You're So Vain

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"You're So Vain"
Carly Simon - You're So Vain.jpg
Single by Carly Simon
from the album No Secrets
B-side"His Friends Are More Than Fond of Robin"
ReleasedNovember 8, 1972
Format7" single
Recorded1972, Trident Studios
GenrePop, soft rock[1]
Songwriter(s)Carly Simon
Producer(s)Richard Perry[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 in 1971 by Carly Simon and released in November 1972. It is one of the songs that Simon is most identified with, and upon its release, reached number 1 in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The song is ranked at number 92 on Billboard's Greatest Songs of All-Time.[3] "You're So Vain" was voted number 216 in RIAA's Songs of the Century, and in August 2014, the UK's Official Charts Company crowned it the ultimate song of the 1970s.[4]

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, with Simon stating that the song refers to three men, only one of whom she has named publicly, actor Warren Beatty.[5]

The distinctive bass guitar intro is played by Klaus Voormann.[6] The strings were arranged by Simon and orchestrated by Paul Buckmaster. Simon plays piano on the track.

Origin and subject of the song[edit]

Long before Simon recorded what would be known as "You're So Vain", the song was entitled "Bless You, Ben". The first words were: "Bless you, Ben. You came in when nobody else left off." Simon felt dissatisfied with the lyrics and put the song away until she attended a party one night where a famous guest appeared. A friend told Simon the male guest entered as if he was "walking onto a yacht". Simon incorporated the words into the melody of "Bless You, Ben" as she was composing on her piano, and the song took on a whole new meaning.

When Simon says "Son of a gun" after the distinctive bass riff, it is in response to the bass player, Klaus Voormann.

Before the song became a hit single in 1972, Simon told an interviewer that the song was about "men", not a specific "man".[7]

In 1983, she said the song was not about Mick Jagger,[8] who contributed uncredited backing vocals to it.[9] In a 1993 book, Angie 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.[10] 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 referred to Nick."

Over the years Simon has divulged "letter clues" and has claimed that the subject's name contains the letters A, E, and R.[11]

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.[12] David Bowie, David Cassidy and Cat Stevens have all been cited by the press as speculative candidates.[13][14][15]

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 subject of "You're So Vain". A condition of the prize was that Ebersol not reveal the name.[16] Ebersol said 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."[17]

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."[11]

In 2005 Simon's ex-husband Jim Hart said he was sure that the song was not about anyone famous.[18]

In a 2007 interview, Warren Beatty said, "Let's be honest. That song was about me."[19] Simon had said in 1983 that Beatty "certainly thought it was about him—he called me and said thanks for the song..."[8] In an interview for the 1978/1982 version of The History of Rock and Roll radio series, producer Richard Perry acknowledges that Simon was essentially referring to Beatty while also evoking other previous relationships in her life.[citation needed]

On June 19, 2008, Howard Stern stated 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 stated that she had said it was a "composite of three people." Stern repeated this on May 5, 2014, stating, "She takes me aside, pulls me close, whispers in my ear... three names. She goes, it wasn't one person, it was three people."[20] Simon herself confirmed that Stern was among "a few people" that she had given the names to.[21]

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". Her heartbreak over eventually losing him inspired the song "Dan, My Fling", which appears on her first album.[22] Armstrong's full name, Daniel Kent Armstrong, contains all three letters of Simon's clue.

On November 4, 2009, Simon said 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:[23] David. Simon denied that the whisper was "David," saying she had spoken "Ovid" both forwards and backwards, and that sounded like David.[24] In February 2010, Simon reiterated that the name of the subject was whispered in a re-recording of "You're So Vain": "There's a little whisper—and it's the answer to the puzzle."[25] A representative for Simon confirmed that the name whispered during the song is "David".[25] Multiple media outlets then speculated that the subject was Simon's former boss at Elektra, David Geffen.[26] The following day Jim Hart, Simon's ex-husband and close friend, denied that the song was about Geffen.[7] Simon said that when she wrote the song in 1971, she had not yet met Geffen.[27] Simon's publicist also confirmed 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".[7] Vanity Fair noted that in addition to "David", "Warren" and an unintelligible name are whispered during the recording.[28]

After her live performance of the song with Simon in July 2013, Taylor Swift stated that Simon had revealed the identity of the song's subject to her in confidence.[29]

In November 2015, Simon, promoting her about-to-be-published memoir, said, "I have confirmed that the second verse is Warren (Beatty)" and added that while "Warren thinks the whole thing is about him," he is the subject of that verse only, with the remainder of the song referring to two other, still unnamed men.[5]

Mick Jagger[edit]

Mick Jagger contributed uncredited backing vocals for the song. When asked how this collaboration occurred, Simon said:

"He happened to call at the studio. … I said 'We’re doing some backup vocals on a song of mine, why don’t you come down and sing with us?'"[30]

References in the song[edit]

  • Gavotte—used in the line "You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte"—is a French dance. In this context it can be taken to mean moving in a pretentious manner.[31]
  • Simon said the line "clouds in my coffee" came "from an airplane flight that I took with Billy Mernit, who was my friend and piano player at the time. As I got my coffee, there were clouds outside the window of the airplane and you could see the reflection in the cup of coffee. Billy said to me, 'Look at the clouds in your coffee'."[32]
  • 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.[33]
  • The line "Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun" could refer to either of two solar eclipses visible from Nova Scotia in the early 1970s, on March 7, 1970,[34] and July 10, 1972.[35] Simon said she wrote the song in 1971, but the 1972 eclipse (which could only be seen in Nova Scotia as opposed to the 1970 eclipse which traversed the entire East Coast, and also happened during the Saratoga racing season) better fits the narrative.

