Prior to singing with the Simon Sisters, beginning at the beginning of my life, things were fairly quiet. Lucy, Joey and I sang throughout our childhood's, first in Greenwich Village (where I was kicked out of family choir for being obstreperous and willful), and then at our lovely homes in Riverdale, NY and Stamford, Connecticut. We sang as a trio, and then Lucy and I began singing in earnest, and on our own.
Lucy and I taught ourselves guitar (three chords each) and hitchhiked up to Provincetown, MA in the summer of '64. We sang at a local bar called The Moors. Our repertoire consisted of folk music, peppered with a few of our own brand new compositions - the most famous and delightful of which was my sister's musical interpretation of Eugene Field's Wynken, Blinken and Nod.
We were signed to our first recording deal (Kapp Records) that year and Harold Leventhal and Charlie Close became our managers. We played the Bitter End and the Gaslight clubs in Greenwich Village, opening for Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Dick Cavett and other soon-to-be-famous people. We wore matching dresses and caught the train, very late at night, back to our schools in the private sector.
Fancy schools. Quiet campuses, where dorm mothers frowned upon our late night arrivals and professors thought even less of overdue papers. I left school after a few years and went to live with my boyfriend in the south of France. While there, I had the first of many nervous breakdowns, brought on by an allergy to the local wine. My sister had had enough of my nerves and got married to a psychiatrist and had a child, Julie. About her I wrote Julie Through The Glass, which I later performed on my album Anticipation - but I won't go there quite yet.
Once Lucy was married, I got involved with manager Albert Grossman. Without my dear sister's protection, I was a sitting duck. He offered me his body in exchange for worldly success. Sadly, his body was not the kind you would easily sell yourself for. My record, produced by Bob Johnson was shelved - which was a shame because it was actually quite good.
When this didn't work, Albert got Bob Dylan to re-write an Eric VonSchmidt song for me, called Baby Let Me Follow You Down. It was good - funky. I was backed by Robbie Robertson, Paul Griffin, Mike Bloomfield and Levon Helm. But that ended up on the shelf too. Then followed another attempt at commerciality, in which Grossman teamed me up with Richie Havens - as Carly and The Deacon - but the team never made it into the studio. After this I fell into silence for another few years.
During that time, I worked as an overweight secretary in the offices of a production company. I pretended to type and take shorthand while extending my luncheon breaks to drown my sense of failure in more and more puff pastry and puddings. There was a very nice man working for the production company named Len Friedlander. His wife had been a great childhood friend of mine. He thought I would be a fine girl to take care of the talent on one of the shows they were launching called From the Bitter End. I took care of Marvin Gaye and Redd Foxx and the Staple Singers and the Chad Mitchell Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary. I brought them tea and honey and didn't try to sell them my songs. However, I did go for a term to Julliard School of Music around that time to learn how to notate music. (I have since lost this skill---sadly).
I was writing songs. I wanted to be able to send them to singers in hopes that I could make some money from the publishing. I won't say that I was poor, because it is well known that my family had money, but my mother (my father died in 1960) had a strict attitude about allowances (none), and the relatively small sum of money I inherited when I was 21 was spent in three years on the psychiatrist I saw about that wine-allergy-induced nervous breakdown. I sent my four or five songs to Dionne Warwick (I had met her on the plane coming back from France the year I lived with my boyfriend, just as Walk On By was about to be released), Cass Elliot, Burt Bacharach, and Judy Collins. I never heard from any one of them until years later, but never on the issue of my songs.
In 1968 (ish) I left the TV production company and got a job as the lead girl singer for the band Elephant's Memory. In that I have a poor memory for dates, I don't remember like the good elephant that I purported to be. In fact I don't remember much about it at all, except that no-one liked each other very much, and the trombone and sax player were very good, and someone's name was Stan and someone else's name was Myron and there was a Rick and a Richie. I hated the gigs. We played clubs where everyone smoked dope and cigarettes at the same time. The sound systems were so dreadful I lost my voice easily and regularly, and after a summer I quit. They then became John and Yoko's band for a while.
After this experience, I moved to Murray Hill in NYC, which was the first apartment I had on my own. My mother came down and installed serious locks on the doors but I still had a hard time sleeping alone and so I never did. It was 1969 and there was no reason to. Somewhere in 1968 I dated Milos Forman. He put me in his movie Taking Off starring Buck Henry. I was appalled when I saw it. I looked so gooney and gawky singing Long Term Physical Effects. I suspect I had a certain energy that he liked. It wasn't a big part at all. The movie was about a series of people doing auditions. I was one of them.
The same year I went to be a counselor at a summer camp and met Jacob Brackman, who became my best friend. When I moved to my apartment on 35th St. (Murray Hill), Jake lived around the corner and we were inseparable, sharing our social lives. He introduced me to so many of the friends I still have. One night there was a man at his house, the husband of actress Janet Margolin. This man, Jerry Brandt, offered to be my manager. I accepted. As soon as I'd made a demo (a fairly unmemorable experience, with a fairly unremarkable result), Jerry took it around to record companies. The first stop was Clive Davis at Columbia who apparently rejected it out of hand. Jac Holzman, at Elektra, was more positive, however, and even though his whole staff had vetoed signing me, he was willing to override them. I was signed in 1970.
Thinking I wasn't much of a writer, Jac was hoping to join me with some of the great writers of the day. I remember Tim Buckley and Paul Siebert. He introduced me to Eddie Kramer. We began production on my first solo album in the summer of 1970. By the fall, I was mixing it alone. Eddie and I had had a falling out over the drum sound on That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be and he walked out. Jerry Brandt also went on to do things other than manage me.
Then started a long run of hits, marriage, motherhood, stability, success and fortune. Not much is ever written about those things. However, on my way to these stellar years, there were critical moments: April 6, 1971 I opened for Cat Stevens at the Troubadour. Elektra put roses on everyone's table (from me). They made a big deal about me. James Taylor was in the audience. He came backstage. That was our first meeting. Around this time I also met Arlyne Rothberg who became my guiding force for 13 years. She was a very great manager and we have remained close friends always.
