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Music / Carly Simon

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You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you.
You're so vain, I'll bet you think this song is about you don't you? Don't you?
"You're So Vain"

Born in New York City and now one of the most famous residents of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Carly Elisabeth Simon (born June 25, 1943) is an American Singer-Songwriter who hit it big in the 1970s with a string of pop/soul hits with a blues sensibility.

Simon's father Richard was co-founder of the Simon & Schuster publishing house. Her older sister Lucy is also a singer and musician, and the two of them started out performing together in the '60s as "The Simon Sisters" before Carly went solo. She was married to James Taylor for a number of years, and they had two kids, Sally and Ben, who are also musicians (who in fact got their start singing backup on Mom's 1987 album Coming Around Again); she's still close friends with James' brother Livingston.

By far Simon's most famous song is "You're So Vain", a bouncily sarcastic hit about an egotistical male friend with a penchant for homewrecking and globetrotting hedonism. Considered the Ur-Example of the Celebrity Break-Up Song, speculation has been rampant for four decades about who it's about, but Simon has only publicly revealed three letters of the man's name: A, R, and Enote . She has told a few people, including TV exec Dick (Richard) Ebersol and Howard Stern, but to everyone else, there has been a long list of speculated men, including Mick Jagger (who sang backup on the song), Warren Beatty,note  guitar builder Daniel Armstrong, and record exec David Lawrence Geffen note . Even Raymond Douglas Davies has been mentioned as a possible. Simon has openly said it is not about her ex-husband James Taylor, but did once joke about it being about Deep Throat (aka W. Mark Felt). note  In 2015 she finally revealed that each of the three verses is actually about a different man, and the second one is Beatty, but she still intends to take the identities of the other two to her grave.

Won an Academy Award for "Let the River Run" for Mike Nichols' Working Girl.

Tropes associated with Carly Simon include:

  • The Cameo: Janet Jackson sampled "You're So Vain" in her 2001 song "Son of a Gun," with Simon also contributing new vocals to the track. The result was Simon's first Top 40 single in 15 years (and her last to date).
  • The Diss Track: Her song "You're So Vain" is a bouncily sarcastic hit about an egotistical male friend with a penchant for homewrecking and globetrotting hedonism. After several decades, Simon finally admitted that the song is at least partially about Warren Beatty. She would later allow it to be adapted for an anti-Donald Trump ad during the 2016 election campaign.
  • Genre-Busting: Her songs are all over the map, with elements of rock, pop, easy listening, and soul in various ratios.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The fact that "You're So Vain" is written in the second person means that logically, whoever "you" is, it is "about you". That doesn't mean it's not vain to assume you are that person, though... (unless it's really about three different people.)
  • Last Note Nightmare: "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be", already a rather dark and cynical Anti-Love Song, ends with her voice echoing off very eerily.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: This is very close to being one of Simon's signature songwriting techniques; her very first hit, "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be", is a song with seemingly happy lyrics about beating the bad relationship odds, but a mournful, extremely ambivalent tune that indicates the singer doesn't really expect to come out on top. "Anticipation" (written about a fling with Cat Stevens) has a distinctly triumphal tune but the words are about pre-first-date jitters. "Better Not Tell Her" sounds like an angry rant from a jealous ex, but it closes on a desperately sad and lonely note. "Jesse" is a deliriously happy song about wanting to see a man who is absolutely no good for her. "You Belong To Me" is a jazzy, sax-laden, almost seductive song about a woman who's terrified of losing her cheating lover. "All I Want Is You" is an uptempo soft-rock song with lyrics that could be interpreted either as the narrator finding quarrels with her lover sexually arousing, or being a brainwashed abuse victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. And then there's her cover of "Eensy-Weensy Spider", which serves as a reprise of the title track on Coming Around Again, which is a song about a frustrated housewife living her life in a fog... and it has her kids singing backup.
  • Parental Love Song: The "Love of My Life" song was written in dedication to her children.
  • Pop-Star Composer: For a Winnie the Pooh movie, of all things.
  • The Reveal: She's only given up clues about who the song "You're So Vain" is about. On November 18 2015 she revealed the second verse is about Warren Beatty, meaning the other verses are about other men as well.
  • Self-Titled Album: Her 1971 debut.
  • Sexy Surfacing Shot: The "You Know What To Do" music video has a shot of her dramatically surfacing out of the water in a Male Gaze shot after a swim at a pool, and then a similar shot occurs as she climbs the ladder.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Her minor 1988 hit "All I Want Is You" seems to be describe a relationship that is built on this, with lyrics that suggest the narrator finds sparring (at least verbally if not physically) sexually arousing. She also declares she doesn't want a polite, timid man "who tiptoes upstairs."
  • Survival Mantra: "I haven't got time for the pain/ I haven't got room for the pain/ I haven't the need for the pain/ not since I've known you". Played with, as the song isn't defiant at all — it's actually a mushy thank you note.
  • Take That!: "You're So Vain", of course. Also "Better Not Tell Her", in a much more tragic vein.
    • Was on the receiving end of one from ex-husband James Taylor. She gave him an ultimatum: cut back on his recording and touring to spend more time with her and the kids, or their marriage is over. The title of Taylor's next album? Dad Loves His Work. They were divorced soon after.
  • Theme Tune: "Nobody Does It Better", for the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Includes a Title Drop and some cutesy innuendo about "keeping all my secrets safe tonight".
  • Unstoppable Mailman: In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, the United States Postal Service released a commercial featuring Simon's song "Let the River Run" that reassured the nation that, despite everything that had happened, the people of the United States could still count on them. It's actually pretty heartwarming.
  • Yandere: Played with in "You Belong To Me" and "Better Not Tell Her", which could quite easily be about the same relationship, a decade apart. In both cases, there's begging, denial, and anger, but in neither one does the singer tip over into Ax-Crazy. There's some heavy Sanity Slippage in "You Belong To Me", though.