Green Eyes (Aquellos 0jos Verdes)

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“Green Eyes” is a popular song, originally written in Spanish under the title “Aquellos Ojos Verdes” (“Those Green Eyes”) by Adolfo Utrera and Nilo Menéndez, 1929. The English translation was made by Eddie Rivera and Eddie Woods in 1931.

The song, a bolero, was written in 1929 and recorded in Cuba the same year. It was the only major hit, both originally in Cuba and then again in the Latin community in New York for Cuban pianist Nilo Menéndez (Matanzas, 26 September 1902 – Los Angeles, 15 September 1987). The lyrics were supplied by Cuban tenor Adolfo Utrera.

English version

The English version of the song was written in 1931 but did not become a major hit till ten years later when recorded by the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra. The recording was made on March 19, 1941 with vocals by Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberly and released by Decca Records as catalog number 3698. The flip side was “Maria Elena.” The record first reached the Billboard charts on May 9, 1941 and lasted 21 weeks on the chart, peaking at #1. Since “Maria Elena” was also a #1 hit, this was a major double-sided hit recording. The Shadows performed an instrumental version of this song on their 1967 album Jigsaw. Gloria Jean sang the Spanish lyrics to “Aquellos Ojos Verdes” in the 1943 film, When Johnny Comes Marching Home.

Ben Affleck also sang the Spanish version, in the 2006 film, Hollywoodland, in pivotal scenes just prior to the fatal shooting of his character, George Reeves.

R&B group, the Ravens, had regional success with a 1955 revival.

Allan Sherman recorded a version titled “Green Stamps”, a parody of S&H Green Stamps. During the recording session (according to the liner notes on the album), Sherman had a talk with the college types who hadn’t heard of “Green Eyes.” He said it was, like the Bossa Nova, once a red-hot tune by Helen O’Connell. He asked, “Any of you remember red-hot Helen O’Connell?” (About half did.)

Recorded versions

All-Star Orchestra
Ray Anthony Orchestra
Desi Arnaz
Don Barreto
Big Band All-Stars
Norrie Paramor, with Patricia Clark (soprano)
Stanley Black
Boston Pops Orchestra
Les Brown
John Bunch
Buena Vista Social Club
Frank Chacksfield and his orchestra
Nat King Cole
Ray Conniff
Los Cordobeses
Xavier Cugat
Lou Donaldson
Jimmy Dorsey orchestra (1941)
The Dorsey Brothers
Bob Eberly
Roy Eldridge
Les & Larry Elgart
George Evans
Filiberto Fandiño (es)
Bob Florence Big Band
Connie Francis
Jane Froman
Earl Grant
Benny Green
Kay Harding
Gene Krupa
Abbe Lane
Steve Lawrence
Ben Light
Enoch Light
Enric Madriguera
Barry Manilow with Rosemary Clooney
Glenn Miller
Helen O’Connell
Anita O’Day
101 Strings Orchestra
Hernan Pelayo
Guadalupe Pineda
Pony Poindexter
Baden Powell
The Ravens
Edmundo Ros
Harry Roy
The Sentimental Strings
Charlie Shavers
South Shore Concert Band
Starsound Orchestra
Conway Twitty
Lex Vandyke
The Ventures
West Coast Swing Time Orchestra
Ibrahim Ferrer
Bebo Valdes and his orchestra
Trio Los Panchos
Lisa Ono
Orquesta Aragón
La Gusana Ciega

English lyrics

The version written for English audiences varies from the Spanish. The Big Band version typically had a male voice singing these words, followed by a female voice singing the same words, with the exception of the last line. This is one version:

Well, Green Eyes with their soft lights
Your eyes that promise sweet nights,
Bring to my soul a longing, a thirst for love divine
In dreams I seem to hold you, to find you and enfold you
Our lips meet and our hearts, too, with a thrill so sublime
Those cool and limpid Green Eyes
A pool wherein my love lies
So deep that in my searching for happiness
I fear that they will ever haunt me
All through my life they’ll taunt me
But will they ever want me?

(Male voice)
Green Eyes, make my dreams come true.

(Female voice)
Green Eyes, I love you