Who Did Carly Simon Write You’re So Vain About

March 19, 2012 by staff 

Who Did Carly Simon Write You’re So Vain About, “You’re So Vain” is a song written and performed by Carly Simon and released in December 1972. The song is a critical profile of a self-absorbed lover; Simon asserts “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.” The subject’s identity has long been the matter of speculation.

The song is ranked at #72 on Billboard’s Greatest Songs of All-Time. “You’re So Vain” was voted #216 in RIAA’s Songs of the Century. It remains Simon’s biggest hit and is considered her signature song.

Before the song became a hit single in 1972 she told an interviewer that the song was about “men,” not a specific “man.”

In 1983, she told the Washington Post that it is not about Mick Jagger, who contributed uncredited backing vocals to the song. However, in a 1993 book Backstage Passes, Angela Bowie claimed to be the “wife of a close friend” mentioned in “You’re So Vain,” and that Jagger, for a time, had been “obsessed” with her. Simon made another comment about the subject’s identity as a guest artist on Janet Jackson’s 2001 single, “Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You),” which sampled “You’re So Vain.” About the song, Simon said, “The apricot scarf was worn by Nick (Nick Nolte). Nothing in the words were referred to Mick.”

In a 1989 interview, Simon acknowledged that the song is a little bit about ”’Warren Beatty”’ but said the subject of the song is a composite of three men from her L.A. days. In a 2007 interview, Beatty said, “Let’s be honest. That song was about me.” Simon has said that Beatty had called and thanked her for the song.

Over the years, Simon has divulged “letter clues”, and has claimed that the subject’s name contains the letters A, E, and R.

Shortly before the writing of the song, Simon was married to James Taylor; she has said that he was “definitely not” the subject of the song. David Bowie, David Cassidy and Cat Stevens have all been cited by the press as speculative candidates. In 2005, Simon’s ex-husband Jim Hart said he was sure that the song was not about anyone famous.

In August 2003, Simon agreed to reveal the name of the song’s subject to the highest bidder of the Martha’s Vineyard Possible Dreams charity auction. With the top bid of $50,000, Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports and a friend of Simon, won the right to know the name of the person “You’re So Vain” was written about. Ebersol was given a private performance of the song at Simon’s home and Simon whispered the name into his ear. A condition of the prize was that Ebersol would not reveal the person to anyone. Ebersol said that Simon allowed him to divulge a clue about the person’s name: “Carly told me that I could offer up to the entire world, a clue as to what she’ll tell me when we have this night in about two weeks. And the clue is: The letter ‘E’ is in the person’s name.” Although Simon at times, had suggested that the subject of the song was a composite of several people, the clue she allowed Ebersol to reveal was a letter in the person’s name, implying the subject is one person.

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