Chart performance[edit]

The song was a number-one hit in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. and reached number four in Ireland and South Africa.[36] Entering at number 99 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 2 December 1972, the song took five more weeks to rise to the top of the chart, where it stayed for the first three weeks of 1973. It was replaced by Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and spent the next month in the runner-up spot. It also spent 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.


Grammy Awards[52]

Year Nominee / 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. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-11. Retrieved 2013-11-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Savage, Mark (5 May 2017). "You're So Vain's 'lost' verse premiered". Retrieved 6 June 2018 – via
  3. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 Chart 50th Anniversary". 1994-05-21. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  4. ^ Myers, Justin (2014-08-23). "Official Charts Pop Gem #70: Carly Simon – You're So Vain". Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  5. ^ a b Dowd, Kathy Erich; Hubbard, Kim (November 18, 2015). "People Exclusive: Carly Simon Says 'You're So Vain' Is About Warren Beatty – Well, Only the Second Verse: 'He Thinks the Whole Thing Is About Him!'". People. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  6. ^ "Klaus Voormann : Biography". 1971-08-01. Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
  7. ^ a b c Weller, Sheila (February 27, 2010). "Fun and Games With the David Geffen Rumor About Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain'". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 2011-06-14.
  8. ^ a b Wadler, Joyce (October 30, 1983). "Carly Simon: Anxiety &". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2015-11-18. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  9. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "Carly Simon Biography". Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  10. ^ Backstage Passes
  11. ^ a b "Regis & Kelly 2004 – Carly Simon talks about You're So Vain". YouTube. 2012-09-08. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  12. ^ "James Taylor and Carly Simon: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone. 1973-01-04. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  13. ^ "'You're So Vain': Carly Simon reveals mystery man". 2010-02-27. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  14. ^ Roberts, Soraya (2010-02-27). "Carly Simon's new 'You're So Vain' whispers clue". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  15. ^ Ninette Sosa. "Carly Simon reveals 'You're So Vain' clue". Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  16. ^ "Carly Simon gives away who is 'So Vain'". USA Today. Associated Press. August 5, 2003. Archived from the original on 2015-02-16.
  17. ^ Ebersol on NBC's Today, August 5, 2003.
  18. ^ "I've heard a million different stories—who was Carly Simon actually singing about in "You're So Vain"?". Rule Forty Two. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-10. Retrieved 2007-04-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  20. ^ Stern, Howard (host) (May 20, 2014). Howard Stern Show. Sirius XM Radio.
  21. ^ "Carly Simon: You're So Vain is about Beatty and two others". BBC. 2015-11-19. Retrieved 2017-08-31.
  22. ^ 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
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-10-20. Retrieved 2009-11-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ "Carly Simon Now Saying 'You're So Vain' is about Dead Classical Poet". Carly Simon Now Saying 'You're So Vain' is about Dead Classical Poet, by Jessica Pressler, Daily Intelligencer, March 12, 2010
  25. ^ a b Simon in Uncut magazine interview, as reported by Newhall, Marissa (February 27, 2010). "Names and faces: Carly Simon, Mark and Jenny Sanford, Seth Green, Stevie Wonder > A vain hunt for 'David'". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2015-11-18. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  26. ^ "Carly Simon Reveals Subject of 'You're So Vain'?". February 26, 2010. Archived from the original on 2013-08-09. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  27. ^ Kreps, Daniel (March 1, 2010). "Carly Simon Refutes Theory That 'So Vain' Target Is David Geffen". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2015-05-04. Retrieved 2015-11-15.
  28. ^ Weiner, Juli (February 26, 2010). "Update: Everyone Owes David Geffen an Apology". VF Daily. Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 2010-02-28.
  29. ^ "Taylor Swift and Carly Simon: You're So Vain". YouTube. 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  30. ^ "When Carly Simon and Mick Jagger Topped the Charts With "You're So Vain"". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved September 30, 2019.
  31. ^ Chagollan, Steve (April 9, 2012). "Deconstructing Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain'". Variety. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  32. ^ "You're So Vain". Carly Simon official website. Archived from the original on 2012-09-11.
  33. ^ Gatto, Kimberly (2011). Saratoga Race Course: The August Place to Be. The History Press. ISBN 978-1609491048.
  34. ^ "USA – 1970 March 7 Total Solar Eclipse – Interactive Google Map (Full Screen) – Xavier Jubier". Retrieved 2009-08-17.
  35. ^ "Canada – 1972 July 10 Total Solar Eclipse – Interactive Google Map (Full Screen) – Xavier Jubier". Retrieved 2009-08-17.
  36. ^ Brian Currin. "South African Rock Lists Website – SA Charts 1965 – 1989 Acts (S)". Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  37. ^ "Australian Weekly Single Ccharts (David Kent) for 1973". Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  38. ^ a b c "Carly Simon – You're So Vain" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50 Flanders. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
  39. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 4266." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  40. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 4279." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  41. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – You're So Vain". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  42. ^ Hung, Steffen. " - Forum - 1973 Chart (General)". Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  43. ^ "SA Charts 1965 - 1989 Songs W-Z". South African Rock Lists. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  44. ^ "Carly Simon". The Official Chart Company. Retrieved 2013-06-06.
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  47. ^ Steffen Hung. "Forum – 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Archived from the original on 2016-06-02. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  48. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (July 8, 2017). "Image : RPM Weekly".
  49. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1973/Top 100 Songs of 1973". Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  50. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles – 1973". Archived from the original on 2015-01-11. Retrieved 2016-11-09.
  51. ^ "Hot 100 turns 60". Billboard. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  52. ^ Recording Academy - Grammy Awards (

External links[edit]