Meaning of “Bright Eyes” by Art Garfunkel

“Bright Eyes” was written by Mike Batt, originally for the specific purpose of being featured on an animated film titled Watership Down. He was tasked with writing “a song about death” and upon doing so enlisted Art Garfunkel to sing it. 

Afterwards, Garfunkel featured a pop version of “Bright Eyes” on his LP “Fate for Breakfast”, with his rendition being dropped via Columbia Records as that project’s lead single on 1 March 1979.

The pop version, which was also produced by Mike Batt, proved to be a notable hit. That would likely be in part attributable to the fact that Watership Down itself proved especially popular in the UK. 

So for instance, the album version of “Bright Eyes” topped the UK Singles Chart (in addition to replicating the feat on Belgium’s Ultratop 50 as well the Netherlands’ Dutch Top 40 and Single Top 100). 

Furthermore, the song was also reportedly the best-selling single for the entirety of 1979 in the United Kingdom (though it appears that since then, one of the songs that were released that same year Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” has sold more across the pond).

Bright Eyes

The Lyrics of “Bright Eyes”

As noted earlier, this is in fact a song about death. And it can be theoretically said that it is relayed from two perspectives, that of a character who appears to have just died and another being his close, bereaved associate.

As for the deceased’s perspective, generally speaking let’s say that none of us actually knows what it feels like to die. So his words reflect the writer’s imagining of what such would entail initially. 

And that would include the vocalist, most simply put, transitioning into the spirit world using metaphors or observations such as “floating out on the tide” and witnessing “a fog along the horizon”. The speaker uses very vague, and let’s say generally-recognizable terminology that may relate to the notion of death.

As far as the other character’s perspective, that is where theoretically the “bright eyes” comes into play.  Or let’s say that whereas earlier on the vocalist is obviously recognizing his own death, the chorus reads more along the lines of him not being able to believe that such is actually transpiring. 

That is why, besides for how the song is utilized within the context of Watership Down, it has been put forth that the chorus is from the perspective of another party, i.e. one who is viewing the death and watching the newly-deceased’s “bright eyes… suddenly burn so pale”. 

And indeed, said witness is marveling at how quickly all of this is transpiring, i.e. his loved one going from a lively being to one that is permanently removed from the mortal plane.

“Bright eyes, burning like fire
Bright eyes, how can you close and fail?
How can the light that burned so brightly
Suddenly burn so pale?
Bright eyes”

But of course this could all be from the deceased’s perspective, if you will. In any event, it can be concluded that Mike Batt achieved his goal of writing a song that is likely to garner a sentimental reaction from most listeners. The lyrics of this piece are bound to hit you right in the feels. And that would be in part because Batt wrote it based on the real-life differences between a live and dead person’s eyes.

When Was “Bright Eyes” by Art Garfunkel Released?

“Bright Eyes” was officially released on March 1 of 1979 as the only single from Art Garfunkel’s 4th studio album “Fate for Breakfast”. The song has been listed as the album’s 6th track.

Which Record Label Was Responsible for the Release of “Bright Eyes”?

It was officially released through Columbia Records.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like...