Saturday, July 20, 2024

Happy Birthday, Carly Simon, the Real Role Model for Confessional Songwriters Like Taylor Swift


It’s Carly Simon’s birthday. Don’t believe Wikipedia. Simon was born in 1944. She turns 80 today.

When Carly exploded on the scene in 1971 with “That’s the Way I Always Heard it Should Be,” the era of the confessional songwriter began. If you’re looking for a precedent for Taylor Swift, it’s Simon, not Joni Mitchell or Carly Simon.

What set Simon apart from the beginning — and has preserved her music for all time — was the music those heartwrenching lyrics was set to. No two songs were exactly the same, but all of them featured very strong, catchy melodies and hooks that — sung in her sultry voice — sounded more sophisticated than anything ever heard before.

Carly has more hits singles on her CV than any of her contemporaries. Of course, “You’re So Vain” — maybe or maybe not about Warren Beatty — stands out, but there is a raft more including “Coming Around Again,” which should have won an Oscar, “Let the River Run,” which did, not to mention “Anticipation,” “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain,” “Jesse,” “It Keeps You Running,” “Mockingbird,” “We Have No Secrets,” and so on.

Because Carly is a confessional writer, and a keen reporter of her own life, we know a lot about her. Her father was the Simon from Simon & Schuster, her childhood included her family befriending Jackie Robinson. We know a lot — but not all — about her marriage to James Taylor that produced daughter Sally and son Ben. Carly is probably more identified with Martha’s Vineyard than lobster tails.

She has never been much of a touring artist. Crippled by stage fright, and a stutterer, a Carly Simon live performance has always been a rarity. We are the poorer for it. When she did do shows, the rooms were packed, lines ran out the door. If she announced a one off show now, it would shut down the ticketing service.

Carly may not be performing, but her Instagram account is constantly updated. We know she’s thriving on Martha’s Vineyard, and from what I know, her songwriting is not at all behind her. We may yet see some surprises soon!

So happy birthday, Carly, now a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a significant contributor to pop music!

PS Carly’s mother chose her name because a friend had it and she liked it. But now — from “iCarly” to soap opera characters, etc, when you hear that name, they all come from the one and only. Like Cher or Madonna, there is only one Carly.

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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