someday doing a duet with almost-as-gravelly-voiced Bonnie Tyler.Esskayess - Dallas, Tx
There was one year in the late 00's that this song was sampled 3 times! First in Waiting For A Star To Fall then there was something else then someone else covered Waiting For A Star To Fall. As if hearing the same song for 2 months straight on the radio isn't bad enough.Sioraf - Macroon, Ireland
The question of whether the lyrics "crow blush" or "pro blush" -- In the version of Jackie DeShannon from 1974 (a co-composer of the song), it is "crow blush." The colloquialism "he could make a crow blush" means that he could easily embarrass anyone or cause some other sort of discomfort, such as teasing you, or precociously uneasing you all the better just to please you. Kim Carnes sang "pro blush" from an error in the transcription of the lyrics from Jackie DeShannon's recording. The lyric "her hair is Harlow gold" refers to Jean Harlow being the most platinum of blondes, known as the Blonde Bombshell from starring in a successful 1933 movie entitled Bombshell.Keef - San Antonio, Tx
It was always a mystery to me, as a fan of the early New Christy Minstrels, that Carnes could have ever have sung with that band. Then I learned she had nodules removed from her vocal cords, giving her voice that raspy sound. Interesting way to have one's career revived, eh?Scotty - Cheyenne, Wy
it was in 1981 that i heard this song peaked number 1 through the tv news came on in. here in korea , the official language is of course korean. as korean local ,sometimes i feel difficult to make out the lyrics, especially for the words ' make a pro blush ' what or who do you mean by pro ?who is harlow as in harlow gold ?somepeople say maybe an actress. how many persons can you count in the song ? answer me. 고맙습니다 meaning thank youMyungduck - Jejudo, Korea
whenever I watch a Bette Davis Movie,I have this song in my head.Jennifer Harris - Grand Blanc, Mi
On May 16th, 1981 "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes reached #1 & stayed there for five weeks, then "Stars on 45" became #1 for one week. But "Bette Davis Eyes" reclaimed the #1 position and held it for four more weeks!!! {Nine total weeks at #1 and stayed in the Top 100 for 26 weeks}Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
The song is addictive. I heard it for the first time in 1981. I immediatley switched the station. The second time I heard it, I listened to about half of it. By the third time, I was hooked. #1 for 9 weeks and the 7th best selling single of all time, prove that others got hooked too!Paul - Detroit, Mi
I don't get it either but...I so love this song!Sara - Union City, Tn
Sorry, but I never understood the mass appeal of this song. It's simply"okay" but to win two Grammys? Weird. Plus, I don't happen to think Betty Davis's "eyes" are that great to be compared to.Camille - Toronto, Oh
One of the all time great synthesizer hooks. Very unique sounding song from the hook to the subdued back up instruments to the almost schizophrenic vocals that alternate between high pitched talking and gravel-voiced singing.Shawn - Green Bay, Wi
Brandon from IL---------have to agree dude, this chick voice royally sucks! it's like fingernails on a chalkboard---just horrible! A good thing she fell by the wayside when she did. i'm surprised she had a singing career at all.Adam - Los Angeles, Ca
The disease that contributed to Bette Davis's famous eyes is called Grave's Disease, caused by overproduction of the thyroid. Actress Maggie Smith of "Harry Potter" also suffers from this disorder.Emily - Ocean Springs, Ms
beautiful song for girls who have lower voices....beautifulMadalyn - Greensburg, Pa
I remember this song was very popular with lesbians I knew back then. I liked it too, so what does that say?Tom - Marble Falls, Ar
Hate Kim Carnes' voice. She sounds like Joan RiversBrandon - Peoria, Il
Jake has it right, a great song. One I want to hate... but can't. Always sounds good.Pete - Ny, Ny
Kim Carnes' signature song, the 1981 mega-smash "Bette Davis Eyes," is easily one of the best pop songs of the 1980s in my opinion. The extremely catchy synthesizer hook, Kim's expressive vocals, the beat, the electronic Synare drum sound, the bass, and the understated guitar all work together to create a classic tune. It seems like this song was a trendsetter in pop music, blending synths and traditional pop/rock to create a sound that was rather unique for 1981 (synth pop didn't really kick into full gear in America until 1982). This was my favorite song for quite a while back in 1995 after hearing it on the radio for the first time (I was 14 back then), and today, 11 years and 215 or so CDs later, I would still rank it in my Top 200.Jake - Spencer, Ny
"Bette Davis Eyes" won 2 Grammy Awards in 1981: Record of the Year (performance and production award) and Song of the Year (songwriting award).Nicole - Apple Valley, Mn
Here is a better picture to demonstrate the unique shape of Betty Davies eyes and why "All the boys think she's a spy": http://www.imdb.com/gallery/mptv/1296/Mptv/1296/0701_2229.jpg?path=pgallery&path_key=Davis,%20BetteHaim Anava - Hatzor The Galilean, Israel
Dallas local band Space Cadet did an amazing cover of this song...you should really listen too itAmie - Fort Worth, Tx
go robSean - Adelaide, Australia
Apparently Bette Davis admitted to being a fan of the song and approached Carnes and the songwriters to thank them for making her "a part of modern history"Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England
Sung by Gwyneth Paltrow in the movie "Duets". This was a great movie.Rob - Minneapolis, Mn
i like this song alot..
its a cool song!
Goofan - New York City, Ky
Bette Davis had a thryoid condition that caused her eyes to bug out.Jack - Raleigh, Nc