Kim Carnes

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Kim Carnes
Kim Carnes with Mike MacDonald.jpg
Kim Carnes in 2008
Background information
Birth name Kim Carnes
Also known as Kim Carnes Ellingson
Born (1945-07-20) July 20, 1945 (age 69)
Origin Hollywood, California, U.S.
Genres Rock, country, blue-eyed soul
Occupations Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments Vocals, keyboards, guitar, harmonica
Years active 1967–present
Labels A&M
Associated acts Kim & Dave, David Cassidy, Gene Cotton, Randy Meisner, Kenny Rogers, USA for Africa, James Ingram, Barbra Streisand, Smokey Robinson, Clarence Clemons, Neil Diamond, Angelo (producer, Kings of Leon), Jeff Bridges, Jeffrey Osborne and many others.
Website Official website
Notable instruments
Acoustic guitar
Fender Rhodes
Acoustic piano
Arp Synthesizer

Kim Carnes (born July 20, 1945) is an American singer-songwriter.[1] Born in Los Angeles, California, Carnes now resides in Nashville, Tennessee, where she continues to write music. She began her career as a songwriter in the 1960s writing for other artists whilst performing in local pubs and working as a session musician. She signed with Amos Records and released her debut album Rest on Me in 1972. Her 1980 duet with Kenny Rogers, "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer", has been described as her "big break."[1] Success followed with her first top-ten hit, a cover version of "More Love", in 1980. Following this, her single "Bette Davis Eyes" became the biggest U.S. hit of the year in 1981, and won her a Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

As a songwriter, Carnes also co-wrote the number one hit "The Heart Won't Lie" with Donna Weiss, recorded by Reba McEntire and Vince Gill. She also composed "I'll Be Here Where the Heart Is" for the 1983 film Flashdance, which won Carnes her second Grammy Award. Following the release of 1988's View from the House, Carnes began to concentrate more on her songwriting career. Her distinctive raspy vocal style has drawn comparisons to Rod Stewart.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Kim Carnes was born on July 20, 1945 in Los Angeles, California.[1] Her father, James Raymond Carnes,[4] was an attorney, and her mother was a hospital administrator.[5] Carnes knew she would be a singer and songwriter from the age of three, despite the fact that she was not born into a musical family. "My mother didn't get my career, and my father, who was an attorney, didn't think singing and writing was even a job."[5]


1965–1974: Early career and first studio album[edit]

Kim Carnes had a short early career as an actress, appearing briefly in The Patty Duke Show episode "Patty Meets the Great Outdoors" in 1965.[6]

As a young singer, Kim Carnes joined The New Christy Minstrels in 1966 together with Kenny Rogers and Karen Black.[7] After writing songs for many years, Carnes signed her first publishing deal in 1969 with producer Jimmy Bowen. During this period, she shared demo-recording time with Bowen's other writers, including Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and J.D. Souther. Carnes also sang "Nobody Knows," written by Mike Settle, which was featured in the end credits of the 1971 film Vanishing Point.[8] The film also featured Carnes' first selection as a songwriter, "Sing Out for Jesus," which was recorded by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton.[9]

In the early 1970s, Carnes and husband Dave Ellingson co-wrote several songs with David Cassidy, then at the peak of his career as an international idol, and toured the world with him as part of his band. These songs appear on Cassidy's albums Rock Me Baby, Dreams are Nuthin' More than Wishes and Cassidy Live!. Carnes also provided backing vocals for these albums.

Her first solo album, Rest on Me, produced by Jimmy Bowen, was released in 1972 after a signing with Amos Records. The album featured two of Carnes' self-written tracks, "I Won't Call You Back" and "Fell In Love With A Poet." The album did not chart, and frustrated by the number of outside songwriters working on the record, Carnes ensured that most songs on her second album were self-written.

1975–1979: Early chart successes[edit]

In 1975, Carnes released her self-titled second album, which contained her first charted hit, "You're A Part Of Me", reached number 32 on the US Adult Contemporary charts.[1] Carnes re-recorded this track with Gene Cotton three years later. The majority of tracks on this second album were written by Carnes and Ellingson.