That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be was a sleeper and became a respectable hit in the summer of '71. I went to London to record with Paul Samwell-Smith a few months later. We made Anticipation. It was one of the best memories I shall ever have of recording. I had a band. The entire album was just that band (Andy Newmark, Jimmy Ryan, Paul Glanz) and myself. Cat Stevens did some vocals and there were strings on a few songs, but on the whole it was sparse and I loved it. Anticipation was a hit and then back to England to make No Secrets with Richard Perry in 1972.
There are all together too many stories around this time. The mind boggles. I got married to James Taylor. Next album was in L.A. and N.Y. with Richard again. Hotcakes. Sally was born just when Mockingbird was released (Jan 7, 1974). Then came Haven't Got Time For The Pain. I thought I would never record again due to the demanding and precious little sweet Sally I was taking care of (in the jolliest possible way) and so I was talked into selling my song Anticipation to Heinz Ketchup for a commercial. I wasn't at all displeased with the results. It was well done, and funny.
That same year I was back in the studio with Richard Perry in Los Angeles, recording my fourth album, Playing Possum. Not that much time had elapsed since I had decided that I would never be recording again. A photo session with Norman Seeff produced the cover of Playing Possum which was roundly thought to be obscene and tasteless. New mother, what could I be thinking?
Recorded the album Another Passenger with Ted Templeman. First association with Michael McDonald (then of the Doobie Brothers), I recorded It Keeps You Runnin. We lived in the house on Rockingham Drive that was to become famous twenty years later as the house that O.J. Simpson lived in. It was eerie to watch his Bronco pull into my driveway that day those many years later.
One snowy day in late '76 Marvin Hamlisch called and asked if I would listen to a song he and Carole Bayer Sager had written for the new James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. It had been a lifelong dream of mine to sing a song for a movie. I had done this many times as a young girl with only a mirror recording my movements. So often what you do in the mirror as a small person creates an image that comes to fruition. I also had descriptive, imaginative fantasies about being a spy, which works well into my theory. As an adult, I own several trench coats and have a pocket flashlight that doubles as a moisturizer.
In early '77 Ben was born (Jan. 22, 77). We took him to LA.. when he was a few months old. James recorded the album J.T. and I worked with Richard Perry on Nobody Does It Better. The movie (The Spy Who Loved Me) came out in the summer of that year. There was a huge blackout in the Northeast the day of the screening. As Roger Moore was drifting to Alpine earth, attached to a parachute, he fell more and more slowly and my voice in the soundtrack got lower and slower and then there was nothing. No Roger. No me. No lights in the theater.
An inauspicious beginning to what was to be a very successful project. In point of fact, I like to start projects either during blackouts or during heavy rainstorms. When they coincide, it is almost an experience of sheer delirium. Naturally I am not alluding to the kind that is brought on by heavy drinking, but that is obvious, isn't it?
By the beginning of '78, my little family and I were living on Central Park West on New York City's Upper West Side. We had twelve rooms, two of which overlooked the park. Others looked over less attractive spaces. Because half of the family was so "little" in physical size, the space seemed particularly large. I just moved out last year and it seemed small by that time - especially the closets.
I started work with Arif Mardin on Boys In The Trees. I met many of the musicians I would play with for years to come: Steve Gadd, Richard Tee, Will Lee, Hugh McCracken, Mike Mainieri, David Spinoza to mention just some of those spectacular NY chaps. Late in '77 I had collaborated with Michael McDonald on a song called You Belong To Me. Teddy Templeman had sent me a copy of Mike going "Doo be doo be doo" (which I always thought were relevant syllables for the Doobie Brothers and wondered if Frank Sinatra had borrowed them, or the other way around) to the melody of what is now 'You Belong To Me'. I wrote the words in the kind of short time that panic elicits. (Panic that somebody else will steal your job.) Teddy gave them to the group and they recorded it. Several months later I recorded it too and it became my first hit in a while. It was odd that during all those months Michael (McDonald) and I never spoke. It was all done through the middle man: the producer! Michael sent me a plant when the song went Top Ten. I went on tour. Something of an oddity. I took Sally and Ben with me. James was supportive - for all of the seven shows. Then I stopped touring. That for me, was a lot.
I believe that was the year of the No Nukes concert, but it may have been '78. A well documented anti nukes rally at Madison Square Garden in New York. I shared the stage with legends and occasionally joined in song with them. It was filmed for a movie.
I recorded Spy produced by Arif Mardin. It contained the song We're So Close which to this day is the saddest song I've ever written. It was about how close you can pretend to be when you know it's all coming undone. How you can use excuses to make it all look okay.
Ben, who had been quite sickly as an infant with fevers, turned three. He was diagnosed with a dysplastic kidney, which meant that his body was toxic much of the time. He had to have his kidney removed. James' and my marriage was also unraveling. It was the most unhappy time. It was decided that a tour would help my spirits. This time fourteen shows were booked. I made it through 8 and collapsed on stage. I had gotten very thin - only 114lbs. I canceled the rest of the shows and got sued by many of the promoters. Wonder where they are now. I didn't even write down their names.
Spy was a commercial flop and my manager thought, to infuse new energy into my recording career, we should switch to Warner Brothers. (It was still under the WEA umbrella and the switch was easily affected.) I recorded Come Upstairs which had the song Jesse on it. 'Jesse' was a song laying plain the fact that good intentions go to hell when you are crazy for someone. It was a #1 single.
Warner Brothers did not want me to do what I did next, which was record Torch. It was my first album of standards. (Later, I made an album called My Romance and one called Film Noir and then Moonlight Serenade which were also concept albums). Torch was a melancholy and lovely album of which I am proud. Mo Ostin, formerly president of Warner Brothers says it was one of his biggest mistakes not to see the potential in that record. They did nothing to promote it, yet it has become a very good staple in my catalog, over time.
I believe Torch came out in the summer of '81. It was the summer of the break-up of my marriage to James Taylor. More emotional upheaval. I had no big plans for the future anymore.
