The iconic singer-songwriter-performer Kim Carnes continues her extraordinary musical journey into 2018. She has recently participated in a BBC songwriter special and is doing special guest appearances with the legendary Little River Band.
Best known for “Bette Davis Eyes,” which was Billboard’s No. 1 hit of 1981, the song remains one of the Hot 100’s biggest chart hits of all time. That Grammy winning tune is just another remarkable facet of a global recording, performing and songwriting career that has now spanned five decades.
Born in Los Angeles, Carnes penned her first song at the tender age of four and hasn’t stopped since. “There’s this whole part of what I do and what I started out doing, being a songwriter, that few people know,” says Carnes today. “I’ve always written songs, every day. That’s how I started out and that’s still so important to me. I’ll be doing it forever.”
Carnes signed with A&M Records and released a pair of albums. In 1978, Carnes became the first artist signed to the newly established EMI-America label and, with Gene Cotton, earned her first Top 40 hit, “You’re a Part of Me.” In 1980, Carnes with co-writer Ellingson penned the Kenny Rogers album ‘Gideon.” The album became a Number 1 on the country sales charts and number 20 on the pop charts. “Don’t Fall in Love With a Dreamer,” which Kim sang as a duet with Kenny became a Number 4 pop hit and was number 3 on country and number 2 on the Adult Contemporary charts. Gideon would go on to sell more than three million copies. Carnes’ first solo Top 10 hit followed – a sultry, soulful reworking of the Smokey Robinson classic, “More Love.”
The following year, Carnes would release Mistaken Identity. Propelled by the success of “Bette Davis Eyes,” a No. 1 song for nine weeks, the album spent four weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. and charted throughout the world, earning a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. Meanwhile, “Bette Davis Eyes” would win a pair of those golden gramophones, for Record and Song of the Year.
Carnes followed Mistaken Identity with Voyeur, another Grammy-nominated collection. Her hitting streak, spread across the pop and adult contemporary charts would continue with such tunes as “Crazy in Love,” “I Pretend,” “What About Me,” “Crazy in the Night” and more. She also won her second Grammy award for “I’ll Be Here Where the Heart Is” from the blockbuster, ‘Flashdance’ soundtrack.
In 2000, she performed “Ring of Fire,” a duet with Jeff Bridges, for his film, The Contender and has contributed to the soundtracks of a wide variety of films, from Spaceballs to Valentino: The Last Emperor. In 1985, Carnes was among the cadre of singers who contributed vocals (in U.S.A. for Africa) to the all-star single and music video, “We Are the World,” which sold 20 million copies worldwide.
In 1988, Carnes reunited with producer Jimmy Bowen and recorded ‘View from the House,’ which featured her Top 10 AC hit, “Crazy in Love.” Continuing to perform and write songs, Carnes and family relocated to Nashville full-time in 1994. “I was making so many trips from Los Angeles to write songs with different people that it just got to the point where I needed to be there,” she says. “Nashville has a great creative atmosphere. It’s a small, close-knit music community that you can’t find anywhere else.”
The writer of three No. 1 one country songs, including “The Heart Won’t Lie,” a smash duet for Reba McEntire and Vince Gill and “Make No Mistake (She’s Mine),” recorded by Ronnie Milsap and Kenny Rogers, Carnes’ Music City experience has paired her with other top tunesmiths including Kim Richey, Matraca Berg, Greg Barnhill, Al Anderson, Jeffrey Steele, Tim Nichols and Connie Harrington. To date, her songs have been covered by country superstar Tim McGraw (to whose songs she has also added background vocals), as well as Deana Carter, Sawyer Brown, Tanya Tucker, Suzy Bogguss, Pam Tillis and more.
“I write what I love and have always done that,” she says today. “I’m so lucky to be writing and performing with some of the best writers in the world. I’m having a blast.”