In 1977, Crystal Gayle‘s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” became a worldwide hit single.
Released as the first single from Gayle’s album We Must Believe in Magic, the song topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for four weeks. It was also Gayle’s first – and even biggest – crossover pop hit, reaching No. 1 on the Cashbox Top 100 for two weeks and No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks. In the United Kingdom, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” was Gayle’s first and only Top Five hit.
A year later, the song featuring Gayle’s sultry voice helped her earn a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Not only that, the song paved the way for Gayle’s many more hit singles for the next few years as it became the singer’s signature piece throughout her career.
One of Crystal Gayle’s Biggest Hit
Written by Richard Leigh, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” was actually the sequel to “I’ve Cried the Blue Right Out of My Eyes” – a song written by Gayle’s older sister, country superstar Loretta Lynn.
However, Leigh had Welsh singer Shirley Bassey in mind to sing this song until Gayle’s regular producer Allen Reynolds heard it and stepped in.
“We were sittin’ on the floor…singing songs to one another. [Leigh] mentioned a song that his publisher was gonna get to Shirley Bassey…[and] sang it for me: ‘Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,'” Reynolds recalled. “I said, ‘Shirley Bassey my ass, I want that song!'” And when he played the lovely ballad for Gayle, the singer was just as excited as Reynolds.
So Reynolds insisted on giving the song to Gayle, and Leigh absolutely made the best decision. “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” was recorded live by Gayle in just one take. The song then turned into a country-pop classic and made Gayle a global superstar.
“It was just one of those charmed sessions. Gayle sang the song wonderfully,” Reynolds said. “It came so fast that she wasn’t sure that she had done her best job. I had to let her try to sing it again on two or three different occasions until she was comfortable with the original [vocal take], and that’s what we went with. Everything on that recording was the original take as it went down, except the string section I added later.”
Soon, Gayle – whose beauty and long tresses helped distinguish her from her peers – was performing the song on TV shows worldwide, including the BBC’s long-running Val Doonican Show.
“Don’t know when I’ve been so blue. Don’t know what’s come over you. You’ve found someone new, and don’t it make my brown eyes blue. I’ll be fine when you’re gone. I’ll just cry all night long. Say it isn’t true, and don’t it make my brown eyes blue,” the song goes, featuring a more jazzy feel to it compared to several other country songs of that era.
The Interesting Story Behind The Song
Well, this may sound like a love song to you, but during the Country Music Television interview in 2004, Gayle revealed that Leigh got the song’s inspiration from his dog, who got one brown eye while the other one is blue.
Leigh actually wrote the song while his furry friend, Amanda, was sitting on his feet, looking up at him with her big brown eyes. Unfortunately, a few years later, a trash collector threw rocks at the dog, hitting her in one of her eyes. The poor dog developed cataracts, and one of her brown eyes literally turned blue.
Indeed, the song has an unfortunate postscript. But when it comes to its enduring quality, Gayle said, “It’s a timeless song, and I always say I’m glad I got a hold of it.”
Tune in and watch Crystal Gayle’s breathtaking performance of “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” in the video below.