Recorded Hello Big Man with Mike Mainieri. Made a few videos where I did some tumbling around in the woods, but at the time of writing this all down now, I can only remember the tumbling. I don't even remember doing Letterman.
Finally Arlyne Rothberg and I parted ways. She moved to L.A. permanently and started managing Roseanne Barr and the Roseanne show. I signed with Champion Entertainment whose president was Tommy Mottola. Tommy and his lawyer Allen Grubman signed me to a one record deal with Epic Records.
Even though I had had records that didn't perform in the past, Spoiled Girl REALLY didn't perform. In fact, it was my first 'bona fide' flop - in large part because not only didn't it do well, but also because I didn't like it. If you make a record that's true to yourself and you love the work, it can't be a flop. It can only sell poorly. Tommy Mottola et al decided I should capitalize on the disco mixers of the day. I was partnered with the least likely characters you could ever imagine and I didn't say anything. That was a character flaw on my part. I knew, but I didn't say. In spite of it, there were a few good tracks. Maybe two.
One of them was called: My New Boyfriend and it got me back together with Paul Samwell-Smith for that one track. Russ Kunkel played on some of the record. Russ and I became romantically involved. Made two videos for Epic - My New Boyfriend being one of them, shot on what was supposed to be Cleopatra's barge. Russ and I moved in together.
Asked by Mike Nichols (who I had met a few years prior) to score the music for Heartburn starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Wrote an adaptation of the Itsy Bitsy Spider which turned out to be the musical backdrop for the song Coming Around Again which augured well for my career. It was my first time writing for the movies and it was fun and gratifying. Russ helped me enormously. He set up machines in my living room and made me play bass parts I didn't know I could play. He was a major force in the development of my self-confidence. He never gets enough credit as far as I'm concerned. He programmed all the drum parts to most of the songs on the album that contained Coming Around Again.
I signed with Arista Records. Coming Around Again was a worthy single and HBO made me a special called Live From Martha's Vineyard.. It was filmed in Menemsha on Martha's Vineyard. You saw boats going by in the background. You heard seagulls. Oh joy. By the time the HBO special was made it was already 1986 and I have left out that the album produced four singles: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, Give Me All Night, All I Want Is You and Coming Around Again. This had all been predicted by a psychic. Even the names of the songs. He also predicted I would meet and marry a man with a high forehead who would be a business man and a poet. That was Jim Hart, who I met on a train. He would become my second husband. We got married in 1987.
Released: Greatest Hits Live (soundtrack from the HBO special). I took the kids out of school in Manhattan and we got quite cozy in the Vineyard house. I was asked by Mr. Nichols to score Working Girl which took the better part of 1988. I wrote Let The River Run as the opening theme, trying to be very Walt Whitman-esque. Jim helped me with the lyrics and Mike was ecstatic about it right from the beginning. Towards the end, however, the studio threatened to replace it with the Eagle's Witchy Woman. Fortunately Mike's decision prevailed and Let The River Run went on to win an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy..
March (Oscars) I have no memory of winning. Only that I assaulted various people going into the Shrine Auditorium telling them how unworthy I was. On the way out of the Shrine Auditorium, with statue in hand, I was sitting on the curb waiting for the limo. I was trampled over by other people wanting to get to their limos first. The Oscar did nothing to win respect among the young and restless and limo-needy.
Jackie Onassis called one day to ask me to write my autobiography. I didn't say "no", but I didn't mean "yes". In fact I tried, because it was Jackie. She was so reassuring and fascinating. I wrote some 50 pages and then gave up in a flurry of regret about revelations. I could talk about my own life with all its vicissitudes, long and short comings, but not those of other people. Jackie understood and also knew that I'd had a rich story-telling past with my own now grown-up children, and so suggested substituting a children's book for an autobiography. In Amy The Dancing Bear there were fragments of my life to be sure. My life as a bear. It was the first book I collaborated on with Jackie and Margot Datz, my illustrator and friend from Martha's Vineyard. Over the years there were to be three others: The Boy Of The Bells, The Fisherman's Song and The Nighttime Chauffeur. Jackie's role was as a thoughtful editor. She made imaginative suggestions that also made sense. I grew to be friends with her and before the end of her life I wrote a song for her called Touched By The Sun (1994).
Somewhere along the way, I recorded My Romance, an album of standards that has ended up being one of my favorites. It only took thirteen days in January from the start of recording to final mixes. We did it live with an orchestra. Michael Kosarin and I had worked on piano vocal arrangements before the sessions and we gave those tapes from the rehearsals to Marty Paich who did the orchestral arrangements. If I could always make albums like that, I would have recorded over 100 in my life. What a strain on the public!
Recorded Have You Seen Me Lately? with Paul Samwell-Smith and Frank Filipetti. It was going to be called Happy Birthday when Mike Nichols asked me to take over the scoring of Postcards From The Edge. I wrote the title song: Have You Seen Me Lately? for the movie. Meryl Streep was supposed to sing it and in fact did so beautifully but then it got left on the cutting room floor because it was unacceptable to Carrie Fisher - and perhaps to everyone else except me. The lead track on that album was: Better Not Tell Her for which I made a video that had flamenco dancers. I have always wanted to be a flamenco dancer. In the video I wore a red dress. That was as close as I will probably ever come.
Nora Ephron asked me to score This Is My Life. It became my life for another year and resulted in my recording a "one off" for Reprise Records. The songs: You're The Love Of My Life, Back The Way and The Night Before Christmas were some of our favorites. Teese Gohl, Jimmy Ryan, Will Lee and I all played on the soundtrack. This was a fun one. We recorded most of it during Hurricane Bob, when there was no electricity and only candle light and batteries. It was released in '92.
