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Brown Eyed Handsome Man by Chuck Berry

Album: After School SessionReleased: 1956
  • The first verse was inspired by Berry observing a West Coast policeman trying to arrest a Hispanic man for loitering until a girl talked him out of the arrest; the second verse was inspired by the sadomasochistic novel Venus In Furs.
  • Berry was making a commentary on race in this song, using "brown eyed" as code for minority. This is most apparent in the line:

    Ever since the world began
    There's been a whole lot of good women sheddin' tears
    For a brown eyed handsome man
  • This runs only 2:15, but contains six verses.
  • The line "Rounding third he was heading for home" inspired John Fogerty's "Centerfield." (Although Berry has him hitting on a "2-3 count," when he probably meant a "3-2 count). Fogerty included the line "It was a brown-eyed handsome man" in the lyrics.
  • Buddy Holly recorded a version of this that was released as a single after his death.
  • Berry, a huge baseball fan (he loved the St. Louis Cardinals), had Jackie Robinson in mind as the "brown-eyed handsome man" who hits the home run in the last verse. Robinson broke the color barrier when he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1947.
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Comments: 17

'Milo Venus was a beautiful lass, She had the world in the palm of her hand;
But she lost both her arms in a wrestling match, To get brown eyed handsome man.
She fought and won herself a brown eyed handsome man'
Here's some obscure trivia: On April 8th 1820, a peasant discovered the statue of Venus de Milo among the ancient city ruins of Milos on the Aegean island of Milos...
And one hundred-thirty six years and eight days later on April 16th, 1956 Chuck Berry recorded "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" at the Chess Studios in Chicago...
The song has been covered by many artist including Elvis, Buddy Holly, Paul McCartney, Waylon Jennings*, Johnny Rivers, Lyle Lovett, and Nina Simone...
* In 1969 Waylon's version reached #3 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart, and it peaked at #1 on the Canadian RPM Country Singles chart.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Inspired by Venus in Furs? Oh for goodness sake get a life and stop trying to read things that are not there into a nice simple, well written rock & roll song!
The reference is so obviously to the famous ancient Greek stature, now in the Louvre, known as The Venus de Milo, which is famous for having lost it's arms sometime during history.
(please remove the misleading comment from your headr section)

In the days of old, before access to lyrics was as easy as it is now, I thought the "woman walking across the sand" was going from Beirut to Bombay rather than being enroute to L.A. :)
On reflection it does seem quite a long journey, even for the gentleman of the title. Sadly I can only claim the brown eyed part myself!
Andy - Halesowen, West Midlands, United Kingdom
Since Chuckie B. was a St. Louisan,and no African American star played with the Cardinals in the mid-to-late fifties,and the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles in '54,Berry HAD to have written "Brown-Eyed,Handsome Man" about none other than the "Say Hey Senior" himself,the incomparable Mr. Willie Howard Mays,Jr.,who'll celebrate his 80th birthday
May 6!!!(Without being boastful-JUST 100% TRUTHFUL!!!-were Berry and I to meet today,Apr.1,2011,I'D
be the "Brown-Eyed,Handsome Man" of Berry's acquaintance!!!)
Brett - Windsor, On
I think the Venus he sings about is the Venus of Milo, who indeed has no arms, and not the Venus of Sacher-MasochEisso - Groningen, Netherlands
The player rounding third heading for home just has to be my boyhood hero, Willie Mays. I think we all agree that Elvis was a great talent, but Chuck is the true King of Rock 'n Roll. His influence today is just as strong as it was in the 1950s!!! What kid hasn't picked up guitar and not tried to mimic Chuck Berry...Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I was listening to a radio broadcast of a 1930s World Series game, and the announcers called the count with strikes first, balls second. Chuck Berry grew up in the 30s and might have learned it that way. I believe the current convention may not have been permanent until sometime in the 50s or 60s. (Things haven't always been the way they are now. If you go back far enough, there was a time when it took 9 balls to draw a walk).John - Chicago, Il
The 2-3 counts refers to how African Americans were at a dis advantage toward the white man. He came to the plate with three strikes already against him. But if given the opportunity, he can smack the ball over the fence. The first verse he is talking about racism. The other verses are talking about how great black people are. the verse about the venus de milo is talking about a white woman who threw everything away because she loved a black man.Sean H - Boston, Ma
yeah, obviously brown eyed is refering to African Americans. Actually this kind of seems like Chuck's own vague protest song for equality. I wasn't sure about that Venus in Furs refernce in the second verse though.Nathan - Defiance, Oh
Actually, in Japan, you can have 2-3 count. The count there is reversed. They also end baseball games in ties.

