NEW YORK – It’s been one of the most tantalizing mysteries in music for four decades, and Carly Simon is ready for the big reveal. Talk about anticipation.
Yes, she says, confirming years of speculation,You’re So Vain is about one-time Hollywood lothario Warren Beatty. But only the second verse (“You had me several years ago when I was still quite naïve/Well you said that we made such a pretty pair/And that you would never leave…”). Verses one (the yacht guy) and three (the Lear jet man)? She isn’t telling.
Simon, 70, one of the biggