“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.
“You’re in for the Ride”
“Carnes has had plenty of moments before but she’s never recorded an album as pleasing as this,” People Magazine declared in its review of Barking at Airplanes (1985). High praise greeted Carnes’ ninth solo album and understandably so — she co-produced it with the musician who’d been her “right and left hand” since the mid-’70s, Bill Cuomo.
At the time, Carnes and Cuomo were still relishing the response to the singer’s duet with Streisand. “I was so glad that Bill and I could produce that record together and celebrate its success together,” she says. “He’s one of those few people where both sides of his brain work equally. He fires on all cylinders. He can run a studio, and knows everything about the technical side, and yet when he sits down to play music, he has the heart of a poet. Most people have one side of their brain working or the other. He’s got all of it.”
Cuomo and Carnes shaped one of the singer’s most thematically and sonically rich albums. “Barking at Airplanes was the album where I got to do all the movies and all of the little things that I heard in my head that would make it extra special,” says Carnes. “Crazy in the Night (Barking at Airplanes)” was a track of widescreen proportions, opening with a thunderous knock before Carnes’ son Collin whispered “Who is it?” She explains, “At the time, Collin was little and he’d come running into our room every night because there were monsters in his closet and under the bed.”
The song title cleverly incorporated the name of the album. “I had a golden retriever at the time,” Carnes explains. “Every time the airplanes would go over, she’d bark at the airplanes. I thought, That’s such a cool, crazy title for an album. I want my album to be called ‘Barking at Airplanes’. Somehow in my mind it made sense that ‘Crazy in the Night’ and the parentheses title ‘Barking at Airplanes’, went together.” Opening the album with a bang — literally — Carnes’ charismatic vocals captured the sly, playful terror of the title track.
“Bon Voyage” bookended the album’s original Side One with a superb recording that stands as one of Carnes’ most compelling songs on Barking at Airplanes, or on any album for that matter. “I love it,” says Carnes. “It’s kind of like ‘Paris Without You: Continued’. I pictured being in a French airport when the sound comes over the speakers announcing flights. I called somebody at EMI Paris and asked them to take a tape recorder to Charles de Gaulle and record those sounds.”
An all-star cast accompanied the singer on the equally poignant “Rough Edges”. Carnes recalls, “James Ingram came and sang on it, like the angel he is. So did Martha Davis. My dream of life, Ry Cooder, came in and played bottle neck guitar on it. His guitar on ‘Rough Edges’ is just perfection.” Cuomo adds, “I loved the way Kim connected on ‘Rough Edges’ and ‘Bon Voyage’ — to emotionally reach in and pull the strings of one’s heart. She does that better than anybody. I would listen to those songs front to back.”
Highlights abounded on Barking at Airplanes, no matter where the needle dropped. Carnes brought a lighthearted feel to her rendition of Any Trouble’s “Touch and Go”, the album’s sole cover tune, while Lindsey Buckingham lent an extra potency to his turn on “Begging for Favors (Learning How Things Work)”. Carnes laid down a customarily ardent vocal on “Oliver (Voice on the Radio)”, closing the album with a boldface question: “Are you listening now?“
In the spring and summer 1985, the answer was a resounding Yes. “Crazy in the Night (Barking at Airplanes)” peaked at #15 in mid-July, giving Carnes her biggest solo hit on the Hot 100 since “Bette Davis Eyes”. A month later, the album’s follow-up single “Abadabadango” bowed on the Hot 100 where it toured the chart over a four-week period. The accompanying video dispensed with the increasingly random visuals of Carnes’ recent promo clips. “No more zebras in the shot for no reason,” she chuckles. “I love that video for its simplicity. It’s interesting because of the way the director lit it. It’s a black and white video but the lighting was so cool.”
A bonus stop on Carnes’ round of promotional appearances for Barking at Airplanes included The Motown Revue Starring Smokey Robinson, a six-week summer variety series for NBC. “That was a huge highlight,” Carnes exclaims. “I went on it and sang ‘More Love’ with Smokey as a duet. I was so excited. It was insane!” The duo’s mutual respect and affection for each other shone through their unforgettable performance.
