Kim Carnes (born July 20, 1945 in Pasadena, California) is a Grammy Award-winning American singer-songwriter. She is noted for her distinctive, raspy voice which she attributes to many hours spent singing in smoky bars and clubs.
Carnes was a member of New Christy Minstrels in 1967. (Kenny Rogers was also a member.) During this time, Carnes met and married Dave Ellingson with whom she would write most of her songs. For a short while in the early 1970s, she and Ellingson formed the unsuccessful folk duo Kim and Dave. Their song, "Nobody Knows," was the song played during the credits for the movie Vanishing Point.
She began releasing albums during the early 1970s. Her self-titled album in 1975 contained her first charted hit, "You're A Part Of Me" (No. 32 AC). This album was followed in 1976 with Sailin'. One track, "Love Comes From Unexpected Places," won best song at the 1977 American Song Festival and gained some additional notice after it was recorded by Barbra Streisand on her 1977 album Streisand Superman. Carnes' Top 40 breakthrough occurred in 1978 when she was recruited by Gene Cotton to record a duet version of "You're A Part Of Me" which reached No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100.
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 Ellingson. Later that year, her cover version of the Smokey Robinson & The Miracles song "More Love" became her first solo Top 10 hit single (No. 10 Pop, No. 6 AC).
In 1981, she recorded the Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss song "Bette Davis Eyes". 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 No. 1 for four weeks. The single became the No. 1 song of 1981 and is second only to Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" as the biggest hit of the 1980's. The song earned both the Record of the Year and Song of the Year awards at the 1982 Grammys and Carnes was nominated for Best Pop Female.
Ironically, "Bette Davis Eyes", written in 1974, was originally rejected by Carnes. It was only after a new instrumental arrangement was done by Bill Cuomo that Carnes agreed to record the song and it became a huge hit. 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 and stated that she was very pleased with the song as it made her seem very up-to-date with her grandson. She had Carnes sing the song live for her at a tribute held just before her death. The song was also used in a 1982 advertising campaign for 7-Up, with the lyrics slightly altered and Pac-Man characters starring in the commercial spots.
Carnes released several albums after "Mistaken Identity," but she was never able to approach the success of "Bette Davis Eyes." She never charted higher than No. 15 on the Hot 100 which she achieved twice with "Crazy In The Night (Barking At Airplanes)" and "What About Me?" with Kenny Rogers and James Ingram. Carnes did reach the AC Top 10 three times after "Bette Davis Eyes" with "I Pretend" (No. 9), "What About Me?" (No. 1) and "Make No Mistake, He's Mine" with Barbra Streisand (No. 8).
Carnes remained a highly respected artist and songwriter. 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. Carnes 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, Sawyer Brown, Suzy Bogguss, Pam Tillis, Tim McGraw and Tanya Tucker.
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 heard singing the last line of the song's bridge with Huey Lewis and Cyndi Lauper.
In 2004, she re-appeared with a self-released album Chasin' Wild Trains. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee with husband Dave Ellingson. She has 2 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"
At one point, Carnes placed three songs on Billboard's Hot 100 simultaneously. In January 1985, she charted solo with "Invitation To Dance," as a duo with Barbra Streisand on "Make No Mistake, He's Mine" and as a trio with Kenny Rogers and James Ingram on "What About Me?"
Singer/songwriter Tori Amos refers to Carnes in her song "Glory of the 80s", in the following lyric: "In the glories of the eighties, I may not have to die; I'll clone myself like that blonde chick that sings "Bette Davis Eyes."
Rest On Me (1972)
Kim Carnes (1975)
St. Vincent's Court (1979)
Romance Dance (1980) US #57
Mistaken Identity (1981) US #1
Voyeur (1982) US #49
Café Racers (1983) US #97
Barking At Airplanes (1985) US #48
Lighthouse (1986) US #116
View From The House (1988)
Checkin' Out The Ghosts (1991)
Gypsy Honeymoon: The Best of Kim Carnes (1993), a compilation
Chasin' Wild Trains (2004)