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Carly Simon – The Real Story Behind “You’re So Vain” That You Never Knew...

Music | November 16, 2017

LONDON, UK - MARCH 15: Singer Songwriter Carly Simon poses for a portrait on March 15, 1971 in London, England. (Photo by Ed Caraeff/Getty Images)

Back in the day, Carly Simon was seemingly all that and a bag of chips! Not only was she born into a notable family, she was remarkably talented in her own right. Simon has enjoyed mega success throughout her career as a classical pianist and singer/songwriter. It wasn’t until years later, when she shared her memoir with the world, that we really had any insight into the real Carly Simon.  

Carly Simon always had a reputation for being funny, talented and well connected. She had a distinct look that was thought to be both exotic and erotic. All of these qualities, together, made her extremely appealing and that was OK with her. She enjoyed plenty of love affairs, trysts and indiscretions with many men, including other celebrities; some she regrets. What we couldn’t have known was that early on, she suffered some unfortunate circumstances.

When Simon was 7 years old she was sexually abused by a teenaged family friend. She described it as, “heinous,” adding, “It changed my view about sex for a long time.” It wasn’t long before she started severely stuttering; most likely a result of the abuse. In order to work through the stuttering, she began writing songs and singing. She realized, not only, that she could express her innermost feelings through writing, but she was able to sing without stuttering. Music was her therapy.  

Simon, early on, had teamed up with her sister, Lucy, to form a singing duo. They called themselves, The Simon Sisters. What she is best remembered for, though, is her solo career. Over the course of her career, Carly Simon has had countless hits on the song charts. Some of these hits include well-known songs including, “You’re So Vain”. The song soared to the top as No. 1 on the U.S. Pop and Adult Contemporary charts. It sold over a million copies in the U.S. alone. The song was probably the biggest success of her career. It left all of us talking and wondering.

Carly Simon had been involved with the likes of several big-name musical artists. She was even married to James Taylor for a time. The buzz though, was which one the song, “You’re So Vain”, was referring to with the lyrics, “I bet you think this song is about you”. It was a mystery for years. Everyone speculated, but that’s all it was… speculation.

Over 40 years after the song was released, Simon opened up about the famous mystery. She reportedly had three different men in mind while composing the song. She revealed that Warren Beatty was who she had written about regarding that famous second verse. Beatty reportedly thought the entire song was about himself, but she stated that was not the case. She never revealed the identity of the other two men; only partially solving the mystery. Beatty never accepted that, still believing that he was the subject of the entire song; I guess she was right about him being vain!

Apparently, Carly Simon had fallen hook, line and sinker for Beatty. She revealed that he was more than competent in the bedroom and she just couldn’t get enough of him. Before long, she realized that she was only one of many. She was happy to be at the top of the short list for a bit but crushed that there were so many others. She was conflicted and turned to her songwriting to cope, just as she had done so many other times. We may never know who the other verses of the song referred to but it is interesting to think about all of the possibilities. In her own words, she was “gently passed around.” 

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.