You're So Vain

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"You're So Vain"
Single by Carly Simon
from the album No Secrets
B-side His Friends Are More Than Fond of Robin
Released November 1972
Format 7" single
Recorded Autumn 1972, Trident Studios
Genre Soft rock[1]
Length 4:19
Label Elektra
Writer(s) Carly Simon
Producer(s) Richard Perry
Certification Gold[2]
Carly Simon singles chronology
"Legend in Your Own Time"
(1971)
"You're So Vain"
(1972)
"The Right Thing to Do"/"We Have No Secrets"
(1972)

"You're So Vain" is a song written and performed by Carly Simon and released in November 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 title subject's identity has long been a matter of speculation. The song is memorable for the clever self-reference, an example of metafiction.

The song is ranked at #82 on Billboard's Greatest Songs of All-Time.[3] "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.

Subject of the song[edit]

Before the song became a hit single in 1972 Simon told an interviewer that the song was about "men" not a specific "man".[4]

In 1983, she told The Washington Post that it is not about Mick Jagger, who contributed uncredited backing vocals to the song.[5] 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 (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.[6] In a 2007 interview, Beatty said, "Let's be honest. That song was about me."[7] Simon has said that Beatty had called and thanked her for the song.[5]

Over the years, Simon has divulged "letter clues", and has claimed that the subject's name contains the letters A, E, and R.[5]

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.[5] David Bowie, David Cassidy and Cat Stevens have all been cited by the press as speculative candidates.[8][9][10] In 2005, Simon's ex-husband Jim Hart said he was sure that the song was not about anyone famous.[11]

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."[12] 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.[13]

In 2004, Simon told Regis Philbin, "If I tell it, it's going to come out in dribs and drabs. And I've given out two letters already, an 'A' and an 'E.' But I'm going to add one to it. I'm going to add an 'R,' in honor of you."[5]

Several days after the identity of Watergate-era press source Deep Throat was revealed in May/June 2005, Simon joked to USA Today that the song was about Mark Felt, revealing himself as the source and referring to the 1999 film Dick depicting the scandal that used the song in the ending credits.[6]

On November 4, 2009, while being interviewed on WNYC's Soundcheck, Simon revealed that she had hidden the name of the subject in a certain version of the song. The next day, the program's crew revealed the name concealed in a back-played whisper:[14] David. However, Simon has denied that the whisper was David, saying she has spoken "Ovid" both forwards and backwards, and that sounded like David.[6]

On June 19, 2008, Howard Stern claimed Simon privately revealed whom the song was written about to him after her interview on his popular radio show heard on Sirius Satellite Radio. Stern commented, "There is an odd aspect to it ... he's not that vain." On March 17, 2009 on his Sirius Satellite Radio program, Stern, recalling that Simon had told him whom the song was written about, claimed that Simon said it was a "composite of three people".

In her 2008 book, Girls Like Us, author Sheila Weller includes a detailed account of Simon's love affair with musician Dan Armstrong, and suggests that he was the inspiration for "You're So Vain". Simon dated Armstrong for about two years, the relationship ending around the time the song was released. Simon attempted to reconnect with him at different points and places over the years. Weller writes that Armstrong had a boastful personality, once claiming to be the only electric guitar specialist in the world. But, his name doesn't contain the letter E. Simon's husband, Jim Hart, has been quoted as saying that the subject of the song was not someone famous.[15]

In February 2010, Simon told Uncut that the name of the subject was whispered backwards in a re-recording of "You're So Vain": "There's a little whisper -- and it's the answer to the puzzle."[16][17] A representative for Simon confirmed that the name whispered during the song is "David".[16] Multiple media outlets quickly reported that the subject was actually Simon's former boss at Elektra, David Geffen, and that the song had been inspired by her jealousy of the attention Geffen had lavished on label-mate Joni Mitchell.[18][19] The following day, Jim Hart, Simon's ex-husband and close friend, denied that the song was about Geffen.[4] Simon's publicist confirmed that the song was not about Geffen, but that there was indeed "a David who is connected to the song in some way, shape, or form,"[4] and Simon noted that when she first wrote the song in 1971, she had not even met David Geffen yet.[20] Vanity Fair noted that in addition to "David", "Warren" and an unintelligible name are whispered during the recording.[21]

After her performance of the song with Simon in July 2013, Taylor Swift revealed that Simon had revealed the identity of the song's subject to her in confidence.[22]

References in the song[edit]