I was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the Kennedy Center to write a family opera. I wrote the libretto of Romulus Hunt with Jake Brackman, long time friend and sometime collaborator. I had at least 500 pages of notes and ideas. Teese Gohl and Jeff Halpern aided me along the way and taught me to write for operatic voices. I also worked closely with Francesca Zambello who's a very well known female director within the opera world. It was a challenge and it got pretty well panned, except by a very nice man in Stereo Review, who said it was the best American opera since Porgy and Bess. This was a man that I had paid a great deal of money to. Frank Filipetti and I produced the soundtrack album of Romulus Hunt which was released by Angel Records. I think it's out of print, but I am very honored to have been asked to write and record it. The work was the farthest I've ever stretched. And I loved a lot of the result.
Began work on Letters Never Sent, a collection of lyrics and songs based upon letters I had written and then locked away. My mother had told me to sleep on letters written in a state of emotional upset or extremes of any kind. Therefore, the collection of letters was large and I set some of them to music after making them lyrics. My mother and Jackie Onassis, who had become very close, died within four months of each other during the writing and recording of this album. I wrote Like A River for my mother and Touched By The Sun for Jackie.
Letters Never Sent was released with Ben doing an intro to Touched By The Sun. There were no radio singles. I prepared to tour.
Rehearsed and went on a summer tour of sixteen cities. I developed a new phobia: hotel rooms and bad beds. I didn't like very much about touring at all, except hanging with a great band (Ricky Morotta, T Bone Wolk, Peter Calo, Curtis King) and Daryl Hall and John Oates and their band, with whom I shared the bill. Came back to the Vineyard on August 25th and rehearsed with James Taylor for three days for a benefit concert on Martha's Vineyard, to raise money for the Agricultural Hall. This was on August 30th. The only reason I mention the date is that I have a T shirt with the date on it. There were helicopters overhead, but no off-island press was allowed. It was quite a big deal.
Signed with Simon & Schuster for two books, the first of which was Midnight Farm, a children's book about a farm coming to life at midnight. In retrospect, this looks like a big theme of mine. Four out of five of the children's books I have written are about nocturnal adventures. And the fifth one, Amy The Dancing Bear ends at the beginning of what promises to be a nocturnal adventure. I must find some kind of therapist to tell this to. Prepared a "best of" boxed set called Clouds In My Coffee for release.
Three CDs worth of material spanning 30 years. Choosing the material was quite a test. What makes it and what doesn't after all this time is partially a matter of where the taste and mood is on the day(s) you have to make the editorial decisions. A few new songs and unreleased material were also included.
Traveled to Santa Fe and discovered the West. Began painting. Was diagnosed with breast cancer in October and after my operation and before chemo started, I went to an island off the coast of Tortola with Ben and Sally. Recorded Film Noir, a collection of songs from movies of that genre. Jimmy Webb and I collaborated on this amazingly fun project. We recorded most of it in NY with an orchestra (Main arrangers were Mr Webb himself, Van Dyke Parks and Torrie Zito.) Jimmy was inspirational. Frank (Filipetti), once again, mixed and Godfathered. Did an AMC special to promote, as well as a short film Songs In Shadow which was shown on AMC.
Set up a studio in my apartment in NY and continued to write songs for an album which is about to be released at the time of writing this. It is to be called: The Bedroom Tapes and it contains eleven songs, most of which were written and recorded in my apartment living room and later on in Sally's old bedroom on Martha's Vineyard. In the middle of all of this, I bought a house in Boston.
I spent most of the year de-constructing and re-constructing - finding mice and rotten stairs, fire places that didn't work and roof decks that were illegal. Chemotherapy paled in comparison to problems with this house. It was a monstrous year. But the songs began to come and I loved recording them myself. I will write more specifically about these songs and this album, but here I'll stop the little bio because everything after this is about these songs and the process.
The tapes began taking shape in the winter of my last year on Central Park West, in New York (1998). The only song that had been written prior to that was 'In Honor Of You (George)', which began as a letter to George Gershwin. I was in the frame of mind at the time that I would give up writing songs.All writers go through periods of this sort. I am not distinguished in this respect. I was brought out of this slump (temporarily at least) by hearing the Gershwin's 'Embraceable You'. The letter I wrote was more directed at George than at Ira Gershwin, because it was in the folds of the musical language that I was brought back to thinking that perhaps I had something to say, because I was passionate about it after all.
It may have been that letter, or ultimately the process of writing and arranging the song with Teese Gohl, that got me out of my writer's block snaggle. I'm not exactly sure, as it was complicated by all the vitality and emotional requirements of being a patient during that period (I had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of '97 and was going through chemotherapy at the point I am referring to). When you are challenged with a serious disease, you have to struggle to get to the surface. If you let go, you can drift. I had to latch on to something in myself that was strong. It would be my music.
I set up shop in my living room (a very good name for it) and began composing into an 8-track tape machine. I learned very simple methods of engineering and had two teachers: Bobby Eichorn and Frank Garfi.
Russ Titelman, a friend of mine for years, came over and listened and gave me confidence and pointed me in various useful directions. Russ was going to produce the CD but I moved away from NY to Martha's Vineyard and so our working relationship fell a little bit adrift. He doesn't realize how meaningful his appreciation of what I was doing was - and is.
When I got to the Vineyard, I moved all my equipment into my daughter Sally's old bedroom. This is what the 'bedroom' title refers to. It's a little room with a slanted ceiling and funky blue and white curtains. It's just down the hall from my bedroom and it provided me with a perfect work space for more than a year. The relatively small amount of recording equipment takes up the entire room except for little patches of carpet that abound with shakers, painted and shaped like pears, eggs and red peppers. There are also balrons and tambourines everywhere and guitars piled up on top of each other. Throughout the recording of the album the place was littered with scraps of lyrics, my lyric books, phone messages, dried up pilot pens, past-the-pale tea mugs, and an accumulation of crispy moths from last summer. No one cleans in there. Even I am not allowed to, by my own better judgment.
Sometimes I enlisted the help of Jimmy Parr and Stuart Kimball, two neighbors. Stuart and I helped Jim to put together a studio in the basement of his house on the Vineyard. Stuart played guitars on two songs 'Our Affair' and 'Whatever Became Of Her' in that studio and then I brought the tracks back to the bedroom and added whatever was lying around on the floor.
The fun part of those long nights was that there was no danger of anyone hearing me. I could fail over and over. I could try anything and ask whoever came by the next day to guess whether it was a hair brush, brushing against a strand of pearls, or the sound of a bee buzzing against the corner of an old copy of Joseph Conrad's 'The Secret Sharer'. The world of what was available and what could emanate from my throat or my hands was what I relied upon, and had true fun with.
This is an album I don't think I could have made if I had had record company executives suggesting directions or asking me to imitate Natalie Imbruglia, Christina Aguilera or the Backstreet Boys. All I was doing is what I had started out doing thirty years ago. Making sounds that I liked. Not thinking in an orthodox way about songs. Leaving the concept of choruses behind in many instances. Thinking in a new way about structure. Playing like a child with fingerpaints. I have never quite had that much fun. It was like playing with dolls. I was the big doll. I made many a call in the middle of the night to Jimmy Parr or Bobby Eichorn to ask them why track 7 wasn't recording, or why my reverb was acting up. I must say, that everyone was helpful - like good doctors always are.
I worked (or played) hours into the dawn and wrote and recorded nearly 20 songs. Somewhere down the line the rhythm section was aided and abetted or replaced by Steve Gadd, T-Bone Wolk and Tony Garnier. Teese Gohl arranged orchestra for three of the songs. Much of the original material, however, recorded to my 8 track, is in tact on the finished product - just as I wrote and played it during the initial process.
Liam O'Maonlai and the Rankin Sisters came to the Vineyard one weekend and sang in my barn. They are on seven of the eleven tracks. Liam presented me with one of the all time great gifts of my life, when he wrote an end to the song 'Scar' and sang it in Gaelic. Mindy Jostyn played fiddle a week later (also in the barn) and Michael Lockwood, Stuart Kimball and Peter Calo did some exceptional guitar playing.
In New York during the mix and when Frank Filipetti came on board, more colors were added (though not too many). Sean Pelton played drums on 'In Honor Of You (George)', and my son, Ben, and John Forte came down to Right Track one night and sang funky big dumb guy parts, curiously enough, on the track 'Big Dumb Guy'. It couldn't have been more appropriate.
The whole collection was originally going to be called: 'When Manhattan Was A Maiden', because nearly all of the songs had a Manhattan reference. The title song ('When Manhattan Was A Maiden') was eventually left off the CD, however, as were a couple of other tracks that didn't seem to ultimately fit with the body of work. Once the Manhattan reference was diluted, it lost it's 'concept' and became a collection of songs whose only thematic glue was that I was singing them, and in greater part they were recorded in the bedroom. There are overtones of New York City, as in 'If Only We Could Cross The River', 'Whatever Became Of Her', 'So Many Stars', and 'In Honor Of You (George)', but the overall landscape became more generalized and less geographically centered.
Every song has its little history and anecdotal material. I always prefer to leave the evaluation and interpretation up to the listener, however, since it is an effort whose outcome has no absolutes. The most interesting hard truths are about the recording process itself, which I have alluded to already.
As anyone who knows me will probably agree, I am an intense person emotionally. I can only assume the songs reflect an emotional state of being that is heightened during the writing and singing of notes with words. An example of the way I write songs is the following: I have a drum machine. I only know how to do the most simple programs. But I know how to create a drum loop. One of the ways I like to do it, is to put all the available notes that I like in it. Several bass drums, different snares, lots of tom toms on many beats, high hats, a few cymbal crashes, and random percussion. Then I close my eyes and put my fingers on the delete button. Whenever I hear a beat on a sound that at that moment seems superfluous, I press the button, feeling all the power of a conductor or an editor of a film. I do it with my eyes closed so that there is no visual distraction: the cat passing by, the headlights of a car coming into the drive etc. I recommend this process to anyone who is willing to do the absurdly obvious. I continue pressing the delete button at intervals and on certain drum beats, until I have a program that few would have thought of. I have a collection of these stored in my drum machine. This is the kind of fun you can have when you're alone. It might be called the creative process using 'deletion', the way I imagine Michaelangelo carved out his massive statues of slaves from huge rocks. The difference being that chance plays a big part in my game. And... I am no Michaelangelo!
Another bit of technique based on the principles of randomness and flow is the way I wrote the song 'Cross The River'. I got my drum loop first, the way I just described. I recorded six minutes of it on track 6 on my A-Dat machine. I then wrote a first verse about a group of post teens in New Jersey, wishing they could get to the 'Big City'. I accompanied myself singing these words with a bass ostinado on my keyboard. After the first verse, I went to bed and thought about a chorus melody. The next day I added the chorus vocal melody and words, a cappella, to the verse I had already put down. Then I changed the sound on my keyboard and added a rainstick sample going into the chorus, and then an organ sample to try to get across the yearning, almost spiritual, sound of a group of young kids saying (singing) "If only we could cross the river, we could get a jump start on life...". I then got bogged down or bored and went off to make a few phone calls.
By the next day I had forgotten the number of the keyboard program sound I had used on the bass ostinado part and so spent most of my writing period recreating. Always remember to write everything down! Once I had relocated the bass sound, I then discovered I had lost the organ sample number! If you listen closely to the song, you will hear this sonic confusion. If I really hadn't liked it, I could have re-done it with uniform sounds, but as it turned out it was actually more adventurous and more like the characters in the song, to be diverse and eclectic, even hectic.
