The lyrics were written by the Ukrainian poet and writer Yevhen Hrebinka. The first publication of the poem was in Hrebinka's own Russian translation in Literaturnaya Gazeta on 17 January 1843. Some song on this lyrics is attested already in the 1870s, but its melody is not known.
In The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk, published in 2000, the author, J. Fuld, mentions that a Soviet musicologist had reported to him that the song is not "a Russian traditional song but a cabaret song", published in a songs book by A. Gutheil in 1897 and mentioned, at p. 131, as a "Gypsy romance based on the melody of Florian Hermann's Valse Hommage. Despite the claim made by Fuld that, "Of the original melody author, Florian Hermann, not a single music score is known," the sheet music for Hermann's piece and others of his works can be found. Here is his "Rêverie russe":
The most renowned and played version of this song was written by Adalgiso Ferraris, and published, when still in Russia in 1910, with German editor Otto Kuhl, as "Schwarze Augen" (Black Eyes). Ferraris then published it again in 1931 by Paris Editions Salabert, as "Tes yeux noirs (impression russe)" and with Jacques Liber, on 9 October 1931.
Ferraris, an Italian-born British composer, had spent many years in Russia before 1915. The song became one of his major successes in the 1920s and 1930s, being also played by Albert Sandler, by Leslie Jeffries in 1939, and sung by Al Bowlly in 1939 with words of Albert Mellor. Max Jaffa also recorded it.
Ferraris himself can be seen in a British Pathé film from 1934 of Alfredo and his Gypsy band playing "Dark Eyes", sitting in the orchestra behind the lead Alfredo.
Ferraris's "Dark Eyes" was recorded by Harry Parry and his radio sextet in 1941, and that version is still played by many artists. Chet Atkins played an original interpretation of the song on electric guitar. Wynton Kelly recorded a jazz version in 1958. Feodor Chaliapin also popularised the song abroad.
Poem (original version by Hrebinka)
The following is a metrical translation (i.e. one that can be sung to the melody).
Oh, these gorgeous eyes, dark and glorious eyes,
Burn-with-passion eyes, how you hypnotise!
How I adore you so, how I fear you though,
Since I saw you glow! Now my spirit's low!
Darkness yours conceal mighty fires real;
They my fate will seal: burn my soul with zeal!
But my love for you, when the time is due,
Will refresh anew like the morning dew!
No, not sad am I, nor so mad am I;
All my comforts lie in my destiny.
Just to realise my life’s worthiest prize
Did I sacrifice for those ardent eyes!.
Translation by Peter Farnbank
Another rhythmical translation which is closer to the original
Oh you dark black eyes, full-of-passion-eyes
Oh you burning eyes, how you hypnotise
Now I love you so, but I fear you though
Since you glanced at me not so long ago.
Oh I see you now, you are dark and deep
I see grief and feel that my soul will weep
I see now in you a winning burning glow
in my poor heart will a fire grow.
I’ m not sorrowful, I’m not repenting
I accept all that my fate's presenting
All the best in life, God has given us-
this I sacrifice, to you dark black eyes.
by Stefan Bogdanov
Lyrics (Chaliapin version)
|Russian (Cyrillic alphabet)||Transliteration (Latin alphabet)||English translation|
Очи чёрные, очи жгучие,
Очи чёрные, очи пламенны
Очи чёрные, очи жгучие,
Не встречал бы вас, не страдал бы так,
Очи чёрные, очи ж��учие,
Ochi chyornye, ochi zhguchie
Ochi chyornye, ochi plamenny
Ochi chyornye, ochi zhguchie
Ne vstrechal by vas, ne stradal by tak
Ochi chyornye, ochi zhguchie
Dark eyes, burning eyes
Dark eyes, flaming eyes
Dark eyes, burning eyes
If I hadn't met you, I wouldn't be suffering so
Dark eyes, burning eyes
Translation by Katya from russmus.net (Russmus: Folk/Traditional – Очи чёрные / Ochi chyornye / Dark Eyes lyrics and translations)
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"Dark Eyes" has become a jazz standard.
- 1910 – Adalgiso Ferraris performed the song in German as "Schwarze Augen"
- 1931 – Adalgiso Ferraris performed the song in French as "Tes Yeux Noirs"
- 1933 – Krazy Kat and his girlfriend sang the song in the cartoon Russian Dressing.
- 1934 – Al Jolson performed a version in Russian for the film Wonder Bar.
- 1936 – In the film The Princess Comes Across, the character of King Mantell (Fred MacMurray) plays a few bars on the concertina.
- 1936 – In the film My Man Godfrey, the character of Carlo (Mischa Auer) frequently begins performing this song before being interrupted.
- 1936 – Ismail Marzuki wrote Sundanese lyrics for the song, under the title "Panon Hideung".
- 1937 – Tommy Dorsey and his swing orchestra recorded the piece as a trombone feature.
- 1937 – The Ritz Brothers performed a parody of the song in the film On the Avenue.