  • Two solar eclipses ("Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun") were visible from Nova Scotia in the early 1970s, on March 7, 1970,[23] and July 10, 1972.[24] Simon claims she wrote the song in 1971, so it is likely that she is referring to the 1970 eclipse.
  • The line "I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won," refers to the Saratoga Race Course horse racing season held in late July, August, and early September in Saratoga Springs, New York. The season is frequented by the rich and famous of New York and other cities on the East Coast.[25]

Covers and adaptations[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

The song was a number-one hit in the US, Canada and Australia and reached number four in South Africa.[28] Bowing at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 2 December 1972, the song took only five more weeks to rocket to the top of the chart, where it stayed for the first three weeks of 1973, also spending two weeks at the top of the Easy Listening chart in early 1973, her first number one on either chart. "You're So Vain" was Simon's breakthrough hit in the United Kingdom, reaching number three on the UK chart on its original release in 1973. The song was re-released in the UK in 1991 to cash in on its inclusion in a commercial for Dunlop Tyres, peaking at number 41.

Preceded by
"Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul
US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
January 6, 1973 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Superstition" by Stevie Wonder
Preceded by
"Clair" by Gilbert O'Sullivan
Canadian RPM number-one single
January 27, 1973 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Last Song" by Edward Bear

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ xfinity - Soft Rock Stars
  2. ^ RIAA (2010-02-28). "RIAA - Gold & Platinum - February 28, 2010". RIAA. Retrieved 2010-02-28.  (table of RIAA certifications for artist Carly Simon in format SINGLE)
  3. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 Chart 50th Anniversary". Billboard.com. 1994-05-21. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  4. ^ a b c Vanity Fair article: "Fun and Games With the David Geffen Rumor About Carly Simon's "You're So Vain"".
  5. ^ a b c d e Carly Simon's official website - You're So Vain. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c "Carly Simon Webpage about "You're So Vain"". Carlysimon.com. 2003-08-05. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  7. ^ Scoop: Fur Flies Between PETA, Karl Rove at the Wayback Machine (archived September 10, 2007)
  8. ^ NJ.com article: "'You're So Vain': Carly Simon reveals mystery man".
  9. ^ New York Daily News article: "Chinese whisper: New recording of Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain' offers up 'David' as inspiration."
  10. ^ CNN article: "Carly Simon reveals 'You're So Vain' clue".
  11. ^ Gavin Edwards, Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton's Little John? (2006)
  12. ^ Dick Ebersol on NBC's Today Show — August 5, 2003.
  13. ^ USA Today article: "Carly Simon gives away who is 'So Vain'".
  14. ^ WNYC Souncheck Webcast. November 5, 2009.
  15. ^ Sheila Weller. Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon & the Journey of a Generation, Simon & Schuster. 2008: ISBN 978-0-7434-9147-1
  16. ^ a b The Washington Post article: "Names and faces: Carly Simon, Mark and Jenny Sanford, Seth Green, Stevie Wonder."
  17. ^ Barish, Stephanie (February 26, 2010). "Carly Simon Reveals Identity of the Man Behind "You're So Vain"". wpix.com. Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
  18. ^ "Carly Simon Reveals Subject of 'You're So Vain'?". Spinner. 2010-02-26. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  19. ^ "Carly Simon: 'You're So Vain' about David Geffen". Chicago Sun-Times. February 26, 2010. [dead link]
  20. ^ "Carly Simon Refutes Theory That "So Vain" Target Is David Geffen". Rolling Stone, March 1, 2010.
  21. ^ Weiner, Juli (February 26, 2010). "Update: Everyone Owes David Geffen an Apology". VF Daily (Vanity Fair). 
  22. ^ "Taylor Swift and Carly Simon: You're So Vain". YouTube. 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  23. ^ "USA - 1970 March 7 Total Solar Eclipse - Interactive Google Map (Full Screen) - Xavier Jubier". Xjubier.free.fr. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  24. ^ "Canada - 1972 July 10 Total Solar Eclipse - Interactive Google Map (Full Screen) - Xavier Jubier". Xjubier.free.fr. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  25. ^ Gatto, Kimberly (2011). Saratoga Race Course: The August Place to Be. The History Press. ISBN 978-1609491048. 
  26. ^ Makarechi, Kia (March 19, 2012). "Johnny Depp, Marilyn Manson Team Up For 'You're So Vain' Cover". HuffPost Entertainment (The Huffington Post). Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  27. ^ "Twitter / CarlySimonHQ: Carly Simon and Taylor Swift". Twitter.com. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  28. ^ http://rock.co.za/files/springbok_top_20_(S).html Retrieved 7 April 2014

External links[edit]