Thursday, April 18, 2024

51* Years Ago Today: Carly Simon’s Now Classic “You’re So Vain” Began a Three Week Run at Number 1


Hard to believe, but today is a 51st anniversary for “You’re So Vain.”

Carly Simon’s instant classic pop record even in 1973 was a wicked tell all full of edgy accusations. Produced by Richard Perry, with background vocals by Mick Jagger, “You’re So Vain” also provoked an instant guessing game: who was she singing about?

To this day, Carly has remained cagey. And in fact the song may be about three people. One of them, to his lasting chagrin, is Warren Beatty. I know this story still riles him. Some say David Geffen is in the mix. Remember, after her first two albums, Simon had been thrust into heavy company. Her boyfriends included Cat Stevens and Kris Kristofferson. This was all before James Taylor. So she had plenty of material.

But let’s get away from “Who?” part because it doesn’t really matter. Carly’s voice and Perry’s rolling thunder of a production are what drives the record, which is just about perfect sonically. The momentum builds and builds as Carly checks off the self centered main character’s traits, including using the word ‘gavotte’ to rhyme with ‘yacht.’ This has to be the only time ‘gavotte’ has ever appeared in a pop song.

Simon was friends with Jagger, who stopped by the recording studio when she and Perry were making the record. Adding Jagger’s twangy country blues inflection to Simon’s vibrant, cool vocal — she has one of the best voices in all of pop — gave the record a jaunty feel. It also eliminated speculation that Mick was the man in question.

Carly had hits before “You’re So Vain” and a ton afterwards, but she will probably always be remembered for the most mysterious confessional of all time.

By the way, the line up here is all-star: that’s Simon on piano, Klaus Voorman on bass, Jim Gordon on drums, Perry on percussion, and Jimmy Ryan on guitars. Paul Buckmaster arranged the strings.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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