Home Celebrity You’re So Wrong: New Carly Simon Book Is More Like Fiction

Carly Simon is fuming mad, and I don’t blame her. The legendary pop star is the subject of a new unauthorized biography by a former childhood friend named Stephen Davis. Davis, I can tell you personally, lifted quite a few interviews and quotations for his book from other sources without credit. This reporter is one of the people he stole material from. There are others.

In “More Room for a Broken Heart,” to be published officially in January by Penguin/Gotham, Davis makes some serious mistakes and I’d say possibly commits plagiarism. Some mistakes I’ve checked with Simon and her staff. Others I have first hand knowledge of. Davis, for example, liberally quotes from lots of interviews Simon has given over the years without ever giving proper credit or citation. Penguin Books should be ashamed of itself for not asking Davis for research attribution.

More seriously: Davis asserts that Simon had an abortion at the end of a relationship with actor Jeremy Irons in 1984. Simon insists to me this is not true. Davis also says that the affair with Irons broke up his marriage to actress Sinead Cusack. Again, untrue, and they’re still together to this day.

She’s also extremely unhappy that Davis made up a story in which Simon purportedly called one of her best friends, Dick Ebersol, a “jerk” for allegedly giving away the “secret” subject of the song “You’re So Vain.” None of that ever happened.

A story in Davis’s book about Simon having an affair with Mick Jagger right before her marriage to James Taylor–also untrue. Davis claims that Bianca Jagger called Taylor and told him they must be sleeping together. That is why Taylor and Simon married quickly, Davis asserts. Again: untrue.

As well, Simon–as a matter of courtesy–tells me she gave Davis a few autobiographical pieces she’d written for him to read, with no rights to publish them. He ignored that and published them anyway. He’s reprinted them or paraphrased them without her approval or authority. Simon’s lawyers believe he may have violated her copyright. Since 1986, no one had ever read a short piece of memoir that Simon had written but yours truly, some of her family, and the late Jacqueline Onassis. I’ve held it in my files; I didn’t have the right to reproduce it. Davis didn’t either, but that didn’t stop him. The way he’s woven it into his book makes it seem like he wrote it himself. This is a major transgression.

Davis takes great pleasure in taking mean whacks at both of Simon’s ex husbands, James Taylor and Jim Hart. He gets most of it wrong, especially about Hart, one of the nicest guys ever. He makes it seem like Hart was an interloper who resented Simon’s fame and friends. This is an utter lie. And Hart was a poet with friends in the literary world, like “Ironweed” author William Kennedy. He was a man of substance before he met Simon.

But Jim was also a recovering alcoholic. In 2002, he fell into a serious problem with crack cocaine. He went into rehab and pulled himself together in a year’s time. Davis says this all happened in 1992. It did not.

The sad part of Davis’s book is that it’s a clip job. There is no interview with Carly Simon. She doesn’t exist as a person in the story, just as a bold faced name. There are no insights because no primary interviews exist. Davis did get Penguin to pay Simon’s brother Peter for personal family photographs. That gives the book a sense of authenticity. Penguin also uses a quote about Davis from Simon on the back cover which makes the book sound authorized. Simon says it’s out of context and should not have been used.

I found at least three instances of my work from pieces I’ve written about Simon in Davis’s book, without credit or attribution.  I can tell you that anecdotes — about Marvin Gaye trying to stick his tongue down Simon’s throat, and another quote about her son Ben’s kidney surgery, and another about James Taylor’s heroin addiction– were lifted directly from an article I wrote in 1989 for Fame magazine. Davis has simply taken the quotes either verbatim or interpolated them. There are no citations.

I am told that Davis also liberally lifted from Sheila Weller‘s “Girls Like Us.” Weller has recently posted about this on her Facebook wall. She writes: “To my many journalist/author FB friends: What do we do with these unabashed clip-jobbers? Just roll our eyes and shake our heads, I guess. This anecdote was lifted whole (quote, verbatim) from exclusive (though, dare I say, far more nuanced ) material in my book. Davis has no source notes, no bibliography, not one single author/journo acknowledgement in his whole book. Disdainful bemusement for a Sunday morning…”

Shame on Davis and Penguin. There may be other instances like this. Davis should be made to produce all of his research material. He also spells the “Carlisle” Hotel name wrong (anyone knows it’s Carlyle). That should tell us something right there.

Penguin/Gotham is already starting to release publicity items on “More Room.” They planted one in the NY Post and another in the Boston Herald. My advice to them is stop doing that and verify what’s in that book.

 

26 replies to this post
  1. Having an older sister around the same age as Carly Simon (happy birthday) I have been a fan since Carly’s first album release. I read your review of the unauthorized biography and while no one should site a source w/o credit, Carly grew up in the publishing industry and it would surprise me if she gave the book any attention.

    I think I have read every article ever written on Carly Simon so I could bond with my sister. Then I grew up and became a true fan. While reading your review of this book I swear the articles, the sources and the years written came back to me. The dates being off either way does not make the incident false.

    I think Carly Simon tells us about her life in music and stories. However, I would think her life would be as interesting or more if set to tv reality in Osborne style.

  2. Just finished reading the book checked out from my local library. Glad I didn’t invest in it after reading all the above comments. However, I will never stop investing in Carly Simon music. Love her as a person, singer, and heartfelt songwriter. I was especially struck by the making of “Coming Around Again”, as it has always been my all-time favorite tune. That chapter made it worth every moment I spent reading the book. I am not, nor will ever be, a huge fan of James Taylor.

  3. I have been a fan of Carly Simon since I was a kid growing up in the 70’s. I have bought all of her album and even had the rare pleasure of seeing her live in concert in 1991 with Hall and Oates opening. She is certainly one of the best singer/songwriters of my generation. I saw this book in one of our bookstores (Canada) and bought it immediately and was very excited to read it. I had no idea that it was such garbage and unfortunately I am stuck with it. At least I now know not to believe all of the negativity inside the book. I am also a huge fan of James Taylor and will continue to be so.

  4. I bought this book from Amazon.com, read it completely, then cut it a new one in my Amazon.com review. It was a tough job plowing through all the BS but someone’s gotta do it.

    Recently, I went to my local Barnes & Noble in Princeton, NJ. This is a big store — much larger than the average branch. I looked for it on the shelves. Couldn’t find a single copy anywhere, not even under “Fiction” where it belongs. I don’t believe it sold out and Barnes & Noble’s simply waiting for more copies. I would like to believe that all the unsold copies are sleeping with the fishes in nearby Carnegie lake.

  5. Hopefully from your Article (above) everyone will find out this new book is
    just a lot of BS and won’t buy it…I just hope the Networks don’t push it like
    Ivory Soap…

    Carly is the best…but sometimes it takes a while for Truth to surface but it eventually always does…I listen to Carly every night…her recordings are fantastic…

    Best,
    Kenneth Janeway

  6. I actually bought this book because I didn’t realize it was an unauthorized book. After I got it home and realized this, I decided to read it. If Carly Simon had written it, she would not have been bashing people the way this author did. I loved having some background on her songs and where she was in her life when she wrote them. She is the greatest songwriter/singer ever to grace the earth.

    I believe that she should sue the author. It is very misleading in the way he writes the cover.

    I would love for her to write a book. I don’t care who she slept with….I would love to know what she was thinking when these songs came to her. Just a perfect talent.

  7. I love Carly Simon’s music…have bought her albums over the years/know the lyrics by heart…I have been a fan since the 1970’s when I was in High School. (Favorite song: “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard it Should Be”) I don’t know much about her except that she was married to James Taylor, was a friend of Jackie O, that allegedly Schlossberg was a rude jerk to Carly and mean at Jackie O’s funeral, that Carly has two talented kids who also sing, that her Dad was Simon of Simon & Schuster…that was about all I knew. So I saw this book and immediately bought a Kindle copy…started to read it. I have read about half of it so far and of course I would not know if it was true or not or clipped from others or not….What I can say is as a female who loves Carly Simon music, this book does not make me feel any less toward her as a person or her music. It actually makes me like her more…so even if everything he says is a lie…I don’t think she needs to worry. To be honest, I think all these comments from her “friends” trashing this guy and acting like they are authorities on Carly Simon and all this kiss ass sympathy to Carly about it all is the big turn off…and comes across kind of snobbish. PS: Would love to read a biography written by Carly…maybe now she will write one???

  8. Thank you for countering this sham of a biography with some solid facts. I really am shocked that Penguin’s standards have sunk so low. Like others, I was very much looking forward to a well-done Carly bio, and I guess the waiting continues. This makes me angry, but perhaps even more so it makes me sad. Sad for the pain it has caused Carly and sad for the readers who love her and had their hopes up.

  9. Wow, I just saw a new Carly book was coming out. I’ve been a passionate fan/collector of anything Carly/JT since the beginning of the 70’s. I grab ANYTHING that says Carly on it and was excited about this book – THEN I read all of these posts…..How disappointing that someone writes not only trash but irresponsible untruths. I would never spend a cent on it. I will thumb through it out of curiousity, but this dude won’t ever get a cent from me for treating my Carly this way.
    Carly honey, you know the real story….we’ve been waiting a long time to hear it!

  10. I too was privy to some of this horror. Seriously. We know it’s a Kardashian world. We know media is rampant and sloppy. But that actual, legitimate publishing houses would accept, pay for, and promote such blatantly sensationalist, BAD, BAD writing takes it beyond the Pale. I honestly can’t decide what’s more offensive: the sleazy content or the appalling absence of editing not applied to an even more appalling mockery of writing.

  11. This book is nothing but innaccurate and made-up trash. I read the pre-release date copy of it (bought it off ebay and I’ll never see that wasted money agin). I was laughing out loud at the pure fiction this writer made up! But it also made me sad that this book did nothing to make me feel like Carly was a real person. Her character is never created. It’s more like a timeline of “on this date she did this, on that date she did that.” Wikipedia has more correct info that this book. Davis has her staying at home with two kids and in the next paragraph, she’s pregnant with her first child!!! ok.

    There is no bibliography. Steven Davis never interviewed anyone for this book, even when he had access to Carly herself!! It’s a clip job….stolen passages mostly from Sheila Weller’s Girls Like Us bestseller and Friedman’s articles. Then Davis “jazzes it up” with his own made up quotes. He’s not even a good enough writer to make them sound anything like her. Ugh. What a mess. It’s barely readable.

    Just to end this on a note of hilarity – Davis takes it upon himself to describe what Carly’s songs are about from each album – stating that they ARE about his, not that it’s his opinion. Here’s what he says about her hit song Jesse:
    “a song about a woman’s ambivalent feelings for an incontinent lover who wets the bed and needs fresh sheets…..by the end of the lyrics, she decides to put fresh sheets on the bed.”

    WTF???? I want some of what this guy must be snorting.

    CARLY – write your own autobiography….PLEASE!

  12. I’ve been a major fan of Carly’s since the release of “You’re So Vain.” Was the first record I bought. And through my 21+ year career as a music writer/critic with The Miami Herald I, too, have had many opportunities to interview Carly for feature stories and meet with her a number of times. She’s always been gracious, open and a delight. I’ve happily had the opportunity to share many conversations, some private, with Carly over the years via email and I cherish her trust. Reviewed all her projects since starting the job and consider myself an authority on her music.
    As a professional, I can’t understand how an author with a major publisher behind him can get away without citing the sources in a bibliography. Most reputable bios, authorized and unauthorized, contain pages of citations listing articles, interviews and whatnot so these can be traced back — especially on a clip job.
    And to get the dates so wrong re: the Travolta/Hyland relationship throws everything in question. It was very clear Hyland was long dead by 1979. John had befriended Carly in 1977, maybe even earlier, as he’d been a friend during her time of need when Ben was born in Jan. 1977 and I recall a picture of the two at the Saturday Night Fever premiere, LONG before 1979 when this guy states Hyland died. If an author can’t get important dates correct, how can we trust any of the revelations?
    Sure, a star will try to dispute some revelations if they make him/her look bad or reveal something they wish to forget. But this author doesn’t help himself or his case by not citing sources in a biography or being careful with easily obtained facts/dates.
    The “Girls Like Us” bio was quite good. I reviewed that one. This one begs for a close eye.

  13. Jodie,
    Thanks for your comments. I am confused however, because a short time ago the book was featured as news on Carly’s website, which I understand you are the webmaster of. Shouldn’t this have been cleared with Carly first? Did she not have an advance copy prior to this appearing on her website?

    Roger,
    I am very glad that you wrote this piece. I was eagerly anticipating the book, especially since the book appeared to be promoted on Carly’s website (this is now gone from the website). I will not buy it now and hope others will also avoid it. I feel so badly for Carly. She deserves so much better.
    Jim Russo

  14. It’s ashame that this book is even being published!! When I pre-ordered the book in June I was certain it would follow her music career and how she overcame her shyness. Her many performances, etc. I was highly disappointed when I heard from Sheila Weller author of girls like us that this upcoming sham of a book is plagarized!! I am disgusted that this book will even be out there. Shame on the author!! I hope those who have this ordered already will think twice and take it off their list. I have. Thanks again for letting us know about this terrible book.

  15. Carly Simon’s real fans will not buy, read, or sit silently if this book is allowed to be released. Perhaps if other writers whose work has also been used without permission in this book will speak up as Mr. Friedman and Ms. Weller both have, Penquin will back out and shelve this project permanently. This is journalism at its worst and deserves, as Dot implied above, to be thwarted at every turn.

  16. First off, thank you so much Mr. Friedman for exposing this piece of garbage disguised as a proper biography on one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our time. I canceled my pre-order at Amazon.

    I was truly looking forward to a well-written, well researched book on Ms Simon’s life and amazing music. Obviously, I will have to wait for one.

    I echo you. SHAME ON DAVIS and SHAME ON PENGUIN!

  17. Unofficial biographies should always be taken with a grain of salt. Thing is people often believe outlandish made-up stories because they have to. They’ll believe them simply because it looks like they’ve never been told before due to the fact that they would be image shattering.

    I, personally, would have a hard time believing any portayal of Carly Simon that makes her out to be a jerk. All you have to do is watch and listen to her to know that she is a kind, introspective person who understands the human heart.

  18. Roger, there are indeed many other instances like that. You can tell the story below is complete fiction because Diana Hyland died in 1977, a full years before her death is Travolta’s motivation, as Davis claims. Apparently he’s not only a thief, but he’s a stupid thief too.

    From More Room In A Broken Heart

    Spring 1979. John Travolta knocked at the door of Apartment 6s one evening. He was staying in the building and wanted to meet James, who wasn’t home. (James was with his brother Alex and Jimmy Buffet, drinking to blackout every night on the Caribbean island of Montserrat.) Carly entertained Travolta instead, and the two became good friends. When his longtime girlfriend, Diana Hyland, died a few weeks later, Travolta practically moved in with Carly and the children.

  19. I hope that there is a backlash against this author and this publishing company for allowing this to be published with such serious breaches in it. Rest assured that there is a very serious group of Carly Simon fans that will do everything in their power to get the truth out about this book and it’s mean spirited falsehoods. Not only will we not be buying and reading this garbage but through the power of social media we will get the truth out. “People say a lot when they wan the job” ( Carly Simon, People Say A Lot, from the album This Kind of Love)

  20. BRAVO Roger! I had the recent displeasure of reading a galley copy of this upcoming book and was appalled and stunned at how awful it was. As someone who has followed Carly’s career closely since 1972, I immediately recognized all the stolen material he used. Also, Mr. Davis lierally makes up quotes by Carly – and he’s not even good at doing that – they sound nothing like her.

    I could swear a 5th grader wrote this book. It’s clumsy and juvenille and has the attention span of someone who is ADD. He has her meeting Mick Jagger for the first time, TWICE. He has her staying at home with the kids (plural) and in the next paragraph, he says she’s pregnant with her first child. It just goes on and on and on like that.

    Judging by the reviews on Amazon for his Led Zepplin and Jim Morrison bios, this behaviour of stealing material and giving no credit, along with books that are just trash, is his standard M.O.

    Yes, his publishers should be ashamed of themselves and so should he.

    Thank you so much for alerting the buying public to this sham of a book – this is not a biography, it’s fiction for money.

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