One of the most romantic love songs ever written has to be “I Only Have Eyes For You”. The song was written by composer Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin for the 1934 film Dames, starring Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell. Powell sang it in the film and several artists also recorded their own versions of the song in 1934, including bandleader Ben Selvin, (with vocals by Howard Phillips), pianist Eddy Duchin, and singer Jane Froman. But the version released in 1959 by R&B/doo wop band The Flamingos is without question the most captivating of them all. It’s among the earliest songs I ever remember hearing as a very young boy, and I’ve loved it my entire life.
The song was the biggest hit for the Flamingos, reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #3 on the Hot R&B Songs chart, but it should have been #1 in my opinion. Their version has endured over the years and is recognized as an important work. The song has been included in numerous ‘best-of’ lists, and in 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #158 on their list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. It was also featured in the 1973 film American Graffiti.
The song is perfection from start to finish, with a dreamy arrangement and that sultry doo wop groove that’s so damned enchanting. I love the repetitive piano riff that establishes the mesmerizing percussive rhythm for the song, as well as those tasty little guitar notes sprinkled throughout. Then there are the fabulous silky vocals by Nate Nelson, backed by echoed vocal harmonies of the rest of the band that almost have the effect of another instrument in themselves. God, what a magnificent song it is!
My love must be a kind of blind love I can't see anyone but you Are the stars out tonight? I don't know if it's cloudy or bright I only have eyes for you, dear The moon may be high But I can't see a thing in the sky I only have eyes for you. I don't know if we're in a garden Or on a crowded avenue You are here, and so am I Maybe millions of people go by But they all disappear from view And I only have eyes for you
Other versions of the song were later recorded by numerous artists, including Frank Sinatra in 1962, The Lettermen in 1966, Art Garfunkel in 1975 (who’s version went to #1 in the UK), Carly Simon in 2005, and Michael Buble in 2018. But the best will always remain the one by the Flamingos.