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Star Eyes (1943)

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Origin and Chart Information
“[‘Star Eyes’ is] a piece that Brooks was born to play.”

- Lawrence Kart

Rank 87
Words and Music Gene De Paul
Don Raye

Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberly, with Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra, introduced “Star Eyes” in the 1943, MGM musical, I Dood It. Before they could make a recording of “Star Eyes” O’Connell left the band to get married and was replaced by Kitty Kallen. So it was Eberly and Kitty Kallen who sang on the Dorsey Orchestra’s recording of “Star Eyes,” which was on the pop charts for 16 weeks in 1943, peaking at number three.


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Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

I Dood It (aka By Hook or by Crook in Great Britain) starred Red Skelton and Eleanor Powell and was a remake of Buster Keaton’s Spite Marriage (1929). In Vincente Minnelli’s opinion, it was the worst movie he ever directed. Part of the problem was that he was hired after production had already begun, and the producer would not let him discard any of the previous work. Also included in the cast were Lena Horne and Hazel Scott, appearing as themselves. The high points of I Dood It were the performances of “Jericho,” “Taking a Chance on Love,” “One O’Clock Jump,” and “Star Eyes.”


More on Gene De Paul at JazzBiographies.com

More on Don Raye at JazzBiographies.com

- Jeremy Wilson

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Usually performed at a relaxed tempo, “Star Eyes” is often characterized as “dreamlike” or as a “dreamy ballad.” Jazz musicians appreciate its irregular chord progression. Don Raye’s lyrics have complimentary appeal as an expression of love and the hope that it will be returned. Not sophisticated or urbane, the lyrics are reasonably modern for 1943, avoiding the archaic and overly sweet operetta style found in romantic songs of the previous decades. Interestingly, the last section of the song includes the lines,

Makes no difference where you are,
Your eyes still hold my wishing star

which are obviously derived from

When you wish upon a star,
Makes no difference who you are

sung by Jiminy Cricket and written by Ned Washington for the Academy Award-winning song, “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Cliff Edwards voiced the part of the animated cricket in the 1940 film, Pinocchio. -JW

Musical analysis of “Star Eyes”

Original Key F major; brief forays into Eb major, Bb major, and Ab major as well
Form A – A – B – A with four measure tag
Tonality Major throughout
Movement “A” section uses primarily ascending steps. “B” jumps around a bit for four measures before descending stepwise into the last “A”section.

Comments     (assumed background)

Originally a ballad, this tune lends itself to a wide variety of treatments. The “A” section starts out I – ii7 – V7 – I. The I then turns into a minor ii7 for the chord a step below it, returning to the tonic via a tri-tone leap up and circle-of-fifths variation using a iiø7 – V7 sequence that forms a nice descending, common-tone, chromatic line. The flatted fifth of the iø7 becomes the flatted ninth of the dominant chord that follows, naturally descending a half step to become the fifth of the next “tonic-of-the-moment.” This fifth degree than descends another half step as the tonic of the moment becomes the iiø7 of the chord a step below it.

This type of voice leading (similar to the harmonic progression used in “How High the Moon”) is repeated in the “B” section as well. The tag, however, ends the song with a simple, chromatic, descending progression (essentially, the old Dixieland favorite of a I – VI7 – II7 - I turnaround).

K. J. McElrath - Musicologist for JazzStandards.com

Check out K. J. McElrath’s book of Jazz Standards Guide Tone Lines at his web site (www.bardicle.com).
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Soundtrack information
“Star Eyes” was included in these films:
Reading and Research
Additional information for "Star Eyes" may be found in:

Thomas S. Hischak
The American Musical Film Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 536 pages

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: summary.)
Free Chord Changes for this Tune
Chord changes and downloadable tracks at PlayJazzNow.com
Also on This Page...

Music & Lyrics Analysis
Musician's Comments
Reading & Research
Free Chord Changes

Jazz History Notes
Getting Started
CD Recommendations
Listen and Compare
By the Same Writers...

Jazz History Notes

It’s undoubtedly due to Charlie Parker that “Star Eyes” became a jazz standard. Three recordings illustrate the influence Parker had on other saxophonists, but their playing also reflects his influence, tenor saxophonist Lester Young.

Alto saxophonist/arranger Lennie Niehaus’ recording from 1955 is interesting not only musically but instrumentally, with a group including a small string section, tenor and baritone sax, and rhythm.

Lee Konitz, whose primary instrument was alto, plays tenor on his recording from 1956, perhaps to avoid comparison to Parker.

Altoist Art Pepper, on arguably one his best recordings (made in 1958 in Los Angeles), is accompanied by Miles Davis’ rhythm section of Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones. Supposedly Pepper hadn’t played his horn in six months, but if that was the case his playing doesn’t reflect it.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Lennie Niehaus
Lennie Niehaus, Vol. 4: The Quintets and Strings
Original Jazz Classics 1858

Lee Konitz
Inside Hi-Fi
Koch Records 8504

Art Pepper
Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section
Original Jazz Classics 338

Getting Started
This section suggests definitive or otherwise significant recordings that will help jazz students get acquainted with “Star Eyes.” These recordings have been selected from the Jazz History and CD Recommendations sections.

Charlie Parker famously recorded “Star Eyes” for Verve in 1951 (The Essential Charlie Parker), and his brilliant performance of the tune is unrivaled both musically and historically. For vocal versions, Anita O’Day’s 1958 recording (Anita O’Day Sings the Winners) is a good starting point.

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
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Dexter Gordon
The Jumpin' Blues
1996 Original Jazz Classics 899
Original recording 1970
Dexter Gordon made a trip from Europe (his home at the time) back to the U.S. for this recording with a delightfully swinging “Star Eyes.” These sessions are particularly significant as they were the last major recordings by pianist Wynton Kelly, who would pass away a few months later.
Roy Haynes
1994 Evidence 22092
Original recording 1992
At an age when many people retire, Roy Haynes began a new phase of his career. The 67-year-old Haynes is heard here at the beginning of a late-career emergence as a bandleader and recording artist. He and his young quartet (saxophonist Craig Handy, pianist Dave Kikoski and bassist Ed Howard) absolutely burn on this version of “Star Eyes.”
Anita O'Day
Sings the Winners
Polygram Records
Original Recording 1957
O’Day swings playfully on this performance. She is faithful to the melody while still displaying her characteristic flexibility.
Barry Harris
At the Jazz Workshop
1991 OJC 208
Original recording 1960
Pianist Harris, one of the primary keepers of the bebop flame, offers a predictably wonderful rendition of this tune. He is joined here by the stalwart rhythm team of bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes.

- Noah Baerman

Cal Tjader
La Onda Va Bien
1990, Concord 4113
Original recording, 1979
Vibraphonist Tjader launched the new Concord Picante label dedicated to Latin Jazz with this superb CD featuring Latin percussionist Pancho Sanchez in the sextet. “Star Eyes” swings seductively, and “Speak Low” is also marvelous.

- Sandra Burlingame

Roy Hargrove/Christian McBride/Stephen Scott
Parker's Mood
1995 Polygram Records 27907
Original recording 1995
These once young lions, trumpeter Hargrove, pianist Stephen Scott, and bassist Christian McBride, have matured into virtuoso players. But they still show a lot of the playful cubs in their vibrant approach to the music.

- Ben Maycock

Charlie Parker
Polygram Records 517173
This CD features the alto saxophonist in a variety of formats and provides a great place to become acquainted with Parker. Excellent version of "Star Eyes."'
Lorez Alexandria
Star Eyes
1996, Muse 5488

Vocalist Alexandria is a subtle interpreter, commanding the sort of attention that makes her recordings more delicious on each listening. This is a fine version of "Star Eyes"' with top-notch personnel.

- Jon Luthro

Written by the Same Composer(s)...
This section shows the jazz standards written by the same writing team.

Gene De Paul and Don Raye

Year Rank Title
1941 53 You Don't Know What Love Is
1943 87 Star Eyes

Gene De Paul, Patricia Johnston and Don Raye

Year Rank Title
1941 29 I'll Remember April

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