Now Hear This: Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes” Honors a Legend

If you turned on FM radio at any time in the summer of 1981, there was an excellent chance that you would have heard “Bette Davis Eyes.” This version of the time by Kim Carnes — it was originally released by Jackie DeShannon seven years earlier — was absolutely inescapable. Not that I’m complaining. It honors Bette Davis by comparing an ingĂ©nue’s allure and beauty to that of the silver screen star. It wound up topping the charts for nine weeks, and eventually won the coveted Record of the Year and Song of the Year awards at the Grammys. Even to this day, its distinctive opening notes work as a time capsule that transport listeners back to the era of Luke and Laura and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Carnes’ smooth as silk vocals complimented the song’s sensuous manner, which also served as a nostalgic ode to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Listening to it today, “Bette Davis Eyes” sounds fresh and vibrant — much like the films of Davis herself.

Weirdly enough, and because nothing really made sense in the totally awesome ’80s, a Kim Carnes soundalike re-recorded the song for a 7-Up ad that featured, um, Pac-Man. See it for yourself, because mere words can’t do this one justice: