In 1973, American singer Carly Simon scored the biggest global hit of her career with the release of “You’re So Vain.” That year, the song hit #1 on the U.S. Pop and Adult Contemporary charts and sold over a million copies in the United States alone. “You’re So Vain” is ranked at seventy-two on Billboard’s Greatest Songs of All-Time.
Written and performed by Simon, the hit became her signature song. In it she speaks critically of a self-absorbed lover.
You’re So Vain LyricsYou walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf it was apricot
You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed that they’d be your partner
They’d be your partner, and…. You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this song is about you Don’t you? Don’t you? 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, clouds in my coffee and…. You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you….. Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won
Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, you’re where you should be all of the time
And when you’re not you’re with
Some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend
Wife of a close friend, and…. You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you…..
Since the year of its release, the public has been obsessed with solving the puzzle in the song:
Who exactly is Simon referring to when she asserts in the song, “You’re so vain”?
Is it a lover from her past?
If so, then who is it?
Carly Simon has dated many famous men.
She has turned the speculation into a long-running guessing game, creating an intense media buzz and keeping the spotlight on herself. In countless interviews, she has dropped hints as to whom she is singing about but manages to never reveal his identity. Her ex-husband musician James Taylor, to whom she was married when she recorded the song, is not in the running, she vows.
rocker Mick Jagger (who sings back-up vocals on “You’re So Vain”)
actor Warren Beatty
actor/musician Kris Kristofferson
musician/activist Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam
The strongest contender is Warren Beatty – who actually phoned Simon and thanked her for writing the song about him.
Here is a little bit of what Simon has said:
The Washington Post – 1983
WP: Who was ‘You’re So Vain about? Mick Jagger?
WP: Warren Beatty?
Carly: It certainly sounds like it was about Warren Beatty. He certainly thought it was about him – he called me and said thanks for the song….
WP: You had gone with him?
Carly: Hasn’t everybody?
Carly: That only means you haven’t met him, though at the time I met him he was still relatively undiscovered as a Don Juan. I felt I was one among thousands at that point – it hadn’t reached, you know, the populations of small countries….
CNN – People In The News – 2004
Paula Zahn : Long ago, you once admitted that it could potentially be a composite of a number of men that were dear to you in your life. Whether that be Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty or maybe even a little bit of James Taylor in there?
Carly: Well, I guess for those who are interested in clues – the name of the person it was about had an “E” in it.
PZ: Oh, well thank you…that’s very helpful Carly. That could be Mick, Warren or James. We still have the same three in the pot.
Carly: Maybe I could disclose another letter. OK, it also has an “A”.
PZ: (Laughter) Ok, we’ll be asking you about this for the next thirty years.
Carly: Well listen, two vowels ain’t bad
Regis & Kelly – 2004
Regis : Isnt’ it time for you to tell the world – who’s the guy you’re singing about? Is it Warren Beatty? Is it Mick Jagger? Or is it me? Tell us!
Carly: If I tell it, it’s going to come out in dribs and drabs. And I’ve given out two letters already, and “A” and an “E”. But I’m going to add one to it. I’m going to add an “R”, in honor of you.
(End of Interviews)
An a, an e, and an r – Warren Beatty certainly passes Simon’s letter test – and you can definitely put a checkmark in the vanity column, too. In the New York Times bestseller, Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood, author Suzanne Finstad recalls a 1960 wrap party for the filming of “Splendor in the Grass,” in which Natalie Wood starred opposite newcomer Warren Beatty.
At the party, Director Elie Kazan passed out gag gifts to the cast. He presented Warren Beatty with a hand mirror that said, “Good God, Warren.”
“According to Kazan’s assistant director, Kranze, the mirror was a symbol for Beatty’s vanity during filming. ‘I recall distinctly getting on the set early in the morning and he’s in there before his make-up call….he’s in front of a mirror, a set stage, where the mirror’s right on the stage—and he’s got a straight pin, right? He’s putting that pin into each eyelash, and separating and moving them forward. He’s separating every ___ eyelash! He’s going one by one by one. Oh, my G__, this is six feet of pure ego!'”
Besides, Beatty’s family comes from Nova Scotia, the place mentioned in the song, adding more credence to those who believe Simon wrote the song about him.
In the new book, Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America, author Peter Biskind estimates that Beatty has slept with over 12,000 women.