Every new sound inspires a chord, or a note that I want to sing. In some cases, it inspires a new range of emotion. When I got to the end of the verse of 'Cross the River', after the rap section ("When I was twenty and crazy, as a joke...") I hit these four mournful single notes on the keyboard. The sound of those lone notes hitting the airwaves the way they did precipitated the last verse of the song. The verse is the main character's letter to her friend, Laura. The main speaker in the song is the one teenager who actually did make it to the city and married a big tycoon on Wall Street. She writes to her friend, Laura, a note of longing, wishing she could cross the river, this time back to New Jersey, because she discovers, too late, that she is still in love with 'Danny', who she had dismissed in her whole upwardly mobile plan to 'make it'. Got it? On the way to the last chorus of the song, I transplanted those four keyboard notes and then slowly brought the drum machine back in, though this time it came in backwards. In other words, I was singing over the second half of the beat, so that the accent fell in a different place in the phrase. It was unexpected. I added keyboard parts I never would have if the drum part had come in where it was supposed to! So, this is a way of writing as you go. Linear writing. Not planning too much beforehand and having no compunctions about trying anything.
This was the way I wrote most of the keyboard oriented songs. Songs like 'Actress', 'I'm Really The Kind', and 'We, Your Dearest Friends'. The ones that I wrote on guitar, I took a more traditional approach to: sitting down with a guitar and an almost complete lyric. 'Scar' is an example of that, though even after I had a complete lyric (which had taken six months) it took another six months to make it emotionally 'true'. For a few months, the melody became too complicated to get the feeling of the lyrics across. Finally I wrote the words on a large sheet of poster paper so that they loomed before me. I watched them, and thought: I want the melody to be as available as these words staring me big in the face are. I had to forget months of notes I had already chosen and was quite married to. I erased them from my mind and just saw these huge letters and then felt the melody anew. Many of my songs go through this metamorphosis. Often it is the words that change once I have a melody I know is working.
After my bout with breast cancer I had a tough time with depression. Any experience, as songwriters know, is something to turn into music. As long as you can remember to breathe first. I was having trouble with remembering anything and so I wrote about that in the song 'I Forget'. This was the most painful experience of all the songs on the album. Although the most satisfying - in the way that having a big, sobby, long cry usually makes you feel refreshed (sometimes grapefruit juice does this without your face having to get all puffy). It was also a song that took many months (nine) to complete. I'm still learning how to play it, although I managed to learn it long enough to record it. Listening to it brings back that stretch of time when I felt too depressed to tell anyone how I felt. The fear of bringing people down is not generally a fear of mine when it doesn't look open-ended; but the one thing anyone knows who has been through a hefty bout of melancholia, is that you think it will never end and, therefore, you can't afford to use up your dance card with your friends. You get good at avoidance and denial and the 'fake smile'. Putting this emotion into a song was something I had only done previously in a colloquial sort of way "I've got the blues" type thing. In 'I Forget', I tortured myself into a closer examination.
These are some of the things that make this collection of songs important to me. I believe I am honest in what I say in the songs and that they do not cater to some idea, always mutable, of what is 'hip' right now.
As I write, I am up here on the Vineyard, ready to go out and promote my work with a song or two, or three. It's April 10th and the temperature plunged today, here on the Vineyard, from 68 degrees this morning to 34 degrees this afternoon. That's what we call weather. I like those fluctuations. To watch the snow swirling around the forsythia and wonder what's next.
Even if it was never released to the public. I would have to say that the God-given strength and inspiration helped me through one of the hardest times of my life. Without sounding too terribly as if I'm encouraging the sniffling of those reading this, it showed me that I had 'the stuff' to travel alone and lightly. Indeed that's more romantic than it was, as there were plenty of supportive players. However, in the remote and sometimes darkly fantasy-laden nights, I was happy to turn to my music. It does soothe and it does lead. Not everyone wanted to go through this with me. While the emotions were raw, there was turmoil. There were those that fell by the wayside, who are no longer friends. I could have become bitter, the way we all have the opportunity to become bitter, but it seemed all too predictable. I would rather be like the man who got attacked by the shark who thirty years later is the primary advocate of sharks and who can be seen in National Geographic specials stroking their undersides. And so many new friends, the great mandala.
There are friendly faces and Spring in the air. There will undoubtedly be some sharks, in fact there are several swimming around on my lawn right now. I must turn off the computer, put on my boots and go outside and pat them....
So, when I left off, The Bedroom Tapes was just being released. What a fiasco. Here is my personal best, coming off the press, and Clive Davis gets fired from Arista. The man who took over, was more interested in making an urban label and had not any interest in me. It was released on Arista and sold well under the unhappy circumstances of no one in my court.
One of the reasons I knew they didn't care at all is that I was scheduled to go on a Radio tour during the summer of 2000 in a Winnebago, where Entertainment Tonight and other big TV promotional camera crews could fit in. It was to be glistening with tinsel and space and glamor and leis. The day the Winnebago arrived to pick up myself and Michael Lockwood (who just got married to Lisa Marie Presley a few days ago!!!) and Jim, my husband, we laughed. The Winnebago was like a Potemkin mini car. Like a drawing of a Winnebago. The three of us could hardly fit in much less any single camera man. I got the picture. Oh yes, the man who took over at Arista was called L. A. Reid - I had almost forgotten.
In spite of the smite, Michael, Jim and I hobbled through the East Coast until the Winnebago got stuck in a driveway of a mouse house where we were booked to stay in Providence. It was a normal driveway. It was just not a normal Winnebago. We changed to a Ford and got deep into Pennsylvania. I remember there was a concert in PA, in a rather small town that Bob Dylan was playing (found out too late to go), but we found out that it was only 2/3d's sold out. That made me see double. Anyone could have a 'less than' tour. Only I bet Bob didn't care. Because he's a rock and a troubadour and doesn't care much about anything but the music he is making on stage.
On the way back home from the far Eastern US, I got a call from John Forté. He had been arrested and I was the only call he was allowed. I mainly remember getting sick in the Ford and asking Jim to stop the car near some lawn. I got out and threw myself down on the lawn in my long white dress, sobbing. Feeling like Elvira Madigan and Scarlett O'Hara. But I did stay there for quite some time until the men came out and got me. I could not have foreseen what was to become of my life over the next five plus years (and still growing).