- 1937 – In the finale of the film Shall We Dance, Fred Astaire dances with a group of female dancers all wearing Ginger Rogers masks, with the real Ginger Rogers hiding among them. After Rogers flirtatiously calls out "ochi chyornye!", Astaire picks her out from among the group and begins dancing with her alone.
- 1938 – Maxine Sullivan recorded a swing version in Russian and English, accompanied by Claude Thornhill and members of John Kirby's sextet.
- 1939 – Played by Leslie Jeffries in a mix with Brahms and others.
- 1940 – Ernst Lubitsch's movie The Shop Around the Corner, based on the play La Parfumerie, features cigarette boxes which play "Ochi chyornye". The song is mentioned frequently and is heard in the background during the café scene.
- 1940 – Django Reinhardt recorded three instrumental versions under the French translation "Les yeux noirs".
- 1941 – A recording of "Dark Eyes" played by Harry Parry and his radio sextet was made.
- 1941 – Jack Teagarden recorded a swinging version with his sextet. His opening cadenza remains an inspiration and a challenge for any trombonist.
- 1941 – Gloria Jean sings "Ochi chyornye" in the movie Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.
- 1942 – In Raymond Chandler's novel The High Window, detective Philip Marlowe hears the song performed in a night club.
- 1942 – Spike Jones recorded a parody of this song called "Hotcha Cornya".
- 1943 – The Warner Bros. cartoon Falling Hare uses this song in a scene where Bugs Bunny unsuccessfully tries to break down an airplane door to find a gremlin who has been taunting him.
- 1944 – The Warner Bros. cartoon Russian Rhapsody features Soviet gremlins dismantling Adolf Hitler's airplane. They sing "We are gremlins from the Kremlin" to the tune of "Dark Eyes".
- 1944 – In the Universal Pictures cartoon Ski For Two, Woody Woodpecker sings a refrain of the song while ice-skating.
- 1945 – Danny Kaye sings a comical version of the song in the film Wonder Man with lyrics modified by Sylvia Fine.
- 1945 – In Rene Clair's film adaptation of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, Prince Nikita Starloff (Mischa Auer) dies shortly after playing the first measures of "Ochi chyornye" on a piano (a possible reference to Auer's earlier appearance in My Man Godfrey).
- 1947 – Wingy Manone and Edmond Hall recorded a version of "Dark Eyes" featuring a clarinet solo by Hall and humorous nonsense vocal by Manone.
- 1947 – Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Durante sing a duet of the song in the film It Happened in Brooklyn.
- 1950s – An original interpretation of the song, for electric guitar, was first played by Chet Atkins.
- 1951 – A Finnish version sung by Tauno Palo was used in the movie Ylijäämänainen
- 1954 – Louis Armstrong did a version called "Otchi-Tchor-Ni-Ya", which in his unique New Orleans Creole patois sounded like "Oh Cha Chunya". The lyrics were unrelated to the original Russian.
- 1955 – In Disney's Lady and the Tramp Boris (Borzoi) calls Lady "little ochi chyornyee".
- 1957 – Ross Bagdasarian aka David Seville arranges an instrumental version called "Pretty Dark Eyes".
- 1957– A version in Yiddish and appeared on Cadence Records' The Barry Sisters Sing Traditional Jewish Songs.
- 1958 – Jazz organist Jimmy Smith performs the song as an instrumental on the live album Cool Blues.
- 1958 – Wynton Kelly performs the song as an instrumental with Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones on the album Piano.
- 1959 – The song is mentioned in Kay Thompson's book Eloise in Moscow. Eloise sings it in the bath, commenting that "Nanny loves it but I had to stop because it hurt Weenie's ears."
- 1959 – The song is referenced in Robert Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers.
- 1960 – The first rock and roll version of the song is performed by the Tillman Brothers.
- 1966 – This song is featured in the 1966 movie Batman during Bruce Wayne's date with a Soviet journalist, Miss Kitka (who unbeknownst to him is really Catwoman in disguise).
- 1969 – A version of this song called "Ja lubljú tebjá (Ich liebe dich)" is sung by Alexandra on the album Sehnsucht – Ein Portrait in Musik.
- 1970 – Violetta Villas recorded the song, which later became her signature hit in Poland.
- 1973 – Sara Montiel recorded a pop-rock version in Spanish, entitled "Ojos Negros".
- 1982 – "Nostalgie (Nathalie)", sung by Julio Iglesias, uses this song as a refrain.
- 1987 – The song gives its name to Nikita Mikhalkov's film Dark Eyes.
- 1987 – Romanian gymnast Daniela Silivaș uses the song as a part of her floor music during the 1987 World Championships. She scored a perfect 10 to become the World Champion.
- 1990 – The song is performed on the best-selling classical music album of all time, The Three Tenors in Concert.
- 1991 – The song is performed by Elya Baskin in War and Peace, a Season 2 episode of Northern Exposure.
- 1994 – The song is performed in The Leningrad Cowboys' Total Balalaika Show, featuring the full 160-member Alexandrov Ensemble.
- 1996 – Red Elvises feature a version entitled "Scorchi Chorniye" on their debut album Grooving to the Moscow Beat. The lyrics are nonsensical and unrelated to the original Russian.
- 1998 – The movie Six-String Samurai includes the Red Elvises version in its soundtrack, rendered as "Scorchi Chornie".
- 1999 – Sabine Azéma sings this song in the French film La Bûche.
- 2000 – A version recorded by the American band DeVotchKa is featured on their debut album SuperMelodrama.
- 2000 – An instrumental variation by composer Rachel Portman is used in the film Chocolat. The piece is titled "Chocolate Sauce" on the film's soundtrack.
- 2001 – Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko used this song for one of his free skates during the 2000–01 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final.
- 2002 – The computer adventure game Syberia featured the chorus of the song in the last part of the game. It is sung by the NPC Helena in the Epilogue.
- 2004 – The song was used as the main theme for the TV mini-series The Mystery of Natalie Wood, a biopic about the actress Natalie Wood.
- 2004 – The song is performed by the jazz vocalist Sophie Milman on her album Milman.
- 2005 – In the 2005 film Hostel Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) and Natalya (Barbara Nedeljáková) sing "Ochi chyornye" together in the sauna.
- 2006 – A recording by Judy Morris features in the animated film Happy Feet.
- 2004–06 – After choosing this piece as her free skate music in the 2000–01 season, American figure skater Sasha Cohen uses this song again for her short program for two consecutive figure skating seasons, including her SP at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
- 2006 – Swedish duo The Knife release the single "Marble House", the vocal melody of which is reminiscent of "Dark Eyes" (though possibly unintentionally so).
- 2007 – The song is featured the David Cronenberg film Eastern Promises, performed by singer and accordion player Igor Outkine.
- 2007–present – Folk metal band Turisas frequently incorporates a unique interpretation of "Ochi chyornye" as a finale for their song "In the Court of Jarislief" during live performances.
- 2007–08 – Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir used the song as their original dance music.
- 2008 – Russian-born American gymnast Nastia Liukin used the version of "Ochi chyornye" from the Well-Tempered Productions CD Gypsy as her floor exercise music at the Summer Olympics, where she won a gold medal in the Women's All-Around Final.
- 2009 – A Japanese version was used in the Hime Uta 2 character CD for Strike Witches.
- 2010 – American gymnast Rebecca Bross uses a remix of the song as her floor music.
- 2010 – Used in the Spots vs. Stripes advert for Cadbury's dairy milk.
- 2010 – Russian singer Vitas covered this song on his album Masterpieces of Three Centuries.
- 2010 – Featured in the movie Fortress of War by Aleksandr Kott.
- 2010 – Israeli artist Yoni Eilat recorded a Yiddish cover of this song for his album Tzigayner Neshume.
- 2011 – Performed by actor Benoît Poelvoorde in the restaurant scene in the French movie Les Émotifs anonymes.
- 2012 – Russian figure skater Elizaveta Tuktamysheva uses the piece for her free skate/long program.
- 2014 – A recording of "Dark Eyes" in English and Russian performed by Jason Kouchak
- 2015 – A gypsy band covers the song live for an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown in Budapest, Hungary.
- 2017 – Used in the film The Shape of Water.
- 2018 – The song was used as the backing music on the BBC trailer for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The recording was made at Abbey Road Studios and sung in Russian by Sir John Tomlinson.
- 2018 – Used as the theme tune for the assassin Villanelle in the television show Killing Eve.
- 2019 – American artists Pomplamoose publish a version with the French lyrics.
- Dark Eyes, a Russian music compilation album that includes Dark Eyes
- The Red Army Choir, compilation album that includes Dark Eyes
- James J. Fuld. The book of world-famous music: classical, popular, and folk – Courier Dover Publications, 2000. – P. 417 (see also notes at p. 684).
- Fuld, James J. (1 January 2000). "The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk". Courier Corporation. p. 684. Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via Google Books.
- "Category:Hermann, Florian – IMSLP: Free Sheet Music PDF Download". Imslp.org.
- "Ferraris_Black_Eyes.pdf". Google. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- "Schwarze Augen = Occhi neri = Black eyes". 1 January 1910. Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via Open WorldCat.
- "UniCat-Search". Unicat.be.
- "Catalog of Copyright Entries: Musical compositions". Library of Congress, Copyright Office. 1 January 1933. p. 1110. Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via Google Books.
- "Home". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- "Dark Eyes – Al Bowlly – Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- "Vinyl Album: Max Jaffa – Gypsy Magic (1967)". 45worlds.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- Pathé, British. "Albert Sandler – The Celebrated Violinist". britishpathe.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- Pathé, British. "Leslie Jeffries". britishpathe.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- "Al Bowlly – Dark Eyes". 5 March 2008. Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via YouTube.
- "Alfredo And His Famous Gypsy Band (1934)" – via YouTube.
- "Editions Salabert, Paris". le-livre.fr. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- Glynn, Paul (1 November 2018). "Killing Eve: How the hit BBC show's killer soundtrack was made". BBC News. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
- Dark Eyes aka Les Yeux Noirs on Softpanorama
- Russian Music on the Net Translation was taken from this site
- Djangopedia description of song Includes chart. This is for Les yeux noirs, the French version of the song.
- English version