Her third album, Sailin', was produced by Jerry Wexler and released in 1976. One track, "Love Comes from Unexpected Places" won Best Composition at the 1977 American Song Festival and gained additional notice after it was recorded by Barbra Streisand on her 1977 album Streisand Superman. Streisand also recorded Carnes' "Stay Away" on her 1978 album Songbird. In spite of Streisand's endorsement of her material, Carnes' own Top 40 breakthrough did not occur till 1978, when Gene Cotton recruited her to record a duet version of "You're a Part of Me," which reached No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1979, she recorded a single using the pseudonym Connie con Carne titled "She Dances With Meat", written by herself and Dave Ellingson.[10][11]

1980–1981: Collaboration with Kenny Rogers and Bette Davis Eyes[edit]

In 1980, her duet with Kenny Rogers "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer" became a major hit on the Pop (number four), Country (number three) and AC (number two) charts.[1] The song was culled from Rogers' concept album, Gideon, which was written entirely by Carnes and her husband Dave Ellingson. Later that year, her cover version of the Smokey Robinson & The Miracles song "More Love" became her first solo Top 10 hit (number ten in the Pop charts and number six in the Adult Contemporary charts).[1] Impressed with Carnes's recording and success with the song, Robinson later wrote "Being with You" for her. Robinson's producer George Tobin insisted that he record and release the song himself. "The record that went number one for me is a demo for Kim," Robinson told The Huffington Post.[12] In 1981, Carnes provided backing vocals on Dionne Warwick's No Night So Long album that year.[13]

In 1981, Carnes recorded the Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss song "Bette Davis Eyes", which was originally written in 1974. As the first single released from the album Mistaken Identity, it spent nine weeks at number one on the US singles charts and became a worldwide hit. The song's success propelled the album to number one for four weeks. The single became the biggest hit of the entire year for 1981,[1] and is second only to Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" as the biggest hit of the 1980s in the USA, according to Billboard. The song earned both the Record of the Year and Song of the Year awards at the 1982 Grammy Awards. Carnes was nominated for Best Pop Female, and Mistaken Identity also earned a nomination for Album of the Year. Two follow-up singles were released from the album. The title track reached number sixty on the US singles charts, and "Draw of the Cards" reached number twenty-eight in the US, number forty-nine in the UK and number sixty-four in Australia. Mistaken Identity was praised by music critics, though Joe Viglione of Allmusic argued that "the problem with the [...] album is that everything on it stands in the shadows of a masterpiece," referring to "Bette Davis Eyes". He stated that the album contained too many different styles, saying, "there is absolutely no pun intended to say this album is more of an identity crisis than a mistaken identity," suggesting that the reason Carnes did not find fame like Tina Turner and Olivia Newton-John was due to the production of the album; "it wasn't for lack of talent."[14]

Carnes and her band rehearsed "Bette Davis Eyes" in the studio for three days to take the melody and overall sound of the record to a darker, more haunting place. Keyboard player Bill Cuomo came up with the signature instrumental lick and together with the band and producer Val Garay created a completely new arrangement of the song, which was recorded the next day with no overdubs.[15]

Bette Davis admitted to being a fan of the song and approached Carnes and the songwriters to thank them. Davis wrote to Carnes after the song was released saying she loved the song. "It was a thrill to become a part of the rock generation", she said in her memoir This 'N That. Davis' grandson, Ashley, told the screen legend she had "finally made it." Carnes and Davis struck up a special friendship, with the singer visiting her at her home several times until her 1989 death. In what she considers a career highlight,[15] Carnes performed the song live for Davis at a tribute to the legendary actress held just before her death. Most recently, the song has been used in a 2008 Clairol Nice 'n Easy TV commercial in the United Kingdom. The ad featuring the song has expanded into South Africa and other territories around the world. In 2008, the song was featured in the opening scene of the documentary film, Valentino: The Last Emperor.

1982–1985: Voyeur and further releases[edit]

Carnes' later hits included two more singles that just missed the Pop Top 10, "Crazy in the Night" (from Barking at Airplanes) and "What About Me?" with Kenny Rogers and James Ingram. Kim also reached the AC Top 10 four times after "Bette Davis Eyes" - with "I Pretend" (number nine), "What About Me?" (number one), "Make No Mistake, He's Mine" with Barbra Streisand (number eight) (co-produced by Carnes with Bill Cuomo) and "Crazy in Love" (number ten). On January 19, 1985, Carnes had the distinction of being on the Billboard Hot 100 with three singles simultaneously, "What About Me", "Make No Mistake, He's Mine" and "Invitation to Dance", from the soundtrack to the film, That's Dancing! This meant she was on the chart as a solo artist, in addition to being part of a duo and a trio.