And I believe Chuck's song originally was, a brown skinned handsome man.
Sack - Arlington, Va
Regarding the '2-3' count, and people saying that Berry wasn't knowledgeable about baseball, did it ever cross your mind that, since everyone is doing everything for the Brown Eyed Handsome Man, and to get him, that the umpires in the game could overlook a 'silly thing like a 3rd strike', since he indeed was a Brown Eyed Handsome man...thus letting him win the game. That seems like a much more plausible explanation than those who simply write it off as ignorance.Andy - Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Holly's cover of this song went to #1 in England in 1963.Alan - Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
First, to Gary of Fallon NV, the song you list the lyrics for is not another song by the same title. You should check your facts before you speak. That is Chuck Berry's Brown Eyed Handsome Man. Waylon Jennings dreams he could write a song like this.

To everyone else: maybe, just maybe, 2-3 count sounded better rhythmically than 3-2 count. I'm sure Chuck Berry does know about basedball and he's very good with words as well.

I'm not sure that the baseball player he spoke of was a specific baseball player. It may be. I'd like to Chuck to say so. My take on this song is that obviously "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" is a metaphor for a black man. All black men. This is less a song about specifics and more a song, that in its time, slipped into popular culture the allure of the black man. Not an easy thing to do. He used metaphors because it wouldn't have been acceptable at the time to essentially say what he does in the song: There's nothing better than a brown eyed handsome man.

Another song by the same title...are you joking or what? Ever look at songwriting credits Gary...You know every freaking word to the song and you have no idea it's Chuck Berry's song.
Diane - Nyc, Ny
The "brown-eyed handsome man" in the final verse (and mentioned by John Fogarty in "Centerfield") is Jackie Robinson, not Larry Doby. A guy from Brooklyn should know that. As far as Chuck Berry being the true King of Rock and Roll, I agree. Elvis was a tremndous talent and music would not be the same without him, but without Chuck Berry, there would have been no Beatles, no Rolling Stones, no guitar rock of any kind. The rhythmic style of rap and hip-hop has its roots in Chuck Berry. Without Chuck Berry, music would not have moved beyond Elvis. Anyone who enjoys the music of the past fifty years should pay tribute to Chuck Berry. Without him, none of it would have happened.Jay - New York, Ny
gary

"another song with the same title?" if you'll do a bit of checking, like for instance looking at the name under the title on your Waylon release, in parenthesis (insert "writer" here), you'll find that Waylon simply covered this Chuck Berry tune, though he changed the verses around.
Jerry - Nashville, Tn
Berry was obviously not very knowledgeable about baseball, as it's impossible for the "count" (as mentioned in the last verse) to be "two, three," which would mean 2 balls and 3 strikes.Bob - Oakland, Ca
Chuck Berry is perhaps the true King of Rock and Roll but his baseball knowledge is lacking -- there is no two-three count (2 balls , 3 strikes)
It is also said the the "brown eyed handsome man" in that verse was a tribute to Lary Doby, the first African-American to play in the American League, for the Cleveland Indians.
Jerry - Brooklyn, Ny
Another song by the same title, - by Waylon Jennings, from The Essential Waylon Jennings album. Goes like this: Flying 'cross the desert in a TWA, saw a woman walkin' cross the sand, she'd been walkin' thirty miles en route to L.A. to get a brown eyed handsome man.
Her destination was a brown eyed handsome man.
Milo Venus was a beautiful lass, she had the world in the palm of her hand, but she lost both her arms in a wrestling match to get a brown eyed handsome man, she fought and won herself a brown eyed handsome man.
Way back in history three thousand years back ever since the world began, been a whole lot of good women shed a tear for a brown eyed handsome man. That's what their trouble was a brown eyed handsome man.
Beautiful daughter couldn't make up her mind, between a doctor and a lawer man. Her momma told her daughter "go out and find yourself a brown eyed handsome man" just like your daddie is a brown eyed handsome man.
Arrested on charges of unemployment and a sittin' on the witness stand, the judges wife called up the district attorney & said "You free that brown eyed man, you want your job you better free that brown eyed handsome man!"
Way back in history three thousand years, back ever since the world began, beena a whole lotta good women shed a tear for a brown eyed handsome man
Gary - Fallon, Nv
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