Where the Heart Is An Interview With Multi-Grammy Winner Kim Carnes, Part Two

This is part two of our career-spanning interview with Kim Carnes.

Read the rest of Christian John Wikane's interview with Kim Carnes in part one.

"She's Like a Chameleon"

A string of high-profile collaborations fashioned a successful interlude between Café Racers and Carnes' next solo album. David Foster got things started with the title track to Kenny Rogers' What About Me (1984). Carnes says, "David called me and said, 'We've got this song. It's a love triangle. James Ingram and Kenny are the two males and you should be the girl.' I said, 'Send me the song.' I loved 'What About Me' immediately. I could hear all our voices on it." Written by Richard Marx and David Foster, "What About Me" was the ideal vehicle for each artist's distinctive voice.

Released on RCA, "What About Me" debuted on the Hot 100 the second week of September '84 and seemed destined for number one. "It was zooming up the charts," says Carnes. "It stopped at number 15 like the brakes were put on it. I saw James a couple of years later. I said, 'I'm so puzzled. We had such a big ole hit going. Why did it stop at 15? What happened?'

"James said, 'You don't know? I was in the office with the head of promotion the day he got a call from a radio station in the south saying, We, and other stations, cannot play this record because we have too many complaints from listeners that it's a love triangle with a black man, a white man, and a white woman. We can't play it. We're alienating our listeners.' I just said, 'Oh my God. Are you kidding?' To say that that was the reason just floored me. That's the ugly story. It bothers me horribly. The promotion staff knew that without those stations 'What About Me' would never hit the Top 10. The record company couldn't do anything about it. You can't make a station play something. All of that stuff still blows my mind."

The racist policies of key radio stations in the South might have shielded "What About Me" from the national Top Ten, but the song prevailed on the Adult Contemporary chart where it crowned the number one spot the first week of November 1984.

Carnes' next duet partner came as a complete surprise. She recounts the story, "I got a call one day from Jon Peters, who was managing Barbra Streisand at the time. He said, 'I want you and Barbra to do a duet.' While I was extremely flattered, I said, 'Our voices and styles couldn't be more different. I'll try my best to see if I can write something, but right now I just can't imagine it.' Within the hour, I went to the piano. I sat down and I had to yell for someone to bring me a yellow legal pad and a pencil because I thought, If I get up and leave the piano, it's going to go away! 'Make No Mistake, He's Mine' wrote itself in that next two hours.

"You wish more songs would come through you. It's the dream of a songwriter. 'Make No Mistake' came exactly when I needed it. I knew as I sang it that it was the perfect song for Barbra's voice and for my voice. I could sing it the way I sing ballads. She could sing it the way she sings ballads. Nobody had to be another person. The next day, Bill and I went into the studio and made a demo. We sent it over to her and she loved it."

Streisand invited Carnes and Cuomo to her house in Beverly Hills to rehearse the song. "It's just the three of us," says Cuomo. "I'm in her living room playing piano. I got Barbra and Kim singing. You could have hit me with a feather and knocked me off that piano stool! I'm listening to them sing and I'm thinking, Oh, man! This is going to be great. It was just fantastic. It was like they were whispering in your ear." After working out the vocal parts, Cuomo and Carnes began the process of producing the track for Streisand's Emotion (1984) album.

Columbia issued "Make No Mistake, He's Mine" as a single in December 1984. While plenty of pop ballads populated the airwaves at that time, nothing surpassed the power of Barbra Streisand and Kim Carnes trading lines and harmonies over the song's brilliantly orchestrated production. "She and Barbra sounded amazing together," says Cuomo. "It was like silk and gravel, in a sense. It worked great. Some singers can harmonize with themselves and sound good as a background singer with themselves and some can't. Kim could blend with anybody. She's like a chameleon and yet she never loses her identity, so it's not like you don't know it's Kim Carnes."

"Make No Mistake, He's Mine" spent ten weeks on the Hot 100 and peaked at number eight on the Adult Contemporary chart. Three years later, the song evolved into "Make No Mistake, She's Mine" when Kenny Rogers asked Carnes for a duet that he could sing with Ronnie Milsap. Their version topped the country chart and won a Grammy for "Best Country Vocal Performance Duet". In 2013, the song was even repurposed on Glee, with Santana (Naya Rivera) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) singing Carnes and Streisand's respective parts. "I was thrilled with that," says Carnes. "I think they did a great job with it. It's been any combination you can think of!"

After her duets with Streisand, and Rogers and Ingram, Carnes returned to the dance floor for the MGM feature That's Dancing! (1985). "David Niven Jr. was the producer," she says. "I knew him. He was a big fan. He said. 'I want you to write the theme.'" Carnes re-teamed with Martin Page and Brian Fairweather, the songwriting duo who'd co-written each of the U.S. singles from Café Racers, and wrote "Invitation to Dance" for the film.

MGM contacted a producer who'd recently had chart-topping success with both David Bowie and Madonna -- Nile Rodgers. "I love that guy," says Carnes. "I was such a fan from all of his CHIC days. I went to the Power Station in New York where I met Mick Jagger for the first time. He was there in the other studio. To me, Nile was the perfect person to produce 'Invitation to Dance'. He just grooved to the solo in the middle of the record." Carnes and Rodgers were a winning combination on the dance chart, where "Invitation to Dance" peaked at number thirteen in March 1985.

Two months earlier, Kim Carnes made chart history with her latest singles. For the week ending 19 January 1985, she became the first artist to lodge three hits on the Hot 100 as a solo artist ("Invitation to Dance"), duet partner ("Make No Mistake, He's Mine"), and member of a trio ("What About Me"), simultaneously. Less than two weeks later, Carnes would also join a historic moment in pop music as a featured soloist in USA for Africa's "We Are the World" (1985). Standing between Paul Simon and Michael Jackson, the singer was one of 45 music luminaries who gathered to aid famine relief in Ethiopia.

Next Page





A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.