Crazy in the Night also brought Carnes back to the Billboard 200 where the album charted one place higher than Voyeur had three years earlier. Both Carnes and Cuomo credit renowned engineer Mike Shipley with creating the album’s flawless mix. “Mike understood the mood of how we wanted to create it,” says Cuomo. “He was such a part of that record, as well. I felt honored that he was at the helm. George Marino mastered it at Sterling Sound in New York. I’ve never seen a mastering guy take such an active part. From the timing between the cuts, to the levels and the sounds, George was also a large part of why, when you sit down and listen to that record, even though the songs are all very different, you’re in for the ride.”
Val Garay returned for Carnes’ final release on EMI America, Lighthouse (1986). “We thought we’d have fun re-doing the magic that we had when we did Mistaken Identity and Voyeur,” he says. “We got back together and had a great time doing a record.” The album included a pair of songs by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon (“Piece of the Sky” and “Only Lonely Love”), Weiss’ effort with Bruce Roberts (“That’s Where the Trouble Lies”), and the producer’s own collaboration with Carnes and guitarist Craig Hull, “You Say You Love Me (But I Know You Don’t)”.
Of course, some of the album’s prime material came from Carnes herself. Her self-penned “Black and White” was a stunning showcase for Jerry Peterson, whose saxophone solo sparkled like a shooting star sailing through the night sky. Written by Carnes and Daniel Moore, “Dancing at the Lighthouse” offered its own kind of luster as the duo anchored the song with tight harmonies. “Kim’s stuff was a pleasure to work on,” says Moore. “I think she continually keeps her standard of performance at a really high level. I’ve always felt that.”
“Divided Hearts”, the album’s opening cut and lead single, gave the album its musical heartbeat. “I thought ‘Divided Hearts’ was wonderful,” says Garay. “I love that song. The background singers (Oren Waters, Phillip Ingram, Kevin Dorsey) are guys that I’d known forever who I put together for that. They actually were going to become a group from doing that.”
Topped with an irresistible melody, featuring dazzling interplay between Carnes and the Waters-Ingram-Dorsey trio, “Divided Hearts” had all the potential to duplicate the success of “Crazy In the Night”. Carnes shares, “I thought it sounded like a radio hit. So did everybody. We all did. That never even got off the ground.” EMI released the single in May 1986, but it only climbed to #79. Any future prospects for Lighthouse dimmed when the album charted at #116. It was time to find a new home.
“Back to Being Real Again”
Nashville had beckoned Carnes for some time. “Roseanne Cash’s Seven Year Ache (1981) had been a big hit out of Nashville,” she says. “I thought, I need to go! That record is so incredible. She’s so incredible. The songs are so incredible. It’s real.” Carnes also realized that she’d already worked with the producer who could bring her back to basics. “Who knows me well enough to help me get my bearings back? Jimmy Bowen,” she says. “He was at MCA Nashville at the time. He came out to LA. We met. His comment was, ‘I wondered when you were going to call me. What took you so long?'”
Produced by Bowen and Carnes, View from the House (1988) marked the first step that the LA-based artist would take towards calling Nashville home. “I love that album,” she says. “Everything about it is true and heartfelt. It just got back to being real again.”
Steve Wariner joined Carnes on her sweetly understated rendition of John Prine’s “If You Don’t Want My Love”, a tune that also inspired another cover from the legendary singer-songwriter’s catalog. “John Prine is one of my all-time, top five favorite artists,” Carnes says. “For ages, I knew I wanted to do ‘If You Don’t Want My Love’. The head of A&R at MCA said, ‘You need to listen to this one’ … and it was ‘Speed of the Sound of Loneliness’. Who thinks of that? The speed of the sound of loneliness? Lyrically, that blew me away.” Lyle Lovett, who’d just released his MCA debut two years earlier, accompanied Carnes on harmonies, polishing the song’s easygoing appeal.
Penned by songwriting duo Even Stevens and Randy McCormick, “Crazy In Love” featured Carnes giving one of her warmest and most endearing performances on the album. “I love that record because it’s so auric,” she says. “When we were rehearsing that in the studio, Bowen said, ‘Stop, stop, stop. Kim is exactly on the vocal. I don’t want you to rehearse this anymore. I want to get her like she is now.’ He was right. He’s one of those producers who could always tell.” The song glided onto the AC chart where it peaked at #13 in December 1988. Carnes also released a video that translated the spirit of the song into poignant visuals. She continues, “I got the black and white photographer who did the video for Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’. I love that video, so he came and did the video for ‘Crazy In Love’. It’s simple. I’m so proud of that video.”
Aside from her own “Fantastic Fire of Love”, Carnes collaborated with Donna Weiss on four of the album’s original tunes, including the gorgeous “Brass and Batons” (featuring Bruce Hornsby on accordion) and radio-ready “Just to Spend the Night With You”. However, “Blood from the Bandit” cast a critical eye on pollution, greed, and other conditions afflicting the world. “The song is still pertinent today, more so, maybe,” says Carnes. “What was being talked about then is on steroids now.”
View from the House expanded Carnes’ profile in Nashville, peaking at #39 on the country albums chart in November 1988. It set the stage for one of Carnes’ most successful hits as a songwriter, “The Heart Won’t Lie”. Originally, Kenny Rogers had asked her to write another duet they could record à la “Don’t Fall In Love With a Dreamer”. Carnes developed some musical ideas before completing “The Heart Won’t Lie” with Donna Weiss. Rogers loved the song, but decided to hold off on recording it until he completed another project.
Because of timing, release schedules, and record company politics, “The Heart Won’t Lie” traveled a rather circuitous route before it was finally introduced to the public as a duet between Reba McEntire and Vince Gill. “I got a call out of the blue from (MCA Nashville President) Tony Brown,” Carnes recalls. “He said, ‘Is there anything going on with ‘The Heart Won’t Lie’? Reba would like to cut it.’ Reba invited Vince to do backgrounds and they ended up making it into a duet.” Released on McEntire’s triple platinum It’s Your Call (1992), “The Heart Won’t Lie” topped the country chart for two weeks in April 1993 and was later ranked #18 on CMT’s “100 Greatest Country Duets” list.
Following the artistic success of View from the House, Carnes continued her extensive work in soundtracks and recorded a few songs with Neil Diamond in the early-’90s. The singer had been longtime friends with Diamond’s bass player Reinie Press. She recalls, “Reine said, ‘Come to the studio. Neil wants to meet you. He loves what you do.’ I thought I was just going down to say hi, but it ended up being more than that!
“I went to the studio. All of a sudden, Neil says, ‘Kim, come in here. Let’s do a duet. Let’s run through some things.’ He brought me ‘Hooked On the Memory of You’. I said, ‘That’s gorgeous!'” Diamond included the duet on his Lovescape (1991) album, rewarding both singers with a #23 AC hit. The duo also recorded a new version of Diamond’s “Hard Times for Lovers” while their rollicking take on “Heartbreak Hotel” appeared on his two-disc compilation The Greatest Hits: 1966-1992.
1993 (courtesy of Kim Carnes)
Carnes’ next full-length album, Checkin’ Out the Ghosts (1991), would be an exclusive release for the Zebrazone label in Japan. Produced by Carnes with Joey Carbone, the album included an updated version of “Hangin’ On By a Thread” from Café Racers as well as Carnes’ resplendent take on Thom Bell and Linda Creed’s “You Are Everything”.
Most notably, Checkin’ Out the Ghosts housed the original version of “Gypsy Honeymoon”, a song that became a staple in Carnes’ repertoire. “I loved ‘Gypsy Honeymoon’ so much that when EMI wanted to do a best-of album, I wanted to call it Gypsy Honeymoon (1993) and re-do it for this market,” she says. “It’s one of those songs that should have been a hit, but wasn’t, in this country. I’ve done it for so long in my show that when I do it, it’s like it was a hit. So many people know that song and love it. I never get tired of singing it.”
“This Is Really Who I Am”
If moving to Nashville fueled Carnes’ desire to write and create music, then Chasin’ Wild Trains (2004) was the sound of someone whose soul had been replenished.
Though more than ten years had passed since her last album, Carnes was constantly writing, recording, and performing around Nashville. Her songs had been recorded by superstar country acts like Tim McGraw (“You Don’t Love Me Anymore”) and Pam Tillis (“No Two Ways About It”). Chasin’ Wild Trains reflected the spirit of collaboration that Carnes forged with other songwriters at Bluebird Café’s “In the Round” shows. “One Beat at a Time” had become a mainstay of the live set she performed with her band. “I wrote it with a wonderful Canadian artist, Marc Jordan,” she says. “I went in the studio and cut it with my guys. The minute I did it, I thought, Time to make an album. This is going to be cut one. Everything has to measure up to this.”
Carnes’ approach to recording the album was governed by her love and respect for the singer-songwriter friends she’d made since relocating to Nashville. “If I wrote something, whether it be with Al Anderson, Angelo, Chuck Prophet, or Matraca Berg, I would have them come in and sing or play guitar on that cut. My engineer Scott Baggett is an absolutely brilliant angel. He knew exactly what I wanted.” Most importantly, Carnes self-produced the album, ensuring that every note would reflect her artistic vision.
Chasin’ Wild Trains exemplified Carnes’ gift for choosing first-rate collaborators. She wrote “All About Time” and “Still Warmed By the Thrill” with Greg Barnhill, who’d previously penned “To the Other Side” with Carnes for Deana Carter. The instantly tuneful “Just to See You Smile” and “Lucid Dreams” grew from Carnes’ partnerships with Angelo Petraglia and Chuck Prophet while Kim Richey, who’d previously worked with Petraglia, wrote “Too Far Gone” with Carnes.
“If I Was An Angel” remains central to the album’s enduring appeal. “I wrote it with Matraca Berg,” says Carnes. “I went to her house with the chorus. I said, ‘I want to finish this. There’s something here that I love.’ I played it on the piano. She said, ‘Just a minute.’ She came back into the room with a bunch of lyrics. She said, ‘I started a song.’ We put the two together and finished writing the rest of it. Gary Harrison, who’d written ‘Strawberry Wine’ (Deana Carter) and a lot of wonderful songs with her, added killer lines to it.” Originally, Berg cut it on her own album Sunday Morning to Saturday Night (1997) before she guested on Carnes’ own recording. “It’s just my favorite song to sing,” she says. “Even if I do a show where I only do five songs, that’s always one of them. When I sing it, I just get lost.”
Two of Carnes’ own self-penned songs drew listeners even closer to her heart. “Where is the Boy? (Chris’ Song)” addressed the daily struggle of living with mental illness. “I’m so sick of pills, ’cause they dull the thrills. But they give me a reason for living,” Carnes sang, narrating the story about a boy who’s callously dismissed as a “junkie without a heart”. “Goodnight Angel”, which featured Angelo Petraglia on vocals, was written from an altogether different perspective. Carnes explains, “There are so many songs about the solider, or about war, and I just thought, What about the feelings of the partners that are left here, missing somebody who’s off in some terrible war? Once I got that in my mind, the song came quickly.”
Based in Amsterdam, a boutique record company called CoraZong Records heard Chasin’ Wild Trains and released it in major European markets. “I went over with my guitar player and we did a tour of several countries in Europe,” says Carnes, who visited a number of radio stations during the tour. Her in-studio performances of the new material propelled the album onto alternative and singer-songwriter-formatted stations all across the continent.
