YOU'RE SO VAIN


Carly Simon with the You're So Vain usual suspects, Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, Mick Jagger and Cat Stevens

Carly Simon has never publicly revealed who she had in mind when she wrote You're So Vain.

In January of 1973, You're So Vain was the # 1 hit song on the radio. Carly Simon had just married fellow pop-superstar James Taylor a month before, so when You're So Vain hit the airwaves, it stirred intense curiosity about which one of her previous lovers was the subject of this wry nod to the male ego. Was it Mick Jagger? Cat Stevens? Warren Beatty? Kris Kristofferson? It was common knowledge that she had been involved with each of them in the past. To this day, she is still asked the question "Who is You're So Vain about?". Here you can read some her responses for clues.

What does "Clouds In My Coffee" mean?

It 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'. I liked the phrase and used it to illustrate the "illusion" of having a relationship with the subject of the song.


Rolling Stone - 1973

RS: Some people think "You're So Vain" is about James.

Carly: No, it's definitely not about James, although James suspected that it might be about him because he's very vain. No, he isn't, but he had the unfortunate experience of taking a jet up to Nova Scotia after I’d written the song. He was saved by the fact that it wasn’t a Lear.

RS: You mentioned the "contest" going on about who it's about. What would be the clearest statement you would want to make on who the song was about?

Carly: The contest is run by this man in Los Angeles named Winkler, and he had his listeners call in to cast their ballot as to who they thought the song was about. Kris Kristofferson is leading.

A lot of people think it's about Mick Jagger and that I have fooled him into actually singing on it, that I pulled that ruse. And some of the people think it's about James. But I can't possibly tell who it's about because it wouldn't be fair.



The Washington Post - 1983

WP: Who was ‘You’re So Vain about? Mick Jagger?

Carly: No.

WP: Warren Beatty?

Carly: It certainly sounds like it was about Warren Beatty. He certainly thought it was about him - he called me and said thanks for the song….

WP: You had gone with him?

Carly: Hasn’t everybody?

WP: No.

Carly: That only means you haven’t met him, though at the time I met him he was still relatively undiscovered as a Don Juan. I felt I was one among thousands at that point – it hadn’t reached, you know, the populations of small countries.



Fame Magazine - 1989

For the record, Simon acknowledges the song is a little about Beatty; it's a composite of three men from her L.A. days. Warren, it seems, was not a particularly good boyfriend.

And I never took him seriously. He was great fun and very, very, bright. But noooo ... as a boyfriend.

A lot of women like somebody who's that smooth. In the beginning Warren was pretty good at pretending he was only smooth on the outside and a bowl of jelly on the inside. But he doesn't do that secondary act very well now. Carly Simon


Vh1 (One to One) - 1990

People have been questioning for a long time, who it's about - I mean, who I wrote the song about.

It always strikes me as funny. That people would be THAT into what I was thinking about, that's the greatest ego trip anybody could have....that they would be THAT interested in what you were thinking about when you wrote a song.

And for that very reason, of course, I can never give it away. Carly Simon


Primetime Live - 1990

Diane Sawyer: You're So Vain is about...we've heard Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty.

Carly: Who cares, I can't believe people care, you know? It was a riddle a long time ago and it's best, as all those riddles are, it's best unsolved.

Phil Donahue - 1991

An audience member asks Carly: Was You're So Vain about Warren Beatty? And did Mick Jagger sing vocals on that?

Carly: I've never, ever told who You're So Vain is about. But I will tell you since you're so very pretty in that pink sweater....it's about the young Oprah Winfrey.

Phil: Well, I'm only a little jealous. Where's my song?

Carly: You're going to have to wait.



NBC Interview - 1994

Was it a single person or a composite of objectionable traits in a variety of people?

Hardly objectionable! I think it's a very attractive man. I think it's a very complicated man who is obviously concerned with his image, but obviously worthy of my love or my interest. I don't LOVE just anyone. You know, he's gotta have a certain amount of character. If he was only vain it would be boring, but there's a lot more to him. He hob knobs with the underworld. Carly Simon


This Morning - 1995

How did you get Mick Jagger to sing on You're So Vain?

I guess it was kind of chance in a way. I was in London, it was 1972 and he happened to call at the studio while I was doing the background vocals with Harry Nilsson. Mick said "Hey, what cha doin'?" and I said "We're doing some backup vocals on a song of mine....why don't you come down and sing with us? Harry sort of bowed out saying "The two of you have a real blend - you should do it yourselves." And that's how it happened. Carly Simon


Pure Oxygen - 2000

PO: Warren Beatty or Mick Jagger?

Carly: Neither

PO: You're kidding me?

Carly: I may be kidding you.

PO: You won't tell?

Carly: No, I won't tell.....well, it's certainly not, not about Warren.

Sunday Morning - 2001

Rita Braver: Everyone thinks You're So Vain is about Mick Jagger.

Carly: Oh, they don't really think that.

Rita Braver: Is it?

