It’s one of the most devastating portraits of conceit ever recorded.
In the 1970s, Carly Simon was super famous as a singer, songwriter and occasional sex symbol.
Not only was she born into a notable family, but this gal from New York City was remarkably talented in her own right. From Anticipation to Why and the elegiac Bond theme Nobody Does It Better, she‘s enjoyed much success throughout her career as a classical pianist and singer/songwriter. It wasn’t until years later, when she, surprisingly for this ultra private woman, shared her memoir with the world, that we really had any insight into the real Carly Simon. Or who was the subject of her most famous tune.
Various clues to the identities of the song’s subjects have come out over time, and Mick Jagger (who sings the chorus back ups), Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, David Geffen, and former husband James Taylor have all been potential influences.
Even David Bowie’s name was floated, with his ex-wife Angie Bowie claiming in her 1993 autobiography Backstage Passes that she was the “wife of a close friend” mentioned in You’re So Vain, and that Jagger, for a time, had been “obsessed” with her.
One down, two to go.
“I have confirmed that the second verse is Warren,” Carly Simon told People in an interview previewing her 2015 memoir Boys In The Trees. She happens to be turning 75 (or 77, depending on who you believe) to boot, sharing her birthday with the late George Michael, the day before yours truly.
Does Beatty know about the seminal role he plays in the song? In keeping with its theme, “Warren thinks the whole thing is about him!” said Simon, adding that the other verses refer to two other men – and she still wasn’t naming names.
Musically, You’re So Vain is one of the best examples of a confessional style of singer-songwriter singles. A huge hit in late 1972, despite its enduring legacy it’s also Carly Simon‘s only No. 1 single on the “pop” charts. God bless America.
Been up to Saratoga lately?
Son of a gun.
BONUS BEATS: That grand piano that Simon plays, deftly alternating between thunderous and romantic? That was the in-house piano at London‘s Trident Studios: a 100 year old, hand-made Bechstein. Why this joanna garnered that reputation is complicated, but in demand session players like Rick Wakeman were soon pronouncing it to be the “best sounding piano in London”.
Its reputation grew so great that bands would book the studio just to use it, and wait for the Soho studio to become free if it was busy. The upshot of all this is that the piano you hear on You’re So Vain , as well as Hey Jude, Martha My Dear, My Sweet Lord, Without You, Your Song, Tiny Dancer, Get it On, Life On Mars?, Quicksand, Suffragette City, Moonage Daydream, Perfect Day, Killer Queen, Seven Seas Of Rye, and even I Don’t Like Mondays is the Bechstein.
Its whereabouts are currently unverified.