Kim Carnes (born July 20, 1945, Hollywood, California) is an American singer-songwriter. She is a two-time Grammy Award winner noted for her distinctive raspy vocal style, which has drawn comparisons to Rod Stewart. She had her first solo top-ten hit with a cover version of "More Love" in 1980 and later achieved international success with her album Mistaken Identitywhich reached #1 in the USA in 1981, and yielded the international hit "Bette Davis Eyes".
Career[edit source | edit]
1966–1974: Early career - The New Christy Minstrels, beginning songwriting and first album release[edit source | edit]
As a young singer, Kim Carnes joined The New Christy Minstrels in 1966 together with Kenny Rogers and Karen Black. 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". The film also featured Carnes' first selection as a songwriter, "Sing Out for Jesus," which was recorded by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton.
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!, where Carnes' backing vocals can be heard to great effect.
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 make the charts.
1975–1979: Early chart successes[edit source | edit]
In 1975, Carnes released her self-titled second album, which contained her first charted hit, "You're A Part Of Me", which reached #32 on the US Adult Contemporary charts. 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.
1980–1981: Collaboration with Kenny Rogers and Bette Davis Eyes[edit source | edit]
In 1980, her duet with Kenny Rogers "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer" became a major hit on the Pop (No. 4), Country (No. 3) and AC (No. 2) charts. 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 (No. 10 Pop, No. 6 AC). Carnes also provided backing vocals on Dionne Warwick's "No Night So Long" album.
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 #1 for four weeks. The single became the biggest hit of the entire year for 1981, 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 #60 on the US singles charts, and "Draw of the Cards" reached #28 in the US, #49 in the UK and #64 in Australia.
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.
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, 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 source | edit]
Carnes' later Hot 100 hits included the top 15 charter "Crazy in the Night" (from Barking at Airplanes) and "What About Me?" with Kenny Rogers and James Ingram. Carnes reached the AC Top 10 four times after "Bette Davis Eyes" with "I Pretend" (No. 9), "What About Me?" (No. 1), "Make No Mistake, He's Mine" with Barbra Streisand (No. 8) (co-produced by Carnes with Bill Cuomo) and "Crazy in Love" (No. 10). 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 two more Grammys – Best Pop Female for Voyeur, and Best Rock Female for "Invisible Hands". In 1983, Kim's song, "I'll Be Here Where the Heart Is", was included on the Flashdance soundtrack which received a Grammy for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture. Carnes was 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 themusic 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".
1992–present: Gypsy Honeymoon, further songwriting success and recent work[edit source | edit]
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, and the Chuck Berry song "Run, Run Rudolph" for aChristmas compilation called The Stars Come Out for Christmas Vol. III. In the following year, a compilation of songs hand-picked by Carnes was released by Capitol Records, entitled Gypsy Honeymoon: The Best of Kim Carnes. 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.
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 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).
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. She also re-recorded "Bette Davis Eyes", which was released byCleopatra Records.
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", 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.
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. Carnes made a brief appearance in Paris on January 26, 2013, performing "Bette Davis Eyes".
Personal life[edit source | edit]
Carnes currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee with longtime husband Dave Ellingson. 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."