Brown Eyed Handsome Man

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"Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
Single by Chuck Berry
from the album After School Session
A-side "Too Much Monkey Business"
Released September 1956 (1956-09)[1]
Recorded April 16, 1956, Chicago, Illinois[2]
Genre Rock and roll, rhythm and blues
Length 2:19
Label Chess 1635[1][2]
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) Leonard Chess, Phil Chess[2]
Chuck Berry singles chronology
"Maybellene"
(1955)
"Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
(1956)
"Roll Over Beethoven"
(1956)
"Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
Single by Buddy Holly
from the album Reminiscing
B-side "Rock-a-Bye Rock"
Released 1963 (1963)
Format 7" 45-RPM
Recorded 1956–1957
Genre Rock and roll
Length 2:07
Label Carol 93 352
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) Norman Petty
Buddy Holly singles chronology
"Reminiscing"
(1962)
"Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
(1963)
"Bo Diddley"
(1963)

"Brown Eyed Handsome Man" is a rock and roll song written and recorded by Chuck Berry, originally released by Chess Records in September 1956 as the B-side of "Too Much Monkey Business." It was also included on Berry's 1957 debut album, After School Session. The song title was also used as the title of a biography of Berry.[3]

Background and recording[edit]

"Brown Eyed Handsome Man" was written after Berry visited several African-American and Hispanic areas in California. During his time there, he saw a Hispanic man being arrested by a policeman when "some woman came up shouting for the policeman to let him go."[4]

"Brown Eyed Handsome Man" was recorded on April 16, 1956, in Chicago, Illinois. The session was produced by the Chess brothers, Leonard and Phil. Backing Berry were Johnnie Johnson on piano, L. C. Davis on tenor saxophone, Willie Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on drums.[2]

The song was released in September 1956[1] and reached number 5 on Billboard magazine's R&B Singles chart later that year.[5]

Relevance in race relations[edit]

Glenn C. Altschuler argued that the lyrics of the song "played slyly with racial attitudes and even fears."[6] Martha Bayles noted that "Berry's penchant for bragging about his 'Brown Eyed Handsome Man'’s appeal for white females outraged a lot of people."[7]

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by many artists, including Buddy Holly, whose recording was a posthumous top-five hit in the United Kingdom in 1963 and was released on the album Reminiscing.[8] Johnny Rivers also covered the song on his first album, At the Whisky à Go Go, in 1964, as did Nina Simone on her 1967 album High Priestess of Soul and Waylon Jennings on a single from his 1970 album Waylon. It was also covered by Robert Cray on the 1987 live tribute album to Berry, Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll and by Paul McCartney on his 1999 album Run Devil Run and on a double A-side single with "No Other Baby".

The song was also performed by the so-called "Million Dollar Quartet": Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley in a jam session on December 4, 1956.[9] Lewis also released a solo version on his 1970 album She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye.[10] Cash recorded it with Perkins on his posthumous 2003 album Unearthed. "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" was performed in the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet, which opened in New York in April 2010,[11] and was included in the album Million Dollar Quartet, recorded by the original Broadway cast, with Lance Guest as Johnny Cash, Robert Britton Lyons as Carl Perkins, Levi Kreis as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Eddie Clendening as Elvis Presley.[12]

Influences in other songs[edit]

John Fogerty used the line "A-roundin’ third, and headed for home, it’s a brown-eyed handsome man" in his 1985 song "Centerfield", from the album Centerfield.

Led Zeppelin referred to a brown-eyed man in the song "Good Time Bad Time": "Good times, bad times / You know I had my share / When my woman left home / With a brown eyed man / Well, I still don't seem to care".

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Rudolph, Dietmar. "A Collector's Guide to the Music of Chuck Berry: The Chess Era (1955–1966)". Retrieved December 4, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d Gold (CD liner notes). Chuck Berry. United States: Geffen Records/Chess Records. 2005. pp. 20, 27. 0602498805589 http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?release=1987023 |url= missing title (help). 
  3. ^ Pegg, Bruce (2002). Brown Eyed Handsome Man: The Life and Hard Times of Chuck Berry: An Unauthorized Biography. Routledge.
  4. ^ "Brown Eyed Handsome Man by Chuck Berry". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on February 9, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Chuck Berry: Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Rovi. Retrieved December 3, 2010. 
  6. ^ Altschuler, Glenn C. (2003). All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America. Oxford University Press. 64.
  7. ^ Bayles, Martha (1996). Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music. University of Chicago Press. pp. 149–150.
  8. ^ McAleer, Dave (2004). Hit Singles: Top 20 Charts From 1954 to the Present Day. Hal Leonard. p. 84.
  9. ^ The Million Dollar Quartet. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  10. ^ Jerry Lee Lewis. She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  11. ^ Zielinski, Peter James. "Photo Coverage: Million Dollar Quartet Opens on Broadway". Posted April 12, 2010. [1]
  12. ^ “Song List” and “Performing Credits”. Million Dollar Quartet (2010). CD booklet. p. 5. New York: Avatar Studios; Chicago: Chicago Recording Company.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Fancy"
by Bobbie Gentry
RPM Country Tracks number-one single
(Waylon Jennings version)

February 28, 1970
Succeeded by
"If I Were a Carpenter"
by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash