Ageless wisdom tells us that the eyes are the windows to the soul, so it isn’t surprising that they feature in many a song lyric. Songwriters regularly pen tributes to the eyes of a beloved or even recall how their own filled with tears of joy or sadness in response to a relationship’s biorhythm. Here are a few classics about eyes that are sure to stir up memories:
1. In Your Eyes: For many a Gen X’er, one of the most iconic moments in film history is John Cusack’s serenading of Ione Skye (via boombox) in the move Say Anything. The song? In Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel’s modern-day classic about the power of redemptive love.
(While Peter Gabriel’s original is stellar, Jeffrey Gaines also does an amazing live version of the song.)
2. I Saw the Light: Todd Rundgren’s pop ballad of surprise love reminds us that seeing “the light” in someone’s eyes is often all it takes to turn a fling into something far more significant. While the lyrics are simplistic, the song’s characteristic Rundgren quirkiness saves it from banality.
(Rundgren claims that he wrote this song in about 20 minutes.)
3. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Slow, smooth words of warning from The Platters: “When your heart’s on fire/You must realize/Smoke gets in your eyes.” Unfortunately the song’s protagonist learned the hard way, and now blames the smoke from the embers of a dying love for causing his tears.
(Smoke is only one among many causes of eye irritation. Read about others here.)
4. Total Eclipse of the Heart: Despite this being a massive hit for Bonnie Tyler, it’s also been the subject of numerous parodies. Bonnie Tyler’s lyrics are a straightforward enough depiction of an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship, but the constant refrain of “Turn around, Bright Eyes” gets real annoying, real quick. I’m not sure whether the male singer is supposed to be her toxic love interest, trying to get his “Bright Eyes” to give him another chance, or whether the singer represents another suitor who is (masochistically) trying to get her attention.
(The video doesn’t help clarify matters, as its only “bright eyes” are freakishly glowing orbs in the faces of English public schoolboys.)
5. Misty: A classic, sentimental love song that’s found in every lounge musician’s repertoire, it was also featured in Clint Eastwood’s before-its-time film about obsession and stalking, Play Misty For Me. Johnny Mathis made it famous back in 1957, though many a popular musician, including Ray Stevens and Frank Sinatra, covered it as well. Incidentally, the word “eyes” isn’t actually in the song’s lyrics, but the singer constantly reminds his beloved that his get “misty” every time they are together.
(Incidentally, the original version was purely instrumental, the lyrics were added later.)
6. Angel Eyes: Jeff Healey charted big with this song (written by John Hiatt and Fred Koller) and I’ve always found it particularly touching given that Healey lost both his eyes to cancer before his first birthday. The song describes a man’s amazement that his beautiful girlfriend actually wants to be with him.
(The song was a hit on its own, but Healey also got to perform it in Patrick Swayze’s Roadhouse.)
7. Behind Blue Eyes: This song was supposed to be part of a rock opera called Lifehouse, though the opera itself never got produced. Instead, The Who released the songs written for the project on their own, including this odd ditty, sung by a villainous character.
(Psychoanalysts likely have a field day listening to Behind Blue Eyes, noting the self-absorption of the singer and his insistence on portraying himself as a victim.)