Chasin’ Wild Trains is still generating some of the best reviews Carnes has ever received. As recently as two years ago, Rolling Stone called it a “brilliant LP … a set of tunes squarely entrenched in the Americana sub-genre of country music” (14 July 2015). For Carnes, the album is the touchstone of all her recordings. “The bar in my own head and heart is now set so high,” she says. “It’s my favorite album that I’ve ever made. This is really who I am at the core of everything. Through all the albums, this is me.”
Those who’ve accompanied Carnes during the different phases of her career, from her early days in Los Angeles to her current success in Nashville, applaud the breadth of her work as a singer and songwriter. “She’s the consummate recording artist,” says Val Garay. Bill Cuomo agrees, adding, “Kim’s a force to be reckoned with. She was the best singer I ever worked with.” Julia Waters and Maxine Waters remain close with their “third sister” and readily sing her praises. “We’ve worked with a lot of different people and I feel like we’ve been very blessed to have worked with Kim,” says Julia Waters. “Everybody always has such high respect and accolades for Kim when you say her name.” Maxine Waters says it all with three words: “She’s an icon.”
Perhaps the essence of Kim Carnes’ life in music goes back to that session in Muscle Shoals with Jerry Wexler. Like she sang in her lyrics to “Sailin'”, Carnes is still “ridin’ on the crest of a dream”. Join her for the journey.
“More Love and More Joy”: A Tribute to Kim Carnes
That voice, those songs! The imprint Kim Carnes has made in music goes deep. Just ask any of her peers and contemporaries … which is exactly what PopMatters did. In this exclusive tribute, a host of renowned artists, songwriters, and musicians share their love and admiration for an artist whose legacy is still being written.
David Lindley: Kim and I were very close, best friends. We were so close we decided to get married and her father married us. I was six and Kim was five. It was as if I had known her in a past life and that destiny and all that had begun. She was always focused and determined about anything she did, even at five years old, always playing her toy piano and singing, making mud pies, planting a garden. Then her family decided to move, and they did, and of course Kim went too. I remember being in panic mode and asking my mom if Kim could live with us. My mom said no. It broke my heart. I don’t think I ever really recovered until maybe when I first heard her sing on the radio many years later. Had no idea who it was that had that fabulous voice until the song was finished; Kim Carnes. I just smiled and nodded. I was so proud of her. Quite a moment.
J.D. Souther: Kim Carnes has undoubtedly the most distinctive voice in pop music. One word and you know it’s Kim. Remarkable!
Bonnie Bramlett: Kim’s so gifted. She’s a sweetheart. Her quality of voice has always intrigued me. It’s a quality that calls your ear to hear. It’s something you can’t learn. It’s something you have to have. It’s kind of like a little bit of a gravel, but not really gravel. I’ll bet a dollar to a donut that, at some point in her life, Amy Winehouse listened to Kim. I don’t think anybody has correlated those two singers together, but to me, those two singers are soul sisters, somehow. I think Kim and Amy Winehouse have that same somethin’ somethin’ in their voice. It calms you. It’s a tone.
Michael McDonald: I met Kim while working on David Cassidy’s solo record in 1971. We both did a lot of studio work back then, mostly in the Hollywood area. I was playing piano and she was singing. She, her husband Dave Ellingson, and I started what would become a 30 plus year-long friendship. I’ve performed numerous shows over the years with Kim, and each time reminds of what a great songwriter and consummate performer she is.
Nancy Sinatra: The most striking quality of Kim’s work is dynamics. Her songs can turn a corner in a few bars, not just verse, chorus, verse. She always surprises us.
Jackie DeShannon: I was so elated to find out that Kim Carnes — one of my all-time favorite singer/songwriters — had recorded “Bette Davis Eyes”. It was a dream come true. To have the song reach number one in every country was amazing. I will always be grateful to Kim as she was the perfect voice with the perfect emotion to propel the record.
Brenda Russell: I love Kim Carnes — great songwriter! She is a cool lady. “Bette Davis Eyes” was a great record and production. A very special tribute to a great American actress. I wish Ms. Carnes well!
Melissa Etheridge: “Miss You Tonight” used to bring me to my knees. I wanted so badly to sing a song that would make people feel that way. Kim, you have a totally unique voice and presence. Thank you for your inspiration.
