Brown Eyed Girl
|"Brown Eyed Girl"|
|Single by Van Morrison|
|from the album Blowin' Your Mind!|
|A-side||"Brown Eyed Girl"|
|Recorded||28 March 1967|
|Genre||British R&B, blue-eyed soul|
|Van Morrison singles chronology|
"Brown Eyed Girl" is a song by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. Written and recorded in 1967 by Van Morrison and produced by Bang Records chief Bert Berns, it was first released in May 1967 on the album Blowin' Your Mind!. When released as a single, it rose to number eight on the Cashbox charts, and reached number ten on the Billboard Hot 100. It featured the Sweet Inspirations singing back-up vocals and is widely considered to be Van Morrison's signature song.
This song proved to be the impetus for Morrison's career as a solo artist. It was his first single after leaving his position as lead singer for the Belfast formed Them and led to his relocation to the United States and an eventual contract with Warner Bros. Records, where he recorded his career-defining album, Astral Weeks.
"Brown Eyed Girl" has remained a popular classic pop song that continues to be played regularly on many radio stations and is featured on the top ten list as one of the most played songs by DJs. It appeared at No. 4 on the top 200 in 2011. It has been covered by hundreds of bands over the years and has earned many awards for Morrison, most prominently when it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007 and in 2003, when it was listed as one of the The 365 Top Selling Songs of the 20th Century by RIAA.
Recording and title
After finishing his contract with Decca Records and the mid-1966 break up of his band Them, Van Morrison returned to Belfast seeking a new recording company. When he received a phone call from Bert Berns, owner of Bang Records, who had produced a number of recordings with Them, he flew to New York City and hastily signed a contract (that biographer Clinton Heylin says probably still gives him sleepless nights.) During a two day recording session starting 28 March 1967, he recorded eight songs intended to be used as four singles. The recording session took place at A & R Studios and "Brown Eyed Girl" was captured on the 22nd take on the first day. Of the musicians Berns had assembled there were three guitarists, including Eric Gale, Hugh McCracken, and Al Gorgoni, bassist Russ Savakus, pianist Paul Griffin and drummer Gary Chester. It was released as a single in mid-June 1967.
Originally titled "Brown-Skinned Girl", Morrison changed it to "Brown Eyed Girl" when he recorded it. Morrison remarked on the original title: "That was just a mistake. It was a kind of Jamaican song. Calypso. It just slipped my mind. I changed the title." "After we'd recorded it, I looked at the tape box and didn't even notice that I'd changed the title. I looked at the box where I'd lain it down with my guitar and it said 'Brown Eyed Girl' on the tape box. It's just one of those things that happen." It has also been stated that the song was about an inter-racial relationship and Morrison changed the title to "make it more palatable to radio stations."
The song's nostalgic lyrics about a former love were considered too suggestive at the time to be played on many radio stations. A radio-edit of the song was released which removed the lyrics "making love in the green grass", replacing them with "laughin' and a-runnin', hey hey" from a previous verse. This edited version appears on some copies of the compilation album The Best of Van Morrison. However the remastered CD seems[clarification needed] to have the bowdlerised lyrics in the packaging but the original "racy" lyrics on the disc. Lyrically, it "shows early hints of the idealized pastoral landscapes that would flow through his songs through the decades, a tendency that links him to the Romantic poets, whom Morrison has cited as an influence" according to music journalist Erik Hage.
Because of the contract he signed with Bang Records without legal advice, Morrison has never (in his own words) received any royalties for writing or recording this song. The contract made him liable for virtually all recording expenses incurred for all of his Bang Records recordings before royalties would be paid and later, after the expenses were recouped, they would become the "subject of some highly creative accounting." Morrison vented his frustration about this penurious contract in his sarcastic nonsense song "The Big Royalty Check". Morrison has stated that "Brown Eyed Girl" is not among his favourite songs remarking, "It's not one of my best. I mean I've got about 300 songs that I think are better".