From that time forward, I was and remain connected to John Forté through all the phases of his first trial in Newark, to his sentencing in Houston and to all of his appeals. It has been the most upsetting and disillusioning experience in my life. This young singer, this young and gifted, uniquely brilliant, African American singer with a voice of passion and guts and a history diverse (From Brooklyn to Exeter to Brooklyn to the Fugees, to Sony, to on his own, to an arrest) as few men have. Many faceted, many rooms, many masters, but only one John and no matter how he swerved, so dangerously in that hot July of 2000, he is my constant. I believe in him. I believe not in his innocence, because he did something bad and got caught, but in his right to a fair trial, which in my opinion, he never got, and right now in 2006, as I write, to have his sentence looked at and reduced to one that is commensurate with his crime which was non-violent and a first time offense.
He has served five years now and is doing constructive things with his time behind bars; including writing songs and teaching courses. But it's time that he get seriously considered for commutation. You can go to his website and see his stirring and direct talent as a communicator. If you are a real advocate, you can look into FAMM (families against mandatory minimums) or write your Senators and Congressmen. Go to the Right and Go to the Left. You will be surprised at whom you affect. Write specifically about John Forté. Every letter will help get his name around and keep his profile up.
Before John's incarceration in Federal Prison, he was under house arrest and going every day to NYC to make a great CD called "I, John". He could never promote it because as soon as it was released, he went to Loretta Penitentiary. He was transferred to Ft. Dix in 2001 at the behest of Senator Orrin Hatch. It was a brave and forward thing of Senator Hatch to do and I will never forget it.
Let's see, how did I find myself in Los Angeles in 2002? Oh, that's right. I went with Ben to play (his performance) at a winter Olympics party being held in L.A. Ben was going to go on to Utah and I didn't want to go home, so I called Don Was, the famous and great Don Was. I had worked with him years ago and then more recently on the duet I did with Sally that she and I co-wrote: "Amity" (which is on the Reflections CD as a kind of bonus). I said on the phone the day before Ben played (amazingly) at the party. I said: "Don, what about you and I making an album in the next couple of days?" "Sure, I'm game", he said. "I've always wanted to make a Christmas album and think we should and CAN do it before you have to be in Paris to work with the Rolling Stones in FIVE DAYS". He brought to my hotel room (not suite) at the Peninsula Hotel, equipment that I hope to someday learn the name of. It had wires and the face of a computer screen. That day, Bob Clearmountain came over and had more wires and microphones and set the whole room up into a studio.
His wife, Betty was wearing a Christmas hat (not to forget this was in February of 2002, just AFTER the Christmas season) and she decorated the room with Santas and Christmas lights and bells and we lit the fire and got just about every great session player and friend to come over and share the making of this very fun and loose and diverse Christmas collection. You must get the CD to see the pictures of everybody. Indeed we did it in five days and then Don disappeared. Mostly it was mixed during the recording because there was so little on the tracks and the roughs were pretty atmospheric. Then Don oversaw some more mixing as did Jimmy Parr. I brought the disc to Bob Ludwig in Maine and he mastered it so that it was the difference between February and July. We caught the release date and I sang under the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center with Ben and Mindy (Jostyn). We sang: Silent Night which is on the CD and on other shows a larger collection of players sang more of the albums' songs. There was Christian McBride for example. And Willy Galison and Mindy and Ben. We sang at various and sundry record stores and tree lightings and snow angel parties.
I signed with Rhino records earlier in the year - for the release of the Anthology album. It was exciting to hold a small forum with the powers that be at Rhino to pick our mutual favorite songs, complete with a few voice raised disputes. There were some wonderful pictures taken by Heidi Wild (a friend of Sally's) and an intimate portrayal of my work written by Jack Mauro. In what seemed like no time Anthology was released in December of 2002. I can't remember what publicity I did, but someone I know will remind me.
Then came the writing (in The Bedroom Tapes bedroom) of the soundtrack albums for the two Winnie the Pooh movies I did. Essentially, it was the songs, but you know how the two over/inter/underlap. My studio changed and there were drawings of Pooh and his friends tacked all over my studio walls. Each album, Piglet's Big Movie and The Heffalump Movie were so much fun, I didn't want it to be over. I could fit very well into a cartoon life. I could even maneuver a tail and a high voice. Both movies were very well reviewed and I hope keep their place in the hall of Winnie the Pooh sweet young things. What could be better? No violence, just some nasty hitting and honey stealing. I loved working with Matt Walker and all the tender and sensitive folk in the tasteful and un-destructive division of Disney. Congratulations dear comrades.
The second Christmas album (which was a near cry away from the first) included the addition of two new songs: Forgive - a song written and recorded with Andreas Vollenweider (my dear friend) and White Christmas played and produced by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager). They were two stellar additions to the CD although that's the language of promo people. It doesn't come flippingly off MY tongue.
Just prior to recording these two new tracks for Christmas Is Almost Here, Sally announced that she and Dean Bragonier were going to be getting married that September. After being somewhat crushed that the wedding wouldn't be at my bucolic and rose covered locust bridge, over a stream leading to a gazebo, I bucked up and alternated between being so happy for her (them) and seething that the wedding wasn't going to be at my house. I've always been known to have an alternate emotional plan!
The wedding was Labor Day of 2003. The location was the Western facing view of Menemsha Pond, as seen from the lawn of James Taylor's house. There were rustic porta potties and poison ivy trailing through the lovely lawns of bristling short cut summer brown grass. A small path was mowed to lead the guests down to the waterfront where the wedding party was assembled, backs to sun. The father and I led the magnificent Sally down to her husband to be and to the rest of the wedding party.
After the ceremony, there was dancing and a modicum of alcohol, but spirits were high and it was a nice chance to get together with both the Simon and Taylor families. After many generous toasts to the bride and groom and to the father and stepmother, Livingston stood and most eloquently toasted the mother of the bride. The party went on all night, transferring itself to the beach at Lobsterville, and the bride and groom were not seen for several days.
Next incarnation was Reflections which was a joint BMG and Warner Brothers effort. Nifty that. An oldish Bob Gothard Picture of me taken by the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park was used as the cover. More choices. This being a single disc (as opposed to the Anthology which was a two CD disc) it took more painstaking editing. I was very pleased with it and it came out to welcoming reviews and a bonus track by Sally and me called Amity which we penned and played and sang together. Produced by Don Was.
