Kim Carnes (born July 20, 1945) is a two-time Grammy Award winning American singer-songwriter. Born in Los Angeles, California, Carnes now resides in Nashville, Tennessee, where she continues to write music. She began her career as a songwriter in the 1960s, writing for other artists while performing in local clubs and working as a session background singer with the famed Waters sisters (featured in the documentary, 20 Feet from Stardom). After she signed her first publishing deal with Jimmy Bowen, she released her debut album Rest on Me in 1972.
As a solo artist, Carnes saw some success with her singles "More Love," "Crazy in the Night (Barking at Airplanes)," "Make No Mistake (He's Mine)," with Barbra Streisand, and "I'll Be Here Where the Heart Is." Her most successful single was "Bette Davis Eyes," released in 1981. The song won two Grammy Awards; Song of the Year and Record of the Year, and became the best-selling single of the year in the United States.
Carnes' self-titled debut album primarily contained self-penned songs, including her first charting single "You're a Part of Me", which reached number thirty-five on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in 1975. In the following year, Carnes released Sailin', which featured "Love Comes from Unexpected Places". The song won the American Song Festival and the award for Best Composition at the Tokyo Song Festival in 1976. Other successes as a songwriter include co-writing the number one duet "The Heart Won't Lie" with Donna Weiss, recorded by Vince Gill and Reba McEntire, and co-writing the songs for Kenny Rogers' concept album Gideon (1980).
Her distinctive raspy vocal style has drawn comparisons to Rod Stewart.
Kim Carnes was born on July 20, 1945 in Los Angeles, California. Her father, James Raymond Carnes, was an attorney, and her mother was a hospital administrator. Carnes knew she would be a singer and songwriter from the age of three, despite the fact that she was not born into a musical family. "My mother didn't get my career, and my father, who was an attorney, didn't think singing and writing was even a job." As a four-year-old, Carnes "married" her next-door neighbor, famed musician David Lindley. Their "honeymoon" car appears on the cover of Carnes' album, Chasin' Wild Trains. She graduated from San Marino High School in 1963.
1965–1974: Early career and first studio album
A songwriter and performer from an early age, 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 cut as a songwriter, "Sing Out for Jesus," which was recorded by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton.
Also in 1971 she and Mike Settle again worked with Bowen to create the bubblegum pop studio group The Sugar Bears. An album, Presenting the Sugar Bears, and three singles were released with one song, "You Are The One," reaching #83 on the Billboard charts.
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 an opening act with her husband. Cassidy's albums, Rock Me Baby, Dreams are Nuthin' More than Wishes and Cassidy Live! include several songs penned by Carnes, along with Ellingson and Cassidy. Carnes also provided backing vocals for these albums.
After signing with Amos Records, her first solo album, Rest on Me, produced by Jimmy Bowen, was released in 1972.
1975–1979: Early chart successes
In 1975, Carnes released her self-titled second album, which contained her first charted hit, "You're A Part Of Me", reached number 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 Grand Prize at the 1976 American Song Festival. The song also earned the award for Best Composition at the Tokyo Song Festival. It 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.
In 1979, she recorded a single using the pseudonym Connie con Carne titled "She Dances With Meat", written by herself and Dave Ellingson.
1980–1981: Collaboration with Kenny Rogers and Bette Davis Eyes
In 1980, her duet with Kenny Rogers, "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer," became a major hit on the Pop (number four), Country (number three) and AC (number two) 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 (number ten in the Pop charts and number six in the Adult Contemporary charts). Impressed with Carnes's recording and success with the song, Robinson later wrote "Being with You" for her. Robinson's producer George Tobin insisted that he record and release the song himself. "The record that went number one for me is a demo for Kim," Robinson told The Huffington Post. In 1981, Carnes 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 number one 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 and "Draw of the Cards," which also charted in the UK and 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 before Davis's death in 1989. 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 and continues to be licensed for film and TV use. In November 2015, the song was the set piece for the back-story of "Liz Taylor" in the TV anthology "American Horror Story:Hotel."
Also on 19 December 1981, Kim Carnes performed with Rod Stewart and Tina Turner at the L. A. Forum, Inglewood.
