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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. When asked, Carly has given numerous answers over the years....and we've listed many of them below so that you can decide for yourself.

Background:: 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.



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

You're So Vain lyrics

You walked into the party
Like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf it was apricot

You had one eye in the mirror
As you watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed
That they'd be your partner
They'd be your partner, and....

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?

You had me several years ago
When I was still quite naive
Well you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave

But you gave away the things you loved
And one of them was me
I had some dreams
They were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee and....

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?

Well I hear you went up to Saratoga
And your horse naturally won
Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun

Well, you're where you should be all of the time
And when you're not you're with
Some underworld spy
Or the wife of a close friend
Wife of a close friend, and....

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?

Clouds in my coffeeWhat does "Clouds In My Coffee" mean?

But you gave away the things you loved and one of them was me
I had some dreams they were clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee....


"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'." Carly liked the phrase and used that reference to an "illusion" to describe her dreams of having a relationship with the subject of the song.

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.

Carly Simon and James Taylor - Rolling Stone - The Honeymooners 1973


Carly Simon & James Taylor on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1973

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.


Carly Simon on the cover of Fame magazine 1989For 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," she says. "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


"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


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.


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.


Bob Costas: Carl Bernstein told me once that he had sealed the identity of Deep Throat in some sort of envelope and I guess he stuck it beneath a tree someplace deep in the forest with instructions on how to find it - to be opened 50 years after his death. And only then the identity of Deep Throat could be revealed.

Carly: I have right here. (reaching into her pocket)

Bob Costas: Have you done the same thing with the identity of the person you're mocking in You're So Vain?

Carly: Well, you know people have always asked me this. I don't know why people are so interested in that. I suppose it was at a time in my life in which I was garnering a great deal of sort of tabloid press - in terms of who I was going out with. It's the kind of thing that if I actually tell, it'll lose the whole mystique. What's the point of telling? Why bother to tell?

Bob Costas: Is it a person or a composite of people?

Carly: It was a dog actually. Yes, it was a person!

Bob Costas: No, I mean a single person. I wasn't suggesting it was outside of humankind. (laughing). Was it a single person or a composite of objectionable traits in a variety of people?



Carly: 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.


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

Carly: 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?"

So Mick and Harry and I stood around the mike singing you're so vain and Harry was such a gentleman - he knew the chemistry was between me and Mick; in terms of the singing, so he sort of bowed out saying "The two of you have a real blend - you should do it yourselves." And that's how it happened.

MM: So, who is You're So Vain about?
Carly: I don't know.
MM: We've heard it was Warren Beatty. It was Mick Jagger. But you've never really said who it was.
Carly: Yeah.


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.

"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." Carly Simon on E!


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

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

RB: Yes - they do.

Carly: Okay.

RB: Is it?

Carly: Oh, no, no, no.

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

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

RB: 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.

On Janet Jackson's song Son Of A Gun, Carly sings "The apricot scarf was worn by Nick....there's nothing in the words that refer to Mick" 2001

Carly's participation in the 2003 Possible Dreams charity auction on Martha's Vineyard, created an intense media buzz when she offered to reveal the identity of the person(s) she had in mind when she penned the song "You're So Vain" to the highest bidder, but only after they agreed to abide by a confidentiality agreement.

Shortly after this news was printed in People magazine, the Associated Press picked up the story and newspapers, television and radio shows around the world immediately followed.

The news scrollers on all the major cable networks began carrying Carly's name across the bottom of the television screen. MSNBC.com conducted a viewer's poll where Beatty's name earned 54% of the vote. Matt Lauer reviewed the list of usual suspects with Anthony DeCurtis (of Rolling Stone magazine) on The Today Show. Roger Friedman of Fox News went on record with his firm opinion that song was about Warren Beatty. The BBC's Up All Night radio show interviewed Carly fans live from the US to get their opinion on who the song was written about and why this mystery has such long lasting appeal.

On August 4th, the gavel cracked at $50,000 for Carly's "Dream Secret". The winner (Dick Ebersol - an NBC executive) and nine of his friends joined Carly at her home a few weeks later, at which time she sang You're So Vain while her guests enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and vodka on the rocks. At midnight, Mr. Ebersol alone learned Carly's closely guarded secret, after signing a confidentiality agreement.

"Carly told me that I could offer up to the entire world, a clue as to what she told me, and the clue is: the letter 'E' is in the person's name." Dick Ebersol on NBC's Today Show – Aug, 2003


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.

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

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

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

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


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.


"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."


(July 2008) You're So Vain is listed at number 72, on Billboard's definitive list of the Hot 100's top 100 songs from the chart's first 50 years, August 1958 through July 2008.

One of the biggest enigmas in popular music, this track also carries one of the most famous refrains: "You're so vain/I bet you think this song is about you." Simon has never publicly admitted who the song is about. Regardless, it was a huge hit, spending three weeks at No. 1 in January 1973.


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: It is 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.

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 to this one to the Daily Mail: Simon says: What a riot! Nothing to do with David Geffen.



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.




   


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