Carly: Oh, no, no, no.

Rita Braver: And then I read it might be about Warren Beatty?

Carly: Oh, you know, don't listen to what other people tell you.

Rita Braver: Well, do you want to solve that mystery for me?

Carly: You know, I could never really solve it because if I did, then no one would have anything to talk to me about.



Carly Simon on E!

You're So Vain was just a series of lines in a notebook for a long time. There was you're so vain you probably think this song is about you, and you walked into a party like you were walking onto a yacht. And then one day I figured out 'Hey, these two lines could be about the same person.


Son Of A Gun

On Janet Jackson's 2001 song Son Of A Gun, Carly sings:

The apricot scarf was worn by Nick....there's nothing in the words that refer to Mick


CNN - 2004

Paula Zahn: Long ago, you once admitted that it could potentially be a composite of a number of men that were dear to you in your life. Whether that be Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty.

Carly: Well, I guess for those who are interested in clues - the name of the person it was about had an "E" in it.

Paula Zahn: Oh, well thank you...that's very helpful Carly.

Carly: Maybe I could disclose another letter. OK, it also has an "A".

Paula Zahn: (Laughter) Ok, we'll be asking you about this for the next thirty years.

Carly: Well listen, two vowels ain't bad!



Regis & Kelly - 2004

Regis: Isn't it time for you to tell the world - who's the guy you're singing about? Is it Warren Beatty? Is it Mick Jagger? Or is it me? Tell us!

Carly: If I tell it, it's going to come out in dribs and drabs. And I've given out two letters already, and "A" and an "E". But I'm going to add one to it. I'm going to add an "R", in honor of you.

USA Today - June 2005

"It's about Mark Felt!" Simon, 59, joked by phone Wednesday from her home in Martha's Vineyard, referring to the former FBI official who has said he was Deep Throat. You're So Vain was a No. 1 hit in January 1973, six months after the Watergate break-in that led to President Nixon's downfall.

But unlike the Watergate principals, Simon says she'll never reveal the answer, not even when she or the song's subject dies.

I don't see why I ever would. What would it advance? I wrote that song in the days when people kept confidences to themselves, whereas now, people expose them so easily and readily for the benefit of their next movie sale.


Ellen Degeneres Show - 2008

Ellen: When we come back you’re going to sing You’re So Vain and I’m just wondering if you want to finally reveal who You’re so Vain is about.

Carly: When do you want me to do that?

Ellen: Now.

Carly: Mick.

Ellen: I thought it was Mick. It’s Mick Jagger?

Carly: No.

Ellen: So then it was Warren?

Carly: Right. Right on.

Ellen: You’re lying!

Carly: Yes, I love to lie. Almost as much as I love to dance.

Ellen: So you’re not going to tell us. Cat Stevens?

Carly: Yep. That’s a good one.

Ellen: Oh boy. I’ll get it out of you.


Wildly incorrect David Geffen rumors circulate the globe - 2010

While Carly Simon was on a plane to the UK to support her new CD Never Been Gone, one UK tabloid stated in a headline (that made it appear that Carly had announced this to them as fact) their belief that You're So Vain was about David Geffen. In reality, it was just their wild guess. Regardless, the press and social media sites spread this original rumor & mistake as fact - all over the globe - in a matter of hours.

The rumor came about because there is a word being said on the new version of You're So Vain, which they assumed was "David" and then jumped to the conclusion that it was David Geffen. In fact, Carly had never even met David Geffen before she wrote You're So Vain. She didn’t meet him until they worked together in 1974.

Sheila Weller (writing for Vanity Fair) contacted Carly in London when her plane landed, and got her response: " I said “Ovid” [emphasis ours] both front- and backward together on the CD, and it came out sounding like 'David’ to some, I guess. But I meant it as an allusion to metamorphosis, and that this group of songs was rechanneled into a different cockroach. Kafka? Coffee? Clouds? I know it’s boring, but that could be good! "

Carly Simon also has made many other rebuttals to this rumor, including this one to the Daily Mail:

What a riot! The song has nothing to do with David Geffen. Carly Simon

You're So Vain (Live)

Carly Simon performing You're So Vain in 1987 from her Live From Martha's Vineyard DVD


You're So Vain - Official Video (Contest Winner)

Back when You're So Vain reigned # 1 on the Billboard Charts in 1973, there was no such thing as a 'music video" to accompany a single song release.

In 2010, Carly Simon and Iris Records ran a contest which asked fans and filmmakers to create the first and only concept video to accompany her iconic hit. They were provided with "green screen" footage of Carly singing the song, and were told they could use either the original recording of You're So Vain or the newly recorded version from her Never Been Gone CD. This wining video incorporates both versions.

While there were quite a few excellent videos submitted, Brett Bisogno ultimately won Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain' video contest and a Grand Prize of $10,000. He also had this winning video premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival..

Brett Bisogno receiving his check as Carly Simon's official You're So Vain contest winner
You're So Vain video contest winner - 2010