"Pale Blue Eyes" is a song written and sung by Lou Reed and performed by The Velvet Underground. It was included on the band's 1969 album The Velvet Underground.
Despite the name, "Pale Blue Eyes" was written about someone whose eyes were hazel, as Reed notes in his book Between Thought and Expression. The song is said to have been inspired by Shelley Albin, Reed's first love, who at the time was married to another man.
Lou Reed initially wanted to play "Pale Blue Eyes" for the Velvet Underground's first reunion at the Fondation Cartier in 1990. When someone reminded him that he'd written the song after John Cale's departure from the band, Reed said, "Then it will have to be 'Heroin'".
Notable cover versions
"Pale Blue Eyes" has been covered by a number of artists in addition to Lou Reed and Maureen Tucker from Velvet Underground:
- Patti Smith performed the song live from the 1960s throughout the 1970s.
- Power of Dreams covered the song for their "There I Go Again" EP in 1992
- Edwyn Collins recorded the song with Paul Quinn and released it as a single in 1984.
- R.E.M. covered the song for the B-side of the single of "So. Central Rain", released in 1984 and collected on their 1987 album Dead Letter Office.
- Marisa Monte has a cover of the song on her 1994 album Verde, Anil, Amarelo, Cor de Rosa e Carvão (a.k.a. Rose and Charcoal).
- Hole covered the song live at the Whiskey A Go Go in February 1992, and frontwoman Courtney Love introduced it as "the original new waver". Hole's version included lyrically-altered verses but retained the chorus lyrics and chord progression. The recording eventually ended up on the band's first EP, Ask for It (1995).
- Alejandro Escovedo includes a live cover of the song—a duet with Kelly Hogan—on his 1999 release Bourbonitis Blues.
- Counting Crows covered the song several times at live shows in 2003 and later.
- The Kills recorded the song in 2010, releasing it as a B-side in early 2012
- G. Love recorded the song on his 2011 album Fixin' to Die.
- Andrea Corr performed "Pale Blue Eyes" on her 2011 album Lifelines.
- Schiller on their 2012 album Sonne remixed Andrea Corr's cover.
- Metric, accompanied by Lou Reed, performed "Pale Blue Eyes" at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on September 23, 2012.
- Elizabeth Cook performed a country version on Late Show With David Letterman on June 2, 2014.
- After hearing of Lou Reed's death, The Killers performed a cover of the song during their performance at the Life Is Beautiful Music Festival in Las Vegas on October 27th 2013.
- Joe Henry covered the song on the 2008 soundtrack album from the television series Crossing Jordan.
- Fistful of Mercy Covered the song in a video published in 2011. 
- Carla Morrison covered the song in a Spanish language version for the soundtrack of How To Be A Latin Lover. 
- Deer Tick covered the song on their 2019 album Mayonnaise.
In popular culture
An instrumental version of the song was used in Julian Schnabel's 2007 film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The song was also used in a scene of the 2008 film August, as well as 2009's Adventureland, the 2000 film The Vertical Ray of the Sun, and the 2015 film Regular Show: The Movie.
The song drives the plot in the 1997 South Korean romance film The Contact, in which a radio DJ receives an anonymous package containing the album The Velvet Underground and plays "Pale Blue Eyes," hoping to reconnect with his former lover.
The song and the LP version of the album were both featured in an episode of the 2009-2010 South Korean sitcom High Kick Through the Roof. The characters Shin Sekyung (Shin Se-kyung) and Lee Jihoon (Daniel Choi) listened to the song a number of times in a record bar and a cafe which Jihoon had often frequented as a college student. Later, Sekyung purchased the record as a souvenir; in a subsequent episode, she gave the record to Jihoon as a birthday gift.
The original song was featured during the final scenes of the January 25, 2009 episode of Cold Case (CBS) entitled "The Brush Man". This program regularly features music popular during the time when the cold case being investigated had occurred. Although the murder in this episode occurred in 1967, "Pale Blue Eyes" was recorded in 1969. The song was also featured in episodes of Crossing Jordan, Fringe and The Deuce.
The Killers paid tribute to Lou Reed on the day of his death by performing this song at the inaugural Life is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas.
The song was used in the 2015 Cartoon Network television film of Regular Show: The Movie.
Aziz Ansari used the song in his 2019 Netflix stand-up comedy special Aziz Ansari: Right Now.
The song was featured in the third episode of Season 2, of the Netflix series Sex Education (TV series).