Carly Simon Still Milking Mystery Of “You’re So Vain”

I really can’t blame any artist for doing whatever it takes to keep their material in the public eye as long as they possibly can. If you’ve got some kind of marketing gimmick to keep people talking about your song beyond it’s musical merits, I can certainly understand the impulse to use it. But in doing so, the artist needs to be aware that it can smack of desperation and ultimately reflect badly on their artistic integrity.

The most famous example of this is Don McLean milking the “mystery” of the subjects he described in the song “American Pie”. For over 40 years people with too much time on their hands have speculated who these characters were in real life, with several websites devoted to the topic. Over the years McLean shrewdly encouraged the speculation, occasionally dropping hints or red herrings to keep the speculation going.

A close second for this kind of “mystery” song marketing gimmickry has got to be Carly Simon’s 1972 hit “You’re So Vain”. She knowingly exploited the “mystery” of the subject of her lyrics when she sang “I bet you think this song is about you”. Over the years people speculated that the song was about Warren Beatty, or Mick Jagger, or David Bowie, or David Geffen, or somebody else. In 2011 Simon released an interesting remake of the song (below) to keep the “mystery” active.

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In 2015 she partly fessed-up and told USA Today that the second verse was definitely about Warren Beatty, but that the first and third verses were about other men, or another man. She has also thrown out ridiculous letter clues as to the identity of the other subject(s), saying that their name(s) included the letters A, E and R. I guess this is the point where Rock meets Wheel of Fortune.

Well over the weekend Simon was at it again, revealing and performing a fourth, “lost” verse to the song. It goes like this:

A friend of yours revealed to me that you’d loved me all the time
Kept it secret from your wives, you believed it was no crime
You called me once to ask me things I couldn’t quite divine
Maybe that’s why I have tried to dismiss you, tried to dismiss you
And you’re so vain

The new lyrics don’t really shed much light on the old “mystery”. But they do have people talking about this song again. Pretty shrewd, Carly.

Photo credit: By Elektra/Pam Frank (Original owned by uploader) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One comment to “Carly Simon Still Milking Mystery Of “You’re So Vain””
  1. I’m laughing at this Rich.
    You wrote well about these singers and their ‘milking’ the so-called mystery of who’s who.
    What’s funny is some of these bores take themselves so seriously.
    Yet when one reads about rock/pop stars, from the 60’s and 70’s, we see how much sex was going on left and right.
    Take a look at David McGowan’s book about the Laurel Canyon scene with the bands and singers there.
    Who didn’t get laid and lay?
    Can you dig what I’m saying?
    And, we don’t even mention a lot of British band guys,
    Or even Mick Jagger, which girl singer didn’t he lay?
    Anyway, it’s fun to read about, have a good day, Rich,

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