This is literally the first song I ever learned on guitar when I was ten years old. In fact, the reason I still play the piece in E minor (it is normally done in D minor) is because E minor is the original key I learned it in.
The original Russian title of the song was “Ochi Chernye” which simply translates to “dark eyes” or “black eyes.” The song dates back to the early 19th century.
I have been playing this song for over 55 years. Thinking about that fact scares me a bit. My mother told me long ago that one day it would dawn on me that time is gaining on me. “One day you look up and you’re 80,” she said (she made it to 92).
Amazingly I often live under the misguided delusion that I am still a kid. Musicians can be like that. After all what we do is referred to as “playing.” Yes, it’s a fool’s paradise and my name is scribbled on the mailbox (in crayon).
At any rate, I have included two different solo versions I have recorded of “Dark Eyes” (links below). The first is the most developed and most recent version. But I have included both for some comparison. The piece has slowly evolved for me over all of this time and though I don’t play it live much anymore (though no one is playing gigs these days) it still remains a touchstone for me.
There are two very famous versions on record by Django Reinhardt and it is still widely considered the gypsy anthem and is often played by anyone and everyone who can play an instrument at the conclusion of any raucous manouche, gitan or Romani celebration.