Carly Simon (2015)
'Still Today Nowhere Close to Being Vain!'
Carly Simon was born into what looks, from a distance, like a charmed life: Her father Richard was the co-founder of Simon & Schuster, the family moved in glamorous circles, and she eventually came to record some of the most personal, poetic and popular songs of our time. But as she makes clear in her new memoir, there have been plenty of tumbles, too.
The book is called Boys in the Trees, and I sat down with the singer and songwriter at a recent press round table to chat about it. I first asked her what had it been like for her to write about what, on the surface, sounds like some rather golden days growing up in New York? "You know, the main reason that I wrote the book was because I had kept diaries for a good part of my life — starting, really, from when I could write, hand write. And I talked about my sisters and my brother and my mother and father, and various people who lived in our apartment building in New York City, which was a six-story building that my father owned. And there was a lot of charm in just living in a big family compound of a house. My two uncles, who were into jazz, lived in the basement, and one of them, Uncle Peter, taught me my first songs on the ukulele."
You and your sister Lucy were the singing Simon Sisters. How did you start singing together? "We started singing together in my junior or senior year of high school. She was already in college, and she got a guitar first and learned some chords, which she taught me on the weekends and holidays when she'd come home. We learned a Harry Belafonte song, a Judy Collins song, a Tarriers song — and also we had a book of folk songs in our house on Martha's Vineyard. We would just look through that book and just gobble it up. We were so happy when we learned more than four chords."
OK, as I only have a few minutes left, let's get this out and into the world, once and for all: Who did you really write about in 'You're So Vain'?! "Well, you know, of all of the things in the book, that's the one thing that I feel most uncomfortable about. I would say it's not not about Warren Beatty. But I can't understand why there's been such intense interest about this over the years and I don't really want to play into that. To me, it's not an issue. It's a kind of a fun riddle."
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