Kim Carnes released her cover of Jackie DeShannon’s “Bette Davis Eyes” on March 27, 1981. (DeShannon’s recording was from 1974.) The single was a worldwide smash, charting at #10 in the U.K. Singles Charts, and topping the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks. “Bette Davis Eyes” was the most successful single of 1981 and, according to Billboard, the second biggest hit of the decade. The song won Grammys for Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 1982 Grammy ceremony.
Bette Davis was actually a fan of the song. She thanked Carnes for making her her part of modern times, which led to a friendship between the two women until Davis’s death.
Bette Davis Eyes 3’47
Kim Carnes’ Version
Jackie DeShannon’s Version
The music video for “Bette Davis Eyes” opens with Kim Carnes under a black shroud, which slips off as she sits up, revealing her visage in dark sunglasses. Meanwhile, the shadows of female dancers strike Bette Davis-esque poses on the wall behind her. Next, Carnes sings with a band in a dance hall. Dancers in New Romantic garb appear and the women slap the men in time to the percussion.
I miss the time when videos were really this simple. An interesting idea is still better than a big budget, in my opinion.
I grew up out in the country where we couldn’t get MTV, so I didn’t see the music video until years later. However, I remember the song being all over the radio and in the media. I still recall the mornings when my older sister, Vicki, and I would hear “Bette Davis Eyes” on the radio on our way to school and she would turn it up loud and we’d sing. This is probably one of the songs that really turned me on to synth-pop, because whenever I hear it, I just have to stop what I’m doing and straddle the present and the past and bask in this middle place.
What are your memories of “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes?