June 25, 1945 – Carly Simon:
Don’t mind if I fall apart. There’s more room in a broken heart.
If Warren Beatty was narcissistic enough to think Simon’s gigantic hit song You’re So Vain (1972) was about him, he wasn’t wrong.
In 2015, Simon revealed that Beatty was at least one of the men she was alluding to in her personal lyrics:
I have confirmed that the second verse is Warren, but he thinks the whole thing is about him!
Other suspects over the years have included Mick Jagger, Cat Stevens, David Geffen, Kris Kristofferson and former husband James Taylor.
Beatty said in a 2007 interview that he inspired the lyrics:
Let’s be honest. That song was about me.
Here are the lyrics that Simon says are definitely about Beatty:
You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive
Well you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved and one of them was me
I had some dreams they were clouds in my coffee…
Simon wrote that she won’t reveal the other men the song is about:
At least until they know it’s about them.
You’re So Vain took five weeks to reach Number One on the charts, but it reached the top spot in early 1973 and then stayed in the Top 10 for the next 18 weeks.
Carly Elisabeth Simon is not just a singer-songwriter-musician, she is a children’s book writer and memoirist. She became famous in the 1970s, with a impressive string of hit records; Anticipation (1971), You Belong To Me (1978), Coming Around Again (1986), Jesse (1980), Mockingbird, a duet with James Taylor (1973), and Nobody Does It Better, the theme from the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
After a brief stint with her sister Lucy Simon as duo The Simon Sisters, she found astonishing success as a solo artist with her self-titled debut album Carly Simon (1971), which won her a Grammy Award for Best New Artist, and brought her first Top 10 single That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be. She achieved worldwide fame with her third album No Secrets which stayed at Number One on the Billboard Top 100 for five weeks, with You’re So Vain receiving three Grammy nominations, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Her 1988 hit Let The River Run from the film Working Girl, made Simon the first artist to win a Grammy Award, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe Award for a song composed, written and performed, entirely by a single artist. Simon has had 28 charting singles.
With her rich alto voice, she was, along with Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt, the essence of the confessional female singer-songwriter sound.
Like King, Mitchell and Ronstadt, Simon had a bit of a messy personal life. Simon married James Taylor in 1972. They no longer speak. Before her marriage to Taylor, Simon was briefly engaged to writer William Donaldson, who left fiancée, actor Sarah Miles for her. Simon married James Hart, a writer, poet and businessman, in 1987 and they divorced in 2007.
Simon underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery for breast cancer in 1997-1998. Simon’s surgery came at the same time as the death of her longtime friend Linda McCartney, who was taken by breast cancer.
In an interview from 2008, Simon says that she was asked to perform in Cyndi Lauper‘s the True Colors Tour:
The part that I could be involved in is the gay and lesbian part. The part that would be hard for me is to commit to a tour, because I’m not very comfortable being onstage. But the part that would be easiest for me would be singing on behalf of all of us. I don’t consider myself to be not gay… I’ve enlarged all of my possibilities. I have a lot of extremely personal stories to tell about that, but we won’t go into that right now. Let’s just say that it just depends upon who I’m with.
In his painfully honest memoir Lucky Jim (2017), Hart tells of meeting Simon while waiting for a commuter train to New York City. He claims that he had no idea who Simon was, that ”he didn’t even listen to pop music”, but he knew that he was deeply attracted to her.
Hart is a former seminarian and Harvard professor. His life growing-up had been a battle, dealing as a kid with an alcoholic, abusive father. He found solace in the Catholic Church. He was an insurance salesman, in treatment as an alcoholic, and a recently divorced dad of an autistic son when he met Simon on that train platform.
Simon grew-up in New York City, the privileged daughter of publishing house Simon & Schuster co-founder Richard Simon. She had led a charmed, glamorous life as a pop star and had love affairs with several other stars, including Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Jagger, Cat Stevens, Jeremy Irons, Kristofferson, film director Terrence Malick, and writer Michael Crichton.
Simon and Hart engaged in a long intense conversation on that train ride in 1986, and they married six months later. For Hart, who writes ”I never felt straighter than when I met Carly”, found himself going from being poor to living a life of privilege, along with financial and emotional support from Simon for his avocation as a writer. Simon thought she met her perfect match in the handsome poet after her messy divorce from Taylor.
But Hart had a deep secret; he was sexually attracted to men, an issue he just couldn’t grapple with. His marriage to Simon began to unravel with an addiction to prescription painkillers and hookups with strange men, eventually turning to crystal meth and crack cocaine as his way to escape. Two decades into his marriage, he had to face the truth: he was a drug addict, he was queer, and he had failed his son.
After their wedding in 1987, Simon and Hart shuttled between homes in Manhattan and Martha’s Vineyard, and played with their famous friends including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Diane Sawyer and Mike Nichols, and William Jefferson Clinton and his charming, ambitious wife Hillary.
Hart also began to frequent gay clubs, bathhouses and chat lines. He threw away more than two decades of sobriety when, while on a hookup, he tried a hit of crack cocaine for the first time. He writes:
The effect was immediate. All pain was washed away… I could feel my salvation.
The very next day, Hart found his own dealer.
One day, he was shocked when, while they were in bed together, Simon said that she thought he might be gay. After months of secret getaways and drug binges, Hart finally admitted everything to his wife.
She didn’t have time for the pain, and first suggested he visit a prostitute, even accompanying him to a brothel, then sent him to a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts for treatment. Simon was there for Hart during therapy sessions.
Sadly, just six months after rehab, Hart relapsed by shooting crystal meth with a guy he met online. Hart:
The desire to escape was more powerful than the cure.
After years of trying to work things out, Simon and Hart divorced in 2007. Soon after, he got sober again, and ended up falling love with his addiction specialist.
Simon now calls Hart a friend, but she also has written that she should have seen the signs earlier. Simon:
His boyfriends would call up here crying.
Luck Jim is a polished, painful, profound memoir. It makes a fine bookend to Simon’s equally revealing memoir, Boys In The Trees (2015), where she opens up about her mostly bleak marriage to Taylor. She seems in a better space with Hart, she even gave a blurb on his book jacket:
Jim weaves his tale between the various seemingly opposing strands of his life… Then there was our magical chance meeting and marriage and life on Martha’s Vineyard; his own struggles as a writer and a harrowing relapse into active alcoholism, and exploration of long-hidden parts of himself. Recovery comes with loss. Time gives and takes away. And Jim’s words chronicle with rare lyricism and wit the feelings that these events evoke.
Simon doesn’t seem to be making music anymore, although she has a guest appearance on the Gorillaz album Humanz (2017).
This autumn, Simon will release a second memoir, Touched By The Sun: My Friendship With Jackie, which recounts her friendship Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, that rare First Lady that didn’t pose nude for a magazine.
My favorite of her albums is Torch (1981). It is difficult to recall now how defiantly uncool it was in 1981 for a rock star of her stature to release an album of standards. Torch, is steeped in blues, and its cover placed her in the dark, wailing with heartache and trying to cling to the arm of the man who was getting away. By contrast, My Romance (1990) her second album of standards conveys a much a lighter, brighter situation.
As I prepared this #BornThisDay piece, her sexy presence makes watching her live videos a treat. Simon remains a timeless vixen, and her music deserves to be played loud and often. Her sex appeal is off the charts, and her vocals play well to housework, gardening and daydreaming.