Martha Davis (the Motels): Here’s what I have to say about Kim Carnes. First off — that voice! The voice I always wanted … all grit and gravel. And the songwriting … that little skinny white girl was covered by everyone from Big Mama Thornton to Barbra Streisand. But my favorite thing about Kim is she’s a hilarious, crazy, funny gal who, while I would be minding my own business, doing my Valley grocery shopping, would show up out of nowhere, drive her shopping cart into mine (at top speed, I might add), and scare the shit out of me! She’s a glorious gal, so love to you Kim, Dave, and the family.
Giorgio Moroder: There was a lot of experimentation in music at the beginning of the ’80s. We were trying to find what the fresh new sound was going to be. Kim Carnes was one of the artists who made cutting edge music. We became good friends and respected what each other did. I’m humbled to know that my productions influenced her album Voyeur. Kim has a very special talent for writing songs. She put all of her heart into “I’ll Be Here Where the Heart Is” when she wrote it for Flashdance. It showed the tender side of her voice. All my best to Kim. Saluti!”
John Waite: I remember being knocked out by “Bette Davis Eyes” when I first heard it. I was living in a hole in the wall on the upper west side of NYC. I must have been passing through LA, as by then I about to record No Brakes (1984) for EMI. Kim was great. Very warm and down to earth. “Hangin’ On By a Thread” was just a sort of “walk on”. A cameo. Just a short couple of lines. I would have done more if they wanted. Nice song!!!!
Verdine White (Earth, Wind & Fire): I’m a big fan! Kim’s a great songwriter and wrote some really good stuff. She’s also a great interpreter of songs. I met her with Maurice, actually. She’s very cool, very hip. Keep on keepin’ on, Kim!
Richard Marx: I had the pleasure of working with Kim in 1984 on my first hit song as a songwriter. I was a mere nineteen the year prior when I co-wrote “What About Me” with Kenny Rogers and David Foster. The song became a trio between Kenny, James Ingram, and Kim. It also became my first number one song as a writer. I was always a fan of Kim’s incredible and distinctive voice, but I was, and am, also a huge fan of her songwriting. She’s also, in my brief interactions with her, a beautiful woman and overall cool chick.
James Ingram: Thank you Kim for sharing your amazing gift to the song “What About Me”. I am thankful to Kenny Rogers for putting all three of us together. It was great working with Kenny and Kim. They are true artists. When this song was released, the South would not play it, and yet it went to # 1 AC. Now that is a mighty good ending.
Oren Waters: We had a ball the day we recorded “Divided Hearts”. It’s always been a blast to be in the recording studio with Kim and it was a double blast when Phillip Ingram, Kevin Dorsey and I also took part in the filming of the video. Kim is so for real! Her awesome voice and infectious Spirit touched me and everyone else in the recording studio and at the video shoot! My sisters and I have known Kim for years and we’ve done many recordings — and a Coke commercial or two — with her! She is amazing and I am proud to say, it’s a friendship that continues to this day!
Beth Nielsen Chapman: Aside from being an iconic artist of her time, Kim’s songwriting stands on its own. And when Kim came into the studio to sing on my song “Simple Things” I was bowled over by her voice once again. So many layers and a depth of tone — it’s a national treasure! But those who are in her life know her most for having a heart of gold. As an artist, she’s one of the most generous and least affected by her fame. As a friend, her loyalty and compassion are unparalleled.
Marc Jordan: What I’ve always loved about Kim Carnes is her ability to transcend stereotypes. She possesses a raspy, world-weary rock & roll voice that comes from that tiny frame and angel face. In songwriting, the voice brings an extra layer of meaning to a lyric. Kim’s voice is so unusual, strong, and fragile at the same time, and emotionally disarming. And like all great singers she brings something special to each and every word she sings. She is also a demanding songwriter and trusts her heart above all else. She understands music is as basic as breathing out and breathing in, and it is the one art form that is understood directly by the heart.