Grammy-Award winning country artist Crystal Gayle reached the top of the charts this week in 1977 with her iconic hit, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”
Written by Richard Leigh about his dog’s two different colored eyes, the track was the first single Gayle shared from her album We Must Believe in Magic. Although the story behind the meaning of the song is simple, the weight the single held for Gayle was anything but.
The singer had reached a standstill since the release of her wildly successful song “I’ll Get Over You” and was yearning for another hit. Luckily, Gayle’s producer Allen Reynolds was able to secure the singer her next big project.
In an interview with Parade magazine, the country star shared the excitement she felt when Reynolds brought her the track.
“I loved it. When my producer Allen Reynolds played me the song, I said, ‘Whoa!’ And I just fell in love with the song. Allen had actually gone to the songwriter’s (Richard Leigh) house to hear some songs he had written because we were in the process of recording the album,” she recalled. “And he played some things and he said, ‘Do you have anything else?’ He said, ‘Well we’re getting ready to ship this one to California for a couple people to hear.’ And he played it for Allen, and Allen said, ‘You’re not sending that anywhere,’ so we almost lost that one.”
Gayle recorded the song on October 27, 1976 at Jack’s Tracks in Nashville. The session was pure magic, as not only did the singer bring her A-game, keyboard player Hargus “Pig” Robbins created the song’s iconic acoustic piano riff on the spot.
Reynolds shared in an excerpt from Michael Kosser’s book How Nashville Became Music City USA: 50 years of Music Row, “it was just one of those charmed sessions… [After] we presented the song to the musicians…it was about the third time running [through] that song that we ran tape… [Gayle] sang [the song] wonderfully. 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.”
“Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” soared up the charts, reaching the No.1 spot on the Billboard country music chart where it remained for a total of four weeks, topping the Cashbox Top 100 for two weeks and holding the No.2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks.
The unique jazzy tune won Gayle not only a Grammy Award in 1978 for the Best Female Country Vocal Performance, but it was also named one of the ten most-performed songs of the 20th century by ASCAP. Covers by artist including Lorrae Desmond, Laura Fygi, Anita Meyer, the Nolans, Tessanne Chin, Dolly Parton, Alison Statton, Wendy Van Wanten, and Dana Winner have kept the iconic single alive through the years.