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"
"You're So Vain"
"The Right Thing to Do"

"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 about whom 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 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. And on August 23, 2014, the U.K. Official Charts Company crowned it the ultimate song of the 1970s.[4] It remains Simon's biggest hit and is considered her signature song.

The distinctive bass guitar intro is played by Klaus Voormann[5] and the strings were arranged and orchestrated by Paul Buckmaster.

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".[6]

In 1983, she told The Washington Post that it is not about Mick Jagger, who contributed uncredited backing vocals to the song.[7] 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". Simon said about the song, "The apricot scarf was worn by Nick (Delbanco). 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 days in Los Angeles.[8] In a 2007 interview Beatty said, "Let's be honest. That song was about me."[9] Simon has said that Beatty had called and thanked her for the song.[7]

Over the years Simon has divulged "letter clues" and has claimed that the subject's name contains the letters A, E, and R.[7]

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.[7] David Bowie, David Cassidy and Cat Stevens have all been cited by the press as speculative candidates.[10][11][12]

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."[13] 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.[14]

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."[7][15]

In 2005 Simon's ex-husband Jim Hart said he was sure that the song was not about anyone famous.[16] 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.[8]

On June 19, 2008 Howard Stern claimed that Simon had privately revealed to him about whom the song was written after her interview on his popular radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio. Stern commented, "There is an odd aspect to it ... he's not that vain." On March 17, 2009, Stern claimed that she had said it was a "composite of three people". Stern repeated this on May 5, 2014 claiming, "she takes me aside, pulls me close, whispers in my ear.. three names. She goes, it wasn't one person, it was three people." Stern thought that one of the names was Warren Beatty and another might be David Geffen, but said that he "forgot."[17][citation needed]

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 and Armstrong crossed paths while performing in nightclubs, and formally met in 1968, when she brought her guitar in to be fixed in Armstrong's guitar repair shop. Initially, Simon seemed to have little in common with Armstrong, a married father of five and ten years her senior. And his working class roots were several levels below her on the social scale. Although Simon described him as an arrogant, opinionated Neanderthal, she found him to be overwhelmingly handsome and very gifted musically. Armstrong found her attractive and sufficiently talented but always played it cool and didn't come on too much. This of course only made Simon only more intrigued. After a few months of flirting, and a final separation from his wife, the couple started dating.

In his 2012 biography, More Room in a Broken Heart, author and music journalist Stephen Davis claims that Simon and Armstrong had sexual chemistry so intense that Simon, who called herself, "naive" at the time, became experimental, having sex on dares, in cars, parks and in other public places.[18] Although both were busy with their new careers, Simon made herself more available in the relationship. And Armstrong, like many others in their circle, harbored a bit of resentment for Simon's air of privilege. Despite their differences, the couple dated for nearly two years, until Simon began growing distant. She started spending a lot of time with friend songwriter Jacob Brackman and moved into her own apartment. Armstrong, who was used to having the upper hand in their relationship, was surprised when Simon broke things off. But he handled it well and moved to Los Angeles to start up a new business. Simon did not handle the breakup well at all, feeling immediately regretful and trying unsuccessfully to make up with Armstrong. Her heartbreak over losing him inspired the song, "Dan, My Fling," which appears on her first album. For the next year, Simon tried to reconnect with Armstrong but got no response. Simon even flew out to Los Angeles a few times while Armstrong was there, making it possible that he was, as the song lyrics go, the man who "walked into the party." Over the years, Simon continued reaching out to Armstrong at different points and places, but he had moved on. Simon claimed to have unrequited love for Armstrong for many years. Sheila Weller writes that Armstrong had a cocky, boastful personality, once claiming to be the first and only electric guitar specialist in the world. He was also quoted as saying that he "just plain owned New York at the time."[19] Armstrong's full name, Daniel Kent Armstrong, contains all three letters of Simon's clue.

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:[20] David. However, Simon has denied that the whisper was David, saying she has spoken "Ovid" both forwards and backwards, and that sounded like David.[8]

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."[21][22] A representative for Simon confirmed that the name whispered during the song is "David".[21] 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.[23][24][25] The following day Jim Hart, Simon's ex-husband and close friend, denied that the song was about Geffen.[6] 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,"[6] and Simon noted that when she first wrote the song in 1971, she had not even met David Geffen yet.[26] Vanity Fair noted that in addition to "David", "Warren" and an unintelligible name are whispered during the recording.[27]

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.[28][citation needed]

On Carly Simon's official website, she denies that the subject is Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger, James Taylor or David Geffen. The letter clues she gave rule out Kris Kristofferson and Cat Stevens.[8]

Music video[edit]

No music video existed for this song until the early 2010s; the video didn't hit the YouTube website until mid-2011.

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,[29] and July 10, 1972.[30] 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 East Coast cities.[31]

Covers and adaptations[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly singles charts[edit]

Chart (1973) Peak
Australia (ARIA Charts) 1
Canada (RPM Charts) 1
Ireland (IRE Charts)[36] 4
UK (Official Chart Company)[37] 3
US Billboard Pop Singles (Hot 100) 1
US Billboard Adult Contemporary 1

End of year charts[edit]

End of year chart (1973) Position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 [38] 9
U.S. Cash Box Top 100 [39] 7

The song was a number-one hit in the US, Canada and Australia and reached number four in Ireland and South Africa.[40] 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


Year Recipient / Nominated work Award Result
1974 "You're So Vain" Record of the Year Nominated
Song of the Year Nominated
Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
2004 Grammy Hall of Fame Award Inducted

See also[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". 1994-05-21. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Klaus Voormann : Biography". 1971-08-01. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  6. ^ a b c Vanity Fair article: "Fun and Games With the David Geffen Rumor About Carly Simon's "You're So Vain"".
  7. ^ a b c d e Carly Simon's official website - You're So Vain. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
  8. ^ a b c d "Carly Simon Webpage about "You're So Vain"". 2003-08-05. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  9. ^ Scoop: Fur Flies Between PETA, Karl Rove at the Wayback Machine (archived September 10, 2007)
  10. ^ article: "'You're So Vain': Carly Simon reveals mystery man".
  11. ^ New York Daily News article: "Chinese whisper: New recording of Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain' offers up 'David' as inspiration."
  12. ^ CNN article: "Carly Simon reveals 'You're So Vain' clue".
  13. ^ Dick Ebersol on NBC's Today Show — August 5, 2003.
  14. ^ USA Today article: "Carly Simon gives away who is 'So Vain'".
  15. ^ Carly Simon reveals third letter to Regis
  16. ^ Gavin Edwards, Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton's Little John? (2006)
  17. ^ Stern, Howard (host) (May 20, 2014). Howard Stern Show. Sirius XM Radio. 
  18. ^ Stephen Davis. More Room in a Broken Heart: The True Adventures of Carly Simon. Gotham, 2012
  19. ^ 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
  20. ^ WNYC Souncheck Webcast. November 5, 2009.
  21. ^ a b The Washington Post article: "Names and faces: Carly Simon, Mark and Jenny Sanford, Seth Green, Stevie Wonder."
  22. ^ Barish, Stephanie (February 26, 2010). "Carly Simon Reveals Identity of the Man Behind "You're So Vain"". Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
  23. ^ "Carly Simon Reveals Subject of 'You're So Vain'?". Spinner. 2010-02-26. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  24. ^ "Carly Simon: 'You're So Vain' about David Geffen". Chicago Sun-Times. February 26, 2010. [dead link]
  25. ^ "Carly Simon finally reveals the subject of You're So Vain... record producer David Geffen". Daily Mail. 2010-02-26. Retrieved 2015-05-22. 
  26. ^ "Carly Simon Refutes Theory That "So Vain" Target Is David Geffen". Rolling Stone, March 1, 2010.
  27. ^ Weiner, Juli (February 26, 2010). "Update: Everyone Owes David Geffen an Apology". VF Daily (Vanity Fair). 
  28. ^ "Taylor Swift and Carly Simon: You're So Vain". YouTube. 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  29. ^ "USA - 1970 March 7 Total Solar Eclipse - Interactive Google Map (Full Screen) - Xavier Jubier". Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  30. ^ "Canada - 1972 July 10 Total Solar Eclipse - Interactive Google Map (Full Screen) - Xavier Jubier". Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  31. ^ Gatto, Kimberly (2011). Saratoga Race Course: The August Place to Be. The History Press. ISBN 978-1609491048. 
  32. ^ 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. 
  33. ^ "Twitter / CarlySimonHQ: Carly Simon and Taylor Swift". Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ Jaclyn Ward - Fireball Media Group - "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  37. ^ "Carly Simon". The Official Chart Company. Retrieved 2013-06-06. 
  38. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 chart for 1973
  39. ^ The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1973
  40. ^ Retrieved 7 April 2014

External links[edit]