Carnes was nominated for additional Grammy Awards – including Best Rock Vocal Performance Female for Voyeur, in 1983 and Best Rock Vocal Performance Female for "Invisible Hands" in 1984. In 1983, Kim's song, "I'll Be Here Where the Heart Is", was included on the Flashdance soundtrack which itself received a Grammy for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture. Kim was also one of the singers invited to perform on USA for Africa's 1985 famine relief fundraising single "We Are the World" and can be seen in the music video and heard singing the last line of the song's bridge with Huey Lewis and Cyndi Lauper. In 1987 she sang the song "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own" in a duet with Jeffrey Osborne for the soundtrack to the movie Spaceballs. In the same year, Carnes recorded "The Heart Must Have a Home" for the American film Summer Heat.[16]

1988–1993: Change to Country music[edit]

Carnes's musical style changed in the late 1980s with the release of her eleventh studio album, View from the House (1988). Carnes reunited with producer Jimmy Bowen, who co-produced the album with her. View from the House spawned three singles. Carnes saw minor chart success with "Crazy in Love", which reached No. 68 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.[17] People magazine described the album as a return "to the folk and country music of her earlier years."[18]

Her twelfth studio album, Checkin' Out the Ghosts, was released exclusively in Japan in 1991. The album was not commercially successful worldwide. It featured the song "Gypsy Honeymoon", which was later re-recorded on her 1993 compilation of the same name.

In 1992, Carnes recorded the Everly Brothers' song "Love Hurts" for the soundtrack to Private Lessons, "Shiny Day" for a CD named Re-Import which was released in Japan,[19] and the Chuck Berry song "Run, Run Rudolph" for a Christmas compilation called The Stars Come Out for Christmas Vol. III. In 1997, Carnes wrote "Just One Little Kiss" with songwriter and friend Greg Barnhill, which was recorded by Lila McCann on her debut album, Lila.

Carnes permanently moved to Nashville in the early 1990s.[20] In 1993, Carnes released Gypsy Honeymoon, a compilation album featuring hits and other songs selected by Carnes. She described the album as "a best-of, not a Greatest Hits".[20]

1994–present: Further songwriting success and Essential[edit]

Several of Carnes songs, including "Voyeur", "I'll Be Here Where the Heart Is" and "Gypsy Honeymoon" were hits for her in countries throughout Europe and South America. As a songwriter, she has had two No. 1 country singles. Her duet with Barbra Streisand was re-recorded as "Make No Mistake, She's Mine" by Ronnie Milsap and Kenny Rogers which was a No. 1 Country and No. 42 AC hit in 1987. She also wrote "The Heart Won't Lie", a No. 1 duet for Reba McEntire and Vince Gill in 1993. Co-writing with others, Carnes has had songs covered by such country stars as Deana Carter, Kevin Sharp, Matraca Berg, Carolyn Dawn Johnson. Sawyer Brown, Suzy Bogguss, Collin Raye, Pam Tillis, Tim McGraw, Conway Twitty and Tanya Tucker. In 1997, Carnes recorded a cover of "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" for the tribute album Jim Croce: A Nashville Tribute.

In 2000, Carnes sang a duet of the Johnny Cash song, "Ring of Fire", with Jeff Bridges, for the film The Contender. The song featured in the opening credits.[21]

In 2004, Carnes released the album Chasin' Wild Trains. An extensive European tour followed with the album achieving success in the Americana format. In the same year, Carnes provided vocals for two tracks on Tim McGraw's album, Live Like You Were Dying. Carnes recorded "The Silver Cord" for the soundtrack of Loggerheads (2005).[22]

Carnes recorded "It's Clear Sky Again Today" on Noriyuki Makihara - Songs From L.A., a tribute album to Japanese singer-songwriter Noriyuki Makihara in 2007.[23] She also re-recorded "Bette Davis Eyes", which was released by Cleopatra Records.[24]

In recent years, Carnes has written songs such as "It's A Mighty Hand" with Greg Barnhill on a 2006 film, Chances: The Women of Magdalene, "Enough" with Dana Cooper on his 2010 album, The Conjurer,[25] which she also provided backing vocals for. Finally, Carnes co-wrote "Live To Tell" with Jamie Appleby, Marv Green and Alyssa Reid on her 2011 album, The Game.

EMI Music released Essential, a Kim Carnes compilation, in 2011.[26] The compilation received a positive review from Thom Jurek of Allmusic, who praised Carnes's lesser-known songs such as "I'd Lie to You for Your Love" and "Abadabadango", stating that Carnes's voice "makes them work." He went on to say that her "ability to choose or write songs that highlighted the many smoky shades in that voice is uncanny," and that although her career peak was short, that her "depth as an artist preceded and outlasted it exponentially."[27]

In October 2012, American record company Culture Factory re-released Carnes' Mistaken Identity, Voyeur and Cafe Racers albums. Light House and Barking at Airplanes are due to be released in August 2013.[28] Carnes made a brief appearance in Paris on January 26, 2013, performing "Bette Davis Eyes".[29]

In a recent interview, Carnes stated that she will be recording a duet with British songwriter Frankie Miller to be included on a tribute album.[30] She also appeared in an episode of the US TV series The Haunting Of in November 2013.[31]


Musical and vocal style[edit]

Carnes's voice has been described as "distinctively raspy" and "throaty",[1] leading to comparisons to the voices of artists such as Rod Stewart and Bonnie Tyler.[2][32] Carnes had piano lessons as a child. "I learned Classical pieces at the time, which bothered me a lot. I just wanted to play what I wanted to play. Looking back now, which is usually the case, it's great to have that training in there."[33]

Carnes only wrote two songs for her debut album Rest on Me, and became frustrated by the number of other songwriters working on the album.[1] Her self-titled second album was predominantly made up of songs written by herself and her husband, Dave Ellingson. Joe Viglione of Allmusic argued that "Carnes' artistic (and commercial) success is at its best as an interpreter of other people's music."[34]

Personal life[edit]

Carnes currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee with husband Dave Ellingson (1967 - present). She has two sons, Collin and Ry. Her son Ry is named after musician Ry Cooder, who guests on the song "Rough Edges" from her Barking at Airplanes album. Son Collin is also featured on that album at the beginning of the song "Crazy in the Night."[35]


Studio albums[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Huey, Steve "Kim Carnes Biography", Allmusic, retrieved 2010-01-31
  2. ^ a b Rockwell, John (1981-07-26). "Kim Carnes Lifts 'Bette Davis' To The Top". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-03-18. 
  3. ^ Holden, Stephen (1981-08-26). "Kim Carnes Sings At Savoy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-03-18. 
  4. ^ Russo, Kim; Carnes, Kim (November 2013). "Kim Carnes". The Haunting of.... Lifetime Movie Network.
  5. ^ a b Starrs, Chris (5 November 2009). "Kim Carnes has friends in high places". Online Athens. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  6. ^ Jackson, Blair (September 1, 2003). "Classic Tracks: Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes"". Mix Magazine. NewBay Media. Retrieved October 5, 2014. 
  7. ^ Deadwood Mountain Grand, September 20, 2012. Retrieved 16 March, 2013
  8. ^ "Vanishing Point [Original Soundtrack]". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 7 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "Big Mama Thornton – Sing Out for Jesus". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 7 September 2014. 
  10. ^ Kim Carnes (as Connie con Carne) - She Dances With Meat on YouTube. Retrieved 16 March 2013
  11. ^ She Dances With Meat Lyrics, Lyrics 007. Retrieved 16 March 2013
  12. ^ Ragogna, Mike (26 August 2014). "Friends, Rain Plans, Love Songs & Lullabies: Conversations with Smokey Robinson, Israel Nash & Darryl Tookes". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  13. ^ "No Night So Long" CD booklet, personnel section. Retrieved 18 February 2013
  14. ^ Viglione, Joe. "Kim Carnes – Mistaken Identity – Album Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Betts, Stephen L., AOL Music; Kim Carnes interview, Feb. 2010
  16. ^ Summer Heat on IMDb. Retrieved 16 March 2013
  17. ^ "Kim Carnes - Chart history - Adult Contemporary". Billboard. Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  18. ^ Huey, Steve. "Kim Carnes biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  19. ^ Adult Contemporary Music in Japan, "Re-Import", Polystar Records. Retrieved 18 March 2013
  20. ^ a b Jinkins, Shirley (23 March 1994). "Kim Carnes trades pop career for country". The Gadsden Times (Halifax Media Group). Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  21. ^ "Ring Of Fire" - Kim Carnes & Jeff Bridges on YouTube. Retrieved 16 March 2013
  22. ^ "Loggerheads Soundtrack (Soundtrack) [Music Featured in and inspired by the Motion Picture] by Various Artists". iTunes Store. Apple, Inc. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  23. ^ Various – Noriyuki Makihara Songs From L.A. on Discogs. Retrieved 18 March 2013
  24. ^ "Bette Davis Eyes (Re-Recorded Version) - Single by Kim Carnes". iTunes Store. Apple, Inc. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  25. ^ ENOUGH by Dana Cooper on YouTube. Retrieved 3 March 2013
  26. ^ "Essential: Kim Carnes by Kim Carnes". iTunes Store. Apple, Inc. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  27. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Kim Carnes – Essential – Album Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  28. ^ Amazon: CD Deluxe Vinyl Replica - Kim Carnes CDs. Retrieved 18 February 2013
  30. ^ Writing music, recording and performing live will always be the soul of who I am, Boris Plantier, Yuzu Melodies, 20 January 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  31. ^ "The Haunting Of: Kim Carnes". Zap2it. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  32. ^ Promis, Jose F. "Bonnie Tyler – Free Spirit – Album Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  33. ^ Carnes, Kim (1988). "Kim Carnes". Cover Story. USA Network.
  34. ^ Viglione, Joe. "Kim Carnes – Kim Carnes – Album Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  35. ^ CD booklet of "Barking at Airplanes", personnel section. Retrieved 26 February 2013

External links[edit]