Yesterday and Today: “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes

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Yesterday

“Bette Davis Eyes” became a mega hit for Kim Carnes back in 1981. It was all over the radio and on top of the Billboard Hot 100 for nine non-consecutive weeks. Billboard labeled it as the biggest hit of the year. Carnes, like her contemporary Bonnie Tyler, was a female vocalist with a distinctive and raspy voice. The record was a #1 hit in 21 other countries and it was #2 in Canada for 12 consecutive weeks. “Bette Davis Eyes” won the Grammy Awards for Song and Record of the Year. Historically, Billboard ranked it as #12 on their list of the Top 100 songs in the first 50 years of tracking the Hot 100. The tune was written and composed by Jackie DeShannon (a star in her own right) and Donna Weiss in 1974. DeShannon had recorded it as sort of a jazzy vaudevillian tune, and it wasn’t a hit.

Carnes is an accomplished songwriter, having written a number of tunes recorded by superstar Kenny Rogers and several other name country artists. She had other vocal releases, the most notable being “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer,” a duet with Kenny Rogers. However, Carnes was never able to match the success of “Bette Davis Eyes.” She was 36 years of age, on the upper end of the scale for your typical up and coming pop star, when this one went big. Last I heard, Carnes was living in Nashville.  This “Found Performance” has been doctored a bit to improve the quality of the video and the audio of this 40 year old recording.

“Bette Davis Eyes”- Kim Carnes (1981)

Today

Only a few years ago, Carnes was (and may still be) out performing. In this video below — from a casino resort in Niagara Falls, Canada — Carnes was singing her signature song at age 70. (And there is yet another video online of her performing “Bette” at the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015.) I think it is interesting to compare the two performances — Yesterday and Today.

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Author: Steven Smith

Presently editor and historical writer with Puget Sound Media in Seattle. Former radio broadcaster and radio station owner, 1970-1999. Journalism and speech communications degrees. I enjoy researching articles and online reporting that allows me to meld together words, audio and video. P.S. I appreciate and encourage reader comments and opinions.

9 thoughts on “Yesterday and Today: “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes

  1. I always liked the song from way back. I like the original video, but agree that she seems stiff on stage. I think she was missing that rock star fire in the belly and probably was more a songwriter than a charismatic performer. The second video was pretty low key and long past her days of stardom but I thought she came across as a pretty nice person.

  2. Steve ~ I enjoyed both videos, but I’ve always been a fan of singers who just come on stage & sing … I don’t need the flamboyant costumes & on stage antics. Was especially fascinated with video #2 & Kim reminiscing about the arranging & recording process of her hit. She is perhaps the epitome of great female singers with great raspy voices!
    “Bette Davis Eyes” always reminds me of my good friend & neighbor Connie Cezon. Connie live directly across the courtyard from my apartment, just off Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood, when I lived in LA in the late 60s. Connie literally had Bette Davis Eyes! She was a movie & TV actress & among her acting credits was the fact she was “the on-screen double” for actress Bette Davis … partially due to those eyes! She also had the reoccurring role of “Gertie”, the receptionist, on the original “Perry Mason” TV series … plus she appeared numerous times on “The Abbott & Costello” & “Three Stooges” TV shows. She was a terrific comic foil. ~ Let me give you a chance take a look at those “Bette Davis Eyes” of my friend Connie Cezon:

    Here’s Connie on Perry Mason (1957):
    https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0050051/mediaviewer/rm2135992833

    Connie in The Three Stooges movie “Corny Casanova” (1952):
    https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0044514/mediaviewer/rm1471722497

    Connie on “The Abbott & Costello Show” (1952):
    https://m.imdb.com/name/nm0149201/mediaviewer/rm4166829056

    Thanks to cable TV I’m able to see Connie appear on one of these old TV shows every now and then. Connie and her Bette Davis Eyes!!

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