Morrison's original recording of "Brown Eyed Girl" remains widely familiar today, as the uncensored version is regularly played by many "oldies" and "classic rock" radio stations. In 2005, Van Morrison received a Million-Air certificate by BMI as a "Top European Writer" for reaching 7 million US radio and television airplays for "Brown Eyed Girl" and again in 2007, Morrison was awarded another Million-Air certificate by BMI for 8 million air plays of "Brown Eyed Girl". In 2009, "Brown Eyed Girl" was at the top of the list for most played songs at the BMI London awards winning a Million-Air certificate for nine million air plays. In 2011, "Brown Eyed Girl" joined an elite group of songs as it was honoured for having 10 million US radio air plays and therefore becoming one of the ten songs that have been registered with BMI that have received that number of radio plays.
" I was going to say this is a song about sex, and it is, and a song about youth and growing up, and memory, and it's also — very much and very wonderfully — a song about singing. "
Critical acclaim and influence
- In January 2007, "Brown Eyed Girl" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
- In November 2004, "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison was listed at No. 110 on the Rolling Stone magazine list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
- It is also one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
- It was listed as No. 79 on the All Time 885 Greatest Songs compiled in 2004 by WXPN from listener's votes.
- It was chosen as No. 131 in 2001 as one of the RIAAs Songs of the Century, a list of the top 365 songs of the 20th century chosen with historical significance in mind.
- In 2000, it was listed at No. 21 on Rolling Stone and MTV's list of 100 Greatest Pop Songs and it also was listed as #49 on VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Rock Songs.
- In 1999, It was listed as one of the Top 100 Songs of the Century by BMI.
- "Brown Eyed Girl" was rated at No. 386 in Dave Marsh's 1989 book, The Heart of Rock and Soul, The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever.
- On 30 November 2008 it was ranked as the 97th greatest song of all time, as well as the seventh best song of 1967, by Acclaimed Music.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson included the song as one of his eight Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 on 20 April 2003. Fashion designer Betty Jackson also included the song on her list on 28 April 2002.
In April 2005, the White House announced that "Brown Eyed Girl" gets regular rotation on George W. Bush's iPod. Morrison announced before a university performance in England: "Yeah, it's good to hear things like that, you know. But I would have preferred if it was a new song."
In March 2009, former US president Bill Clinton picked "Brown Eyed Girl" as top pick on his list of favourite ten tunes included on his signed iPod donated for a charity auction for musical victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In the media
The Van Morrison recording has been featured in several popular films, including the 1983 film The Big Chill, the 1989 film Born on the Fourth of July and the 1991 film Sleeping with the Enemy, starring Julia Roberts.
"Brown Eyed Girl" was one of the songs included on the 1990 compilation album, The Best of Van Morrison. It is one of the songs performed live at Morrison's 15 September 2006 concert performance at the Austin City Limits Festival and is included on the limited CD album, Live at Austin City Limits Festival. "Brown Eyed Girl" was one of the nineteen songs featured on Van Morrison's 2007 compilation album, Van Morrison at the Movies - Soundtrack Hits. The version on this compilation is a recent re-recording of the original version of the song. The original version is one of the hits on the 2007 compilation album, Still on Top - The Greatest Hits. A live version of this song is featured on the 2008 reissue of the double live album It's Too Late to Stop Now.
|Year||Billboard||UK Singles Chart|
|Hot 100||Hot Ringtones|
"Brown Eyed Girl" has been recorded and performed by numerous artists. It is popularly performed by beginning bands as well as performed by many popular and well-known artists such as: Jimmy Buffett (1984), Adele (2008), Billy Ray Cyrus, Busted, Everclear, Johnny Rivers, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Bob Dylan, Brian Kennedy, Steel Pulse, Roberto Jordan (Spanish version "La Chica De Los Ojos Cafes"), Green Day (played live), Lagwagon, John Anderson, El Chicano, The Black Sorrows, Ronan Keating, Reel Big Fish, and Joe Camilleri. A cover by Joe Stampley peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in 1983.
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