1982–1985: Voyeur and further releases
Carnes' later hits included two more singles that just missed the Pop Top 10, "Crazy in the Night" (from Barking at Airplanes) and "What About Me?" with Kenny Rogers and James Ingram. Kim also reached the AC Top 10 four times after "Bette Davis Eyes" – with "I Pretend" (number nine), "What About Me?" (number one), "Make No Mistake, He's Mine" with Barbra Streisand (number eight) (co-produced by Carnes with Bill Cuomo) and "Crazy in Love" (number ten). 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 additional Grammy Awards – including Best Rock Vocal Performance Female for Voyeur, in 1983 and Best Rock Vocal Performance Female for "Invisible Hands" in 1984. In 1983, Kim's song, "I'll Be Here Where the Heart Is", was included on the Flashdance soundtrack which itself received a Grammy for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture. Kim was also 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 the music 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.
1988–1993: Recording in Nashville
For the release of her eleventh studio album, View from the House, Carnes reunited with producer Jimmy Bowen, who co-produced the album with her. View from the House spawned four singles, including the Top 10 AC hit, "Crazy in Love." The album featured early appearances from future music superstars Vince Gill and Lyle Lovett.
Her twelfth studio album, Checkin' Out the Ghosts, was released exclusively in Japan in 1991. The album was not commercially successful worldwide. It featured the song "Gypsy Honeymoon," which was later re-recorded on her 1993 compilation of the same name. The song was a hit in Germany in 1993.
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 a Christmas compilation called The Stars Come Out for Christmas Vol. III. 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.
1994–present: Further songwriting success and Essential
In 1994, Carnes permanently relocated from Los Angeles to Nashville. Several of her 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 in 1987 and "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 Tim McGraw, Deana Carter, Kevin Sharp, Matraca Berg, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Sawyer Brown, Suzy Bogguss, Collin Raye, Pam Tillis, Conway Twitty and Tanya Tucker. In 1997, Carnes recorded a cover of "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" for the tribute album Jim Croce: A Nashville Tribute.
In 2000, Carnes sang a duet of the Johnny Cash song, "Ring of Fire", with Jeff Bridges, for the film The Contender. The song featured in the opening credits.
In 2004, Carnes released the album Chasin' Wild Trains. Producing the album herself, she wrote material for the album with Kings of Leon producer Angelo Petraglia, Matraca Berg, Kim Richey, Al Anderson, Jeffrey Steele, Marc Jordan, Anders Osborne and Chuck Prophet. An extensive European tour followed the album, which achieved success in America. In the same year, Carnes provided vocals for two tracks on Tim McGraw's album, Live Like You Were Dying. Carnes co-wrote and 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.
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, for which she also provided backing vocals. Carnes also co-wrote "Live to Tell" with Jamie Appleby, Marv Green and Alyssa Reid on Reid's 2011 album, The Game. Two songs Carnes co-wrote with Australian duo O'Shea were Number One hits on Australia's CMC Country Music Channel. She also co-wrote a song on their follow-up album.
EMI Music released Essential, a Kim Carnes compilation, in 2011. The compilation received a positive review from Thom Jurek of Allmusic, who praised Carnes's lesser-known songs such as "I'd Lie to You for Your Love" and "Abadabadango", stating that Carnes's voice "makes them work." He went on to say that her "ability to choose or write songs that highlighted the many smoky shades in that voice is uncanny."
In February 2012, Ossum Possum Records re-released the original theme song from Warner Bros. motion picture Impulse, Everybody Needs Someone – recorded by Carnes in 1990, as a digital download single. It was previously released in 1990 as a promo CD single by the same record company.
In October 2012, American record company Culture Factory re-released Carnes' Mistaken Identity, Voyeur and Cafe Racers albums. Light House and Barking at Airplanes were released in August 2013.
In 2014, Carnes recorded a duet with British songwriter Frankie Miller to be included on a tribute album. She also appeared in an episode of the US TV series The Haunting Of in November 2013.
Musical and vocal style
Carnes's voice has been described as "distinctively raspy" and "throaty", leading to comparisons to the voices of Rod Stewart and Bonnie Tyler. In 1993, Keith Tuber of Orange Coast magazine entitled Carnes The Queen of Rasp 'n' Roll in one of his articles.
Carnes currently resides in Nashville with husband Dave Ellingson (1967–present). She has three sons, Collin, Ethan, and Ry. Her son Ry, who is named after musician Ry Cooder, guests on the song "Rough Edges" from her Barking at Airplanes album. Her son Collin is also featured on that album at the beginning of the song "Crazy in the Night". Collin also co-wrote, with his mother, the songs "Divided Hearts", "Gypsy Honeymoon", "Don't Cry Now", and "River of Memories".
1981 Record of the Year "Bette Davis Eyes"
1983 Best Instrumental Composition Written Specifically For A Motion Picture or for Television "Flashdance" (multiple artists)