In December 2004, The children (how long will I call them children?) and I sang together in concert at the Apollo in New York City on December 18th and the 19th. They were pretty successful concerts and much, much fun. Sally, Ben and I were joined by Mindy Jostyn, Christian McBride, BeBe Winans, T. Bone Wolk, Peter Calo and Teese Gohl and an amazing choir. Other guests including Livingston Taylor, Kate Taylor, Lucy Simon and my niece Julie Levine joined in for some pretty rousing versions of Christmas carols. Two of the truly most uninhibited concerts I've ever been a part of!!!! Good send off for Christmas 2004.
Then who knows what happened? I know peonies came out in May and then roses in June and honeysuckle in July and the Martha's Vineyard Community Services Auction in August, but this all followed Moonlight Serenade. Oh, Richard (Perry); What has thou wrought? We got enmeshed and intrigued and we followed each other down a path of songs that led to some of our favorites and some experimental songs (if not new songs, then new ideas for the new album).
What had started out to be, skeptically, a re-singing of old ideas that Richard had for Rod Stewart to sing, it turned into a sexy and novel release, much different from all my other standard horn driven albums. We recorded more cheaply than ever before and I made Richard even pay for his own dinners with Harvey Keitel. WE had fun. WE knew each other well enough to allow the jibes to turn into warmly taken non-bristly affairs. The record took off immediately and was one of my best selling albums in a along time. Sony did it's magic!!!
I went on the Queen Mary II and taped a special for PBS. All gowns and dancing close and Sally and her husband aboard. Boundaries and loose ends were lost for a while in the mist, out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. My husband came too and very much the same rules applied. We were, all of us, free agents and we were still wrapped closely in a cocoon of familiar.
After our sea journey, there was the tour to prepare for. And that we did with rehearsals at the Hot Tin Roof - which had been sold with a modicum of my knowledge ( in other words, I read about it on the front page of the Vineyard Gazette.). I had to ask particularly (with kid gloves textured with sensitive microchips enmeshed in the wools) anything I wanted to know and even that didn't glean the information I needed on a practical or on an emotional level, allowing me some satisfaction.
The Serenade Tour, which started on November 19th in Boston, was thrilling. Didn't mean I wasn't meek and trembly, but largely I turned it around and made it a readily available fun time. Ben and Sally and I had such a camaraderie and the whole band was the best. Peter Calo, John Beasley, Viktor Krauss, Alex Navarro, Jimmy Roberts, Nick Lashley, Larry Ciancia, Carmella Ramsey and Everett Bradley.
We traveled by two busses. We stayed at great hotels along the way and the bus the rest of the time. It was one of the most fun times I've ever had, especially because of Sally and Ben sleeping on the other side of the isle from me, little curtains separating us from time to time.
Christmas 2005 followed and we had Jake Brackman and the kids, along with Kate Taylor (who took plenty of care of us all) up to my home on Martha's Vineyard. When they all left, I started coalescing my new lyrics - about fifty of them. I sent off a whole batch to a producer who I am hoping to work with, although it's not going to be easy as the bi-coastal travel is not one of my all time easiest thing to stomach.
I will keep in touch. You are, all, a delight in my life, Carly
|YEAR||AWARD||SONG / ALBUM||ORGANIZATION||TYPE|
|1971||Best Pop Female Vocalist||That's The Way I Always Heard It Should Be||14th Grammy Awards||Nominated|
|1971||Best New Artist of the Year||Carly Simon (Debut Album)||14th Grammy Awards||Won|
|1972||Best Pop Female Vocalist||Anticipation (Song)||15th Grammy Awards||Nominated|
|1973||Best Pop Female Vocalist||You're So Vain||16th Grammy Awards||Nominated|
|1973||Record of the Year (Single)||You're So Vain||16th Grammy Awards||Nominated|
|1977||Best Pop Female Vocalist||Nobody Does It Better||20th Grammy Awards||Nominated|
|1977||Song Of The Year||Nobody Does It Better||20th Grammy Awards||Nominated|
|1978||Best Pop Female Vocalist||You Belong To Me||21th Grammy Awards||Nominated|
|1978||Best Album Package||Boys In The Trees (Album)||21th Grammy Awards||Won|
|1979||Best Rock Female Vocalist||Vengeance||22th Grammy Awards||Nominated|
|1980||Best Recording For Children||In Harmony / A Sesame Street Record||23th Grammy Awards||Won|
|1988||Best Pop Vocal Performance - Female||Coming Around Again||30th Grammy Awards||Nominated|
|1988||Best Original Song||Let The River Run||Academy Awards||Won|
|1989||Best Original Song||Let The River Run||Golden Globes||Won|
|1989||Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or TV||Let The River Run||32th Grammy Awards||Won|
|1989||Best Original Film Score||Working Girl||BAFTA||Nominated|
|1990||Best Original Film Score||Postcards From The Edge||BAFTA||Nominated|
|1994||Hall Of Fame||Lifetime Achievement||Songwriter's Hall Of Fame||Won|
|1995||Best Song (Live At Grand Central)||Touched By The Sun||Cable Ace Awards||Won|
|1995||Hall Of Fame||Lifetime Achievement||Boston Music Awards||Inducted|
|1998||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance||Film Noir||40th Grammy Awards||Nominated|
|1998||Honorary Doctor of Music Degree||Lifetime Achievement||Berklee College of Music||Inducted|
|2002||Female Vocalist Of The Year||Our Affair||Boston Music Awards||Won|
|2002||Song Of The Year||Our Affair||Boston Music Awards||Nominated|
|2004||Grammy Hall Of Fame||You're So Vain - Pop Single||Grammy Awards||Inducted|
|2006||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album||Moonlight Serenade||48th Grammy Awards||Nominated|
|2012||ASCAP Founders Award||Lifetime Achievement||ASCAP||Inducted|