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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bette Davis Eyes


Here’s a question for everyone reading this blog.  What was the #1 the day that you were born?

If you don’t know what it is, that’s okay.  Wikipedia has every single listing of songs that hit the top of the music charts from as early as 1940.  Just visit the following website.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_number-one_hits_(United_States).  Then, all you have to do is click on the link corresponding to your birth year, and away we go.

I have to admit that sometimes I find that some of the songs that hit #1 on the days that my family members were born are quite amusing.  Take my mom for instance.  Do you know what the #1 song was the day she was born?  It was a Perry Como song entitled “Till the End of Time”...a #1 hit for TEN weeks!  The number one song when my father was born also did quite well on the charts.  That song, the Ink Spots hit “The Gypsy” stayed at the peak position for ten weeks as well!

My older sisters #1 songs could not be more different.   When one was born, the top song was “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers, and with the other one, it was SSgt Barry Sadler’s “Ballad of the Green Berets”!  Weirdly enough, Sadler’s hit stayed on top for five weeks, while Withers only managed a three week stay.

My niece and three nephews also ended up having quite eclectic number one hits when they were born.  In order from youngest to oldest, their number one songs were “Music” by Madonna, “The Boy Is Mine” by Brandy and Monica, “Too Close” by Next, and “The Macarena” by Los Del Rio.

For the record, the niece who was born during the Macarena craze loathes the song.

Now, since this is my blog, I have decided that for this week’s look at the Sunday Jukebox, we would take a closer look at the song that hit the top of the charts when I was born.

Thirty-one years ago, this song hit the top of the charts beginning the week of May 16, 1981.  That was two days before I was born.  The song itself did quite well on the charts, and it managed to stay on the top for nine weeks.  Interestingly enough, the nine weeks on top were NOT consecutive.  It was interrupted for a week by the “Stars on 45 Medley” in June 1981.  One week later, the song charted once more at the top, finally dropping off the peak position for good on July 19, 1981.

Of course, some might think that this song is a one-hit wonder.  Not so.  Although this hit became a signature song for this singer, she had a Top 10 hit one year prior with her cover of a Smokey Robinson and the Miracles song, “More Love”, as well as several other minor song releases.

So, without further adieu, let’s take a look back at the #1 song the day I was born!



ARTIST:  Kim Carnes
SONG:  Bette Davis Eyes
ALBUM:  Mistaken Identity
DATE RELEASED:  March 27, 1981
PEAK POSITION ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS:  #1 for 9 weeks



Here’s some interesting trivia about this song in particular.  Did you know that Kim Carnes was not the first artist to sing this song, and that it had been written seven years prior to becoming the most successful song of 1981 and second biggest hit of the entire 1980s?

The year was 1974, and Bette Davis Eyes was meant to be included on a song by singer Jackie DeShannon, written by DeShannon and Donna Weiss.  Jackie DeShannon, of course, was responsible for such classics as “Put A Little Love In Your Heart”, and “What The World Needs Now Is Love”.  DeShannon recorded the song in 1974 and it appeared on her album “New Arrangement”.  But that version was never released as a single.


Seven years later, in 1981, 35-year-old Kim Carnes recorded the song, which took over the charts during the late spring and early summer.  With the raspy voice of Kim Carnes, and the sublime music video with featured a Bette Davis silhouette and an awful lot of slapping, it was easy to see how the song became so popular.

Although this song became Kim Carnes’ first (and only #1) hit as a singer, she had spent the previous fifteen years perfecting her craft.  Joining “The New Christy Minstrels” in 1966, Carnes found herself singing alongside other future stars such as country singer Kenny Rogers and actress Karen Black.  From there, she ended up signing her first publishing deal with producer Jimmy Bowen, and shared demo-recording time with Glenn Frey, Don Henley, and J.D. Souther.  She and her husband, Dave Ellingson also wrote several songs for teen idol David Cassidy during 1970.  Two years later, Carnes would release her debut album, “Rest On Me”, and over the next decade, Carnes would have several hits on the adult contemporary charts, and released quite a few albums.


But nobody expected “Bette Davis Eyes” to do so well, least of all Kim Carnes herself.  Not only did the song become a #1 hit for nine weeks, its success helped the Mistaken Identity album reach the top spot on the Billboard 200 for four months.  As mentioned before, the song became the biggest hit of 1981, and the second biggest hit of the 1980s.



TRIVIA:  The biggest hit of the 1980s was Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”, which appropriately enough also came out in 1981, and peaked at #1 between November 1981 and January 1982, staying on top for ten weeks.

At the 1982 Grammy Awards, “Bette Davis Eyes” did very well, winning both the awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.  On top of that, Carnes herself was nominated for Best Pop Female (losing to Lena Horne), and the album Mistaken Identity was also nominated (losing to John Lennon’s Double Fantasy).  But the song itself was a huge smash for Carnes, and I’m sure she was pleased as punch over the success.



Here’s one final bit of trivia for you all.  Obviously, the song was named after the legendary star of motion pictures, Bette Davis.  Bette Davis passed away in 1989, so she was still alive when Bette Davis Eyes was rocketing up the charts.  I bet some of you must be wondering what Bette Davis thought of the song being named after her.

Well, as it turned out, the reaction from Davis was positive.  Shortly after the song was released, Bette Davis wrote a letter to Kim Carnes, stating just how much she loved the song.  In Davis’ own memoir “This ‘N That”, Davis wrote that she was thrilled to become a part of the rock generation, and Davis’ own grandson even joked that having a number one song on the Billboard charts named after her meant that she had finally made it!

It’s quite interesting to discover that the song inspired a real-life friendship between Davis and Carnes that lasted until Bette Davis passed away.  Carnes even performed the song live at a tribute for Davis just before her death, in what would end up being one of the last gifts of friendship that Carnes could give to Davis.

Now, isn’t that a lovely tale?

That’s the story behind the #1 song when I was born.  What’s yours?

1 comment:

  1. My memory of Kim Carnes is that she started to get noticed when she did "Don't fall in love with a dreamer" as a duet with Kenny Rogers. She shot up after that.

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