#1200: Eurasian Eyes by Corey Hart
Corey Hart was born in 1962 in Montreal, Quebec. He is best known for his international Top Ten hits “Sunglasses at Night” (#7 Billboard Hot 100) and “Never Surrender” (#3 Billboard Hot 100). Hart is lauded as one of Canada’s most successful singer-songwriters. He’s sold over 16 million records worldwide. On the Billboard Hot 100 Hart scored 9 consecutive Top 40 Hits. Back in Canada he succeeded in charting 30 top 40 singles (including 11 Top 10 singles during his career). Hart is a Grammy Nominated, ASCAP & multiple Juno and ADISQ award winner. He has also written and produced several songs for fellow Quebec recording star Celine Dion.
Though he was born in Montreal, Hart grew up variously in Key Biscayne, Florida, Mexico City and Spain. During his childhood he became fluent in English, French and Spanish. His first time as a performer was in front of UK singer Tom Jones, when eleven year-old Hart sang the Michael Jackson tune “Ben”. In 1980 Hart was one of Canada’s entries at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo. While there he met fellow Canadian entry, Dan Hill, along with American recording artist Christopher Cross (“Sailing”).
In 1981, Hart heard Billy Joel in concert in Montreal and contacted Joel. Joel was impressed with Corey Hart’s virtuosity on drums, guitar, vocals, piano and as well as a songwriter. Hart went to Long Island to record some demos at Joel’s recording studio in Oyster Bay. In 1982 Hart recorded his debut album, First Offense, in the UK. Hart had the humbling experience of Canadian listeners only being interested in his music if he could break into the US record market.
In 1984 “Sunglasses at Night” peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. It only climbed to #24 on the Canadian RPM charts, #11 in Montreal, #13 in Toronto and got airplay, but no chart run, in Vancouver. (The latter was a big surprise to this writer). The song became a Top 20 hit in Australia, New Zealand and Germany. With international fame, Canadians warmed up to Hart as one of their own. Suddenly, things changed and Hart was a pop star. He later recalled:
“In retrospect, I was totally unprepared for the fan adulation. I really couldn’t go out anywhere without being mobbed or chased by my fans. The transformation from unknown artist to rock star was surreal and overwhelming. The power of video certainly played a key role. It was the same for many artists of that decade like Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and George Michael to name but a few.”
“Eurasian Eyes” was the fourth single from Hart’s second album, Boy in a Box.
His first single release from the album was “Never Surrender”. While the next two follow up singles charted as well in the USA and Canada, “Eurasian Eyes” was only a minor hit in most of Canada and didn’t chart in the USA. But in Vancouver it climbed to a respectable #12, while Regina had the best response for a radio market taking the song to #4 on CKCK.
Musicians on “Eurasian Eyes” included keyboardist Gary Breit, who subsequently was featured on several of Bryan Adams albums. British saxophonist Andy Hamilton of Duran Duran (“Hungry Like The Wolf”) was also featured. Hamilton was featured on other recording artists studio albums in the 80’s including Tina Turner, Paul McCartney, Pet Shop Boys, George Michael, Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Elton John and Wham. Canadian singer, Dalbello, provided backup vocals for Hart, something she was doing elsewhere for Heart (“These Dreams”) Nena (“99 Red Balloons”) and Glass Tiger (“Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone”).
A Eurasian is a person of mixed Asian and European ancestry. It is a term that has been used in anthropological literature since the 1960s. It can pertain to a mixture of any European ancestry including Spanish, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, French, German, Polish, Danish, English and Bulgarian. Similarly, the Asian ancestry can be from countless nationalities including the sub-continent of India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Korea, the Philippines and Japan. The largest country with the largest Eurasian population in the 21st C is Russia.
In his song Corey Hart sings about an attraction for someone presumably from a different ethnic background. It would make less sense if the perspective of the singer in the song was also Eurasian, for example one part French and one part Vietnamese. But as his fans knew Hart’s song was describing an inter-racial attraction. Similarly, a Caucasian singer would not likely sing a song about “Caucasian Eyes”. The person with Eurasian eyes in Hart’s song is having an impact on a suitor from a different background: “Like a river, oh you flow through me; Eurasian eyes are running still.” With Canadian cities like Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver becoming more ethnically diverse, Hart’s song spoke to listeners who also were finding themselves dating, and sometimes wedding, a person from a different ethnic background.
Though he continued to have hits through the 90s, Hart moved with his spouse, Julie Masse, and their four children to the Bahamas in 1999. Between 1998 and 2014 Hart didn’t release any new solo singles or albums. In 2003, Hart became involved in a joint venture record label business which he named Siena Records. It was headed by Seymour Stein, the CEO of Sire Records, and Steve Kane, Warner Music Canada’s President.
On June 3, 2014, after a 12 year break from live performance, Corey Hart took to the stage playing before a sold out audience at the Montreal Bell Centre Arena. It was billed as “One Night – Three Decades Of Music.” Hart also released his autobiography entitled Chasing The Sun the same night.
October 19, 2016
Peter Dizikes, The Long History of ‘Eurasian’ Identity, MIT.edu, July 19, 2013
Corey Hart bio, Corey Hart.com
Karen Bliss, “Corey Hart On Crying At His Retirement Concert He Quit and What He’ll Do Next,” Huffington Post, June 16, 2014
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