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Kim Carnes Biography

Last updated: 03/15/2010 12:00:00 PM


Kim Carnes was born in Los Angeles (Hollywood) California on July 20, 1945. She grew up in Los Angeles and by her early twenties was singing in night clubs in Los Angeles, singing backup in recording sessions, and writing songs for other performers. .She has stated that her trademark raspy voice is a result of the smoke-filled night clubs, late night performances, and a few too many wine spritzers.

In 1967 she appeared in "C'mon, Let's Live A Little" along with Jackie DeShannon who was to later cowrite "Bette Davis Eyes" with Donna Weiss. The movie is a musical drama centered on life in a small college. The hero is a folk singer from the backwoods. Because he saved the dean's daughter from a car accident, he received a scholarship. The school rebel uses the folk singer to entice students into attending his rally on free speech. The folk singer rallies back and punches the radical in the nose. He then allows the dean to tell the student body the reasons why they don't need more radical ideas concerning freedom. Songs include "C'mon, Let's Live a Little," "Instant Girl," "Baker Man," "What Fool This Mortal Be," "Tonight's the Night," "For Granted," "Back-Talk," "Over and Over," "Let's Go Go," and "Way Back Home."


Bo Belinsky - Bo-Bo
Kim Carnes - Melinda
Jackie De Shannon - Judy Grant
Eddie Hodges - Eddie Stewart
John Ireland Jr - Rego
Suzie Kaye - Bee Bee Vendemeer
Patsy Kelly - Mrs. Fitts
Bobby Vee - Jesse Crawford
I haven't seen the movie yet but the reviews (and plot description) are not very encouraging. It does not appear to be available on videocassette, so I guess you will have to wait for it to turn up on TV sometime.

Kim along with Kenny Rogers was once a member of the New Christy Minstrels, a folk group which recorded from 1962 to 1970. Shortly thereafter she married her musical collaborator and fellow musician Dave Ellingson, and in 1971 they wrote "Nobody Knows" for the movie Vanishing Point. She released her first solo album Rest On Me in 1972. This first album didn't really go anywhere, and only two of the eleven tracks were penned by Kim. So she changed labels and came back with a self-titled album in 1975, which saw "Your A Part Of Me," sung in duet with Gene Cotton, go to #36 in the charts. This was followed up in 1976 with Sailin'. One track, "Love Comes From Unexpected Places," won best song at the 1977 American Song Festival. In 1979 she released St. Vincent's Court containing "It Hurts So Bad" which topped out at #56.

In 1980 Kenny Rogers gave her welcome exposure with their duet "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer." on his album Gideon. All of the songs for the album, which charted at #12 that year, were written by Kim and her husband Dave Ellingson. Later that year, a Carnes cover of the Miracles' "More Love" was a #10 hit on her album Romance Dance from which "Cry Like A Baby" also hit #44. "More Love" was always her favorite Smoky Robinson song.


The year 1981 saw the release of her most successful album Mistaken Identity containing her most popular and well known song "Bette Davis Eyes." Written in 1974 by Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss, the song was originally rejected by Kim. Rejected only until a new instrumentation arrangement done by Bill Cuomo convinced her that it was a hit. The public agreed driving it to #1 on the charts. "Bette Davis Eyes" won Kim her 1981 Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Bette Davis wrote to Kim 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 Kim sing the song live for her at a tribute held just before her death.

According to Whitney Stine in her book "I'd Like To Kiss You":

"...A few months later I gave a dinner party for the writer Anais Nin, who called at the last moment to ask if she might bring along a houseguest, singer Jackie De Shannon. She turned out to be a vivacious redhead with a delightful sense of humor. Upon leaving, Jackie took my hand. 'I loved Mother Goddam', she said, 'and I'll never forget the look in Paul Henreids eyes when he lighted those 2 cigarettes in the ending of Now Voyager. I want to write a song about the great Bette Davis'. I told her, 'Good Luck' and I promptly forgot the incident. But true to her word, Jackie, with Donna Weiss, wrote Bette Davis Eyes, a song Kim Carnes recorded 7 years later in 1981. At long last, Kim finally had the hit her life."

"Bette came out to a huge ovation, and the interview proceeded. Also on the show was throaty singer Kim Carnes, with whom I had shared a limousine to the studio. Kim remarked hopefully that her new recording would make the charts. 'I need a hit so badly, and maybe this is it!'

Bette was intrigued with Kim. "What's wrong with your voice? Do you have a cold?', she asked after the number. 'That's just me,' Kim laughed. Bette giggled. 'You sound like you just swallowed a safety pin!'

Playboy Magazine interviewed Bette Davis in July 1982:

PLAYBOY: Another description of you was in that Kim Carnes song that was so popular last year, Bette Davis Eyes. Do you know all the words?

DAVIS: (Sings) "She's ferocious... She throws you..." No, I haven't learned the lyrics, really, but I think the writers are damned clever. I wrote them and said, "How did you know me so well?".

Other charting tracks from Mistaken Identity include "Mistaken Identity" (#60) and "Draw of the Cards (#28).


Not resting on her laurels, Kim released Voyeur the next year charting the title track at #29 and "Does It Make You Remember" at #36. She continued to chart in the 1983 album Cafe Racers with "Invisible Hands" at #40 and "You Make My Heart Beat Faster" at #54. Included on the album was "I'll Be Here Where The Heart Is" which was written for the 1984 movie Flashdance. The soundtrack album earned her another Grammy, this time for Best Album for an Original Score Written for a Motion Picture.

Her 1984 song "Make No Mistake He's Mine" which she wrote for Barbra Streisand and performed with her as a duet hit #51 in the charts. She also wrote "What About Me" that year and performed it in a trio with Kenny Rogers and James Ingram. This song charted at #15, and at this point she became the only American artist to simultaneously chart in a solo performance, a duet, and a trio.

Three tracks from her 1985 album Barking At Airplanes made the charts: "Crazy In The Night" at #15, "Abadabadango" at #67, and I Pretend" at #74. "Crazy In The Night" featured the voice of her son Collin in the opening vocal. Also in 1985 she wrote and performed "Invitation To Dance" which charted at #68 and was featured on the soundtrack of the movie That's Dancing.

In 1986 Kim released Light House containing "Divided Hearts" which charted at #79. When she failed to match the success of "Bette Davis Eyes," she simply stated that she didn't care anymore where her singles charted. With the huge body of work she has written and performed, I don't blame her.

In 1988 she swerved over to the country side of her heretofore mixed style in View From The House. She continued to write for movies and television producing ""Everybody Needs Someone" for the 1990 movie Impulse and the theme song for the CBS TV show Sunday Dinner in 1991.


She released her latest album in 1993. Gypsy Honeymoon: The Best of Kim Carnes is a combination of new tracks and an anthology of her previous hits and favorites. The three new tracks include "Gypsy Honeymoon" which recalls the style and sound of all of her best songs. This album by no means contains all of her top hits, but when it is combined with the compilation album Crazy In The Night, nearly all of her charting songs would be available to those who can't acquire all of the albums or have already gotten rid of their turntables. (Not all of her albums are available in CD format--yet)

She promises a new album and claims to have written a sequel to "The Thrill of the Grill" which presumably would reveal the further adventures of Phillis the waitress after she leaves the diner. We can only hope that it is soon, especially the promise of a "Thrill of the Grill" video. This biography page only touches the highlights of her career. With all that she has done professionally these past thirty-five years and all that she is still doing, she must be considered one of the hardest working women in show business.