Who is “You’re So Vain” Written About?

Shrouded in secrecy for 50 years, the subject of the hit song You’re So Vain remains partly a mystery.

Since its release in 1972, music fans and critics have wondered about the identity of the self-absorbed man. 

We found out more about this great oldie and discovered what we could about the mystery surrounding it. 

Let’s jump in!

Who Originally Wrote You’re So Vain?

Born June 25, 1945, Carly Simon grew up in New York City. Her father, Richard Simon, a classical pianist, co-founded the publishing company, Simon & Schuster. Carly’s parents raised her in the Bronx borough along with two older sisters and a younger brother. 

Carly developed a stutter around the age of eight. She began writing her songs and found she didn’t stammer while singing. Around this same time, she learned to play the piano. Carly’s parents introduced her to the music of classical composers like Richard Wagner and George Gershwin. 

Simon finished high school and attended Sarah Lawrence College for a few years but dropped out to follow her passion for music.

In 1964, Carly and her sister Lucy formed The Simon Sisters. They released three albums before Lucy decided to leave to start a family. 

Carly Simon signed a recording contract with Elektra Records in 1970 and released her debut self-titled album the following year. She received a Grammy Award nomination for her first Top 10 hit, That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be. While she didn’t win that award, she did win the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1972. 

That same year, Simon married singer James Taylor. The couple had two children, Sarah and Ben, but their marriage ended in 1983. They no longer speak to one another. 

Fame with Vain

In November 1972, Simon released her single, You’re So Vain, from her second album, Anticipation. The song reached #1 on music charts in the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. 

You’re So Vain became Simon’s biggest hit of her career and sold over a million copies in the US. 

The remainder of the 1970s proved to be successful for Simon. She released six more albums throughout the decade, most of them reaching top 10 status on pop music charts. 

Simon released a total of 22 studio albums between the 70s and 2009. Her songs appeared in numerous film scores. The 1977 James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me used Simon’s Nobody Does It Better for the theme song. 

Throughout her career, Carly Simon appeared in film and TV cameo appearances. She’s even played voice roles for the animated series Bob’s Burgers and Family Guy. 

Carly Simon is one of the nominees to be inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame this year. Her influence on other female artists has been monumental. 

Singer Taylor Swift, inspired by Simon, said, “She has always been known for her songwriting and her honesty. She’s known as an emotional person but a strong person. I really really look up to that. I admire her.”

So, Who is You’re So Vain About?

The subject of You’re So Vain has been a mystery for decades. Simon’s ex-husband James Taylor seemed the most likely since they were together when the song became a hit. 

However, Simon has admitted to having affairs with other men during her marriage to Taylor. Simon stated for many years that the piece wasn’t about one man but rather three different men. Although, she’s kept the identity of all but one man top secret. 

In a 2015 interview with People Magazine, Carly finally disclosed actor Warren Beatty as one of the three men. The second verse is said to be directly inspired by Beatty:

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

Originally titled Bless You, Ben, Simon wrote lyrics to the song years before You’re So Vain’s release in 1972. She wasn’t happy with the original words and decided to put the song to the side. A few years later, Simon attended a party where a famous male guest walked in, which eventually inspired the opening line:

You walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht

Simon reworked the lyrics and renamed her hit song to You’re So Vain. We think this was a smart move. Bless You, Ben, may not have had the same appeal as You’re So Vain.

Only one person in the world knows the identity of the other two men the song is about. In 2003, Carly Simon agreed to divulge the names of her muses to the highest bidder at Martha’s Vineyard Possible Dreams charity auction. 

That person was Dick Ebersole, President of NBC Sports. Simon gave one caveat to disclosing her secret – that Ebersole never tells another soul her secret. To this day, Ebersole has never told anyone Carly Simon’s secret.

Did Mick Jagger Sing Backup on You’re So Vain?

While never given official credit on the song, Mick Jagger did provide backing vocals on the studio version. In fact, word has it that he invited himself to the recording.

Many fans and music critics even speculated that Jagger may have been the song’s subject. But during an interview in 1983, Simon put that suggestion to rest. She confirmed that You’re So Vain was definitely not about the singer of The Rolling Stones.

Nearly 70 musicians over the last 50 years released versions of You’re So Vain. 

Liza Minelli was the first to cover the song in 1973. Her version holds true to the way Simon originally sang it. Minelli recorded the song for her 1973 album The Singer

In 2012, singer Marilyn Manson recorded a duet with actor and musician Johnny Depp for a wildly different take on You’re So Vain. Known for his industrial-style music, Manson’s cover is a vast departure from the original. It appears on Manson’s 2012 album Born Villain.

But no one sings as eloquently about the self-absorbed lover(s) as Carly Simon herself. It’s no wonder hers is the only version most people are even aware of. 

Where is Carly Simon Now?

Carly Simon currently lives in a house on 175 acres on Martha’s Vineyard Island with her grown children, Sally and Ben Taylor. Incidentally, James Taylor purchased the property using proceeds from his first record. 

Both Sally and Ben are also musicians, following in the footsteps of their famous parents. 

Will the Mystery Ever Be Solved?

We may never know the true identity of the other two men Carly Simon sings about in You’re So Vain. It’s likely the singer will take the secret to her grave. 

But we can always continue to speculate! Go ahead, take your best guess. Who are the other two mysterious subjects behind the lyrics to You’re So Vain?

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