This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #68: You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon.
Carly Simon is the daughter of one of the men who founded Simon and Schuster Publishing and, as such, she grew up surrounded by writers and singers/musicians and artists. So, it was to no one’s surprise that Carly and her sister formed a duo known as The Simon Sisters and started off producing children’s records and books. But, not only did Carly Simon find herself amid the Arts when it came to her immediate family but, she also grew up in the same area of California where Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Brian Wilson all did. So, as she matured and entered her twenties, it was not surprising to note that she started having relationships with several of the men who frequented Laurel Canyon. Ordinarily, such an observation would border on the inappropriate because what one does in the privacy of their own home should be their own business. But, in the case of Carly Simon, she chose to throw the doors to her life wide open in the form of a song that created a mystery that has attained the same legendary status as the Cadbury Secret? That song is “You’re So Vain”. The mystery being: who is that certain someone who came off as being “so vain” that she bet they’d think the song was about them? Well, I may have a bit of an answer for you.
The interest in the identity of the man (or men) being held up for scrutiny in “You’re So Vain” has continued unabated since the song debuted in the early 1970s. This song and the mystery that surrounds it, dwarfs all other aspects of her career. From a business point of view, it is helpful to Simon’s career to keep people guessing because it helps maintain interest in who she is and about how she has lived her life. But, as a singer and musician, this mystery, also, detracts from the rest of her work. Believe me when I tell you that is was harder to find basic information about Carly Simon and her career than it has been for anyone else that I have researched for this countdown. This was because almost every, single entry about her, every website report, etc., all focus on “You’re So Vain”. It is endless and it is everywhere I looked.
I can tell you that Carly Simon has released over forty albums and has had almost 90% of them reach the Top 40 Album charts. The funny thing about that is that she has had only two #1 hits; “You’re So Vain” and then, a few years later, when she sang the theme to the James Bond movie, “The Spy Who Loved Me”. That’s it. Two #1 songs in fifty years. Yet, her albums always sell well. This leads me to speculate that her fans simply love her “sound”. They love the types of songs she sings, the sound of her voice and the moods she seeks to create. To them, their love for her isn’t predicated on the number of hit singles she has. They simply treat each album like a private concert and are satisfied with that. As I type these words, Carly Simon is up for induction into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. She was on the ballot last year but didn’t receive enough votes. If you wish to vote for her (or, to see who else is in the running, click here). Whether Carly Simon makes it into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame or not doesn’t really matter because she will always be better known for the song, “You’re So Vain”. So, let’s talk about that then, shall we?
For those who are interested in the word on the street……the general consensus is that “You’re So Vain” is about either, actor, Warren Beatty, singer, Mick Jagger, singer, David Cassidy or a man she was married to for over a decade, James Taylor. Carly, herself, has stated that the song is not about Sweet Baby James so, let’s rule him out. She has, also, stated that she feels that the song is not about any one man but is, actually, about several men, all rolled into one song. Simon has admitted that Verse #2 in the song refers to her time spent with Warren Beatty but that the rest of the song is not about him at all. She has given hints as to who the other verses refer to by saying that the letters “A”, “E” and “R” are all part of the correct name(s). One of the reasons that people think the song might be about Mick Jagger is because he sang back-up on “You’re So Vain”…..if you listen to the song; especially, the part where she repeats, “Don’t you? Don’t you?”, you can make out his distinctive voice. Whether he entered the recording studio “like he was stepping on to a yacht” is something that Simon has been tight-lipped about. The quest to uncover the truth behind this mystery has been so great that, one time, in the early 1980s, an NBC TV executive paid $50,000 to a charity. His prize was to have Carly Simon whisper the true identity(s) in his ear. The executive, Dick Ebersol, was sworn to secrecy and, as far as we know, has never revealed Simon’s secret, either.
Do you care who the song is about? I don’t. I think “You’re So Vain” is a good song and that it tells an interesting story and that is enough for me. I am happy for Carly Simon that she had a vital and vibrant romantic life half a century ago but, as long as she is in a good, happy place now, I do not need to know more. For now, I am like her many fans; I think she is a beautiful woman, with a beautiful voice and I am simply happy to listen to her sing. Maybe, one day, the secret will be revealed and then we will all know.
And then what?
Hopefully, with the secret out of the way, more attention can be given to her career and the many, many books and records she has released. For example, did you know that she was, at the time, the very first female to win a Grammy, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award? As well, Simon is a prolific author, with over twenty books on the market. She is well-respected in terms of her work with children’s music and literature, too. But, for now, the secret of “You’re So Vain” is still locked in the vault of public interest so, we focus on that one song, to the exclusion of her other accomplishments. To me, that is a shame. But, who am I?
Without further delay, here is Carly Simon with her first #1 hit, “You’re So Vain”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Carly Simon, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.