Bette Davis Eyes

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"Bette Davis Eyes"
Single by Kim Carnes
from the album Mistaken Identity
B-side "Miss You Tonight"
Released March 10, 1981
Format 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl, ("30 extended version)
Recorded January 1981
Genre Pop rock
Adult contemporary
Length 3:48
Label EMI America
Writer(s) Donna Weiss, Jackie DeShannon
Producer(s) Val Garay
Kim Carnes singles chronology
"Cry Like a Baby"
"Bette Davis Eyes"
"Draw of the Cards"
Music sample

"Bette Davis Eyes" is a classic hit song written by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon, and made popular by American singer-songwriter Kim Carnes. It spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was Billboard's biggest hit of the entire year for 1981. The recording won the 1982 Grammy Awards for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year.


The song was written in 1974 by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon. DeShannon recorded the song that same year on her album New Arrangement.[1] However it was not until 1981, when Kim Carnes recorded her version of the song, that it became a commercial success.

The Carnes version spent nine non-consecutive weeks on top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (interrupted for one week by the "Stars on 45 Medley") and was Billboard's biggest hit of the year for 1981.[2] The single also reached No. 5 on Billboard's Album Rock charts and No. 26 on the Dance charts.[3] The song won the Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. The song was also a number one hit in 31 countries, including Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Japan and Brazil, but it achieved more moderate success in the United Kingdom, where it peaked at number 10. The music video was directed by Russell Mulcahy.

According to producer Val Garay, the original demo of the tune that was brought to him sounded like "a Leon Russell track, with this beer-barrel polka piano part." The demo can be heard in a Val Garay interview on TAXI TV at 20:35.[4] Keyboardist Bill Cuomo came up with the signature synth riff, using the then-new Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 synthesizer, which now defines Carnes' version. The song was recorded completely live in the studio on the first take.[5]

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 times."

The song was used frequently as bumper music on Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell.

The song was ranked at number 12 on Billboard's list of the top 100 songs in the first 50 years of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and at number one of the biggest hits of the 1980s.[6]

Cleopatra Records released a re-recording of the song as a single in 2007.[7]

Music video[edit]

The video opens in a dance hall with a black-draped leaning figure. The drape opens to reveal Kim Carnes wearing sunglasses as she sings the first verse. In the first chorus, she performs with a band; halfway dancers enter the hall. In the second verse, the dancers make slapping and floor-pounding dance motions. They disappear and reappear in the second chorus. The song finishes with the dancers making dance motions while approaching Carnes; the band is already gone when the video ends with the black-draped leaning figure. A shadowed silhouette of Bette Davis smoking a cigarette appears throughout the video. The video was directed by Australian film director Russell Mulcahy.


There is much confusion over whether the lyrics are "she knows just what it takes to make a crow blush" or "... pro blush". Jackie DeShannon sings "crow" in her version, and Kim Carnes recorded it as "pro" from a mistranscription of the lyrics. This error has proliferated through numerous cover versions. The phrase "could make a crow blush" is an early 20th-century Midwestern United States colloquialism meaning that one could unease someone with little effort, and the arranger from Carnes's version was unfamiliar with the term.[citation needed][dubious ]

Track listing and formats[edit]


Chart procession and succession[edit]

Preceded by
"This Ole House" by Shakin' Stevens
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
June 15, 1981 – July 13, 1981
Succeeded by
"Stars on 45 Medley" by Stars on 45
Preceded by
"Stars on 45 Medley" by Stars on 45
Swiss number-one single
July 5, 1981 – August 16, 1981
Succeeded by
"More Stars" by Stars on 45
Preceded by
"Stars on 45 Medley" by Stars on 45
German Singles Chart
July 10, 1981 – August 21, 1981
Succeeded by
"Dance Little Bird (Chicken Dance)" by Electronica's
Preceded by
"Pour le plaisir" by Herbert Léonard
French SNEP number one single
July 17, 1981 – October 23, 1981
Succeeded by
"La danse des canards" by J. J. Lionel
Preceded by
"(Out Here) On My Own" by Nikka Costa
Italian Singles Chart number-one single
November 21, 1981 – December 11, 1981
Succeeded by
"Cicale" by Heather Parisi
Preceded by
"Hubba Hubba Zoot-Zoot" by Caramba
Norwegian VG-lista number-one single
June 15, 1981 – August 27, 1981
Succeeded by
"For Your Eyes Only" by Sheena Easton
Preceded by
"Morning Train (Nine to Five)" by Sheena Easton
"Stars on 45 Medley" by Stars on 45
US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
May 16, 1981 – June 13, 1981
June 27, 1981 – July 18, 1981
Succeeded by
"Stars on 45 Medley" by Stars on 45
"The One That You Love" by Air Supply


  1. ^ Cad, Saint. "10 More Famous Songs With Unknown Originals". Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Billboard December 26, 1981: p. YE-9
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 52. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Classic Tracks: Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes" by Blair Jackson.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Bette Davis Eyes (single) on We7. Retrieved 10 April 2013
  8. ^ Bette Davis Eyes (US 7-inch Single liner notes). Kim Carnes. EMI. 1981. 006-86 359.
  9. ^ Bette Davis Eyes (US 12-inch Maxi Single liner notes). Kim Carnes. EMI. 1986. 052-86 359.
  10. ^ "Australia n°1 Hits - 80's". Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes –" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  12. ^ " – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  13. ^ "Bette Davis eyes in Canadian Adult Contemporary Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  14. ^ Canadian peak RPM Magazine
  15. ^ "Bette Davis eyes in French Chart" (in French). Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. 19 June 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2013.  You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Kim Carnes"
  16. ^ "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche –" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  17. ^ "Bette Davis eyes in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 2 June 2013.  2nd result when searching "Bette Davis eyes"
  18. ^ "The best-selling singles of 1981 in Italy". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
    5. Bette Davis eyes — Kim Carnes [#1, 1981/82]
  19. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Kim Carnes search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  20. ^ " – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100.
  21. ^ " – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". Top 40 Singles.
  22. ^ " – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". VG-lista.
  23. ^ John Samson. "Bette Davis eyes in South African Chart". Retrieved 2 June 2013. 
  24. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  25. ^ " – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". Singles Top 60.
  26. ^ "Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes –". Swiss Singles Chart.
  27. ^ "1981 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 23rd May 1981". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  28. ^ "Kim Carnes Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Adult Contemporary for Kim Carnes. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  29. ^ "Kim Carnes Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Kim Carnes.
  30. ^ a b "Mistaken Identity awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 2 June 2013. 
  31. ^ " – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes". Tracklisten.
  32. ^ "Italian single certifications – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes" (in Italian). Federation of the Italian Music Industry. Retrieved 17 March 2014.  Select Online in the field Scegli la sezione. Select Week -- and Year ----. Enter Kim Carnes in the field Artista. Click Avvia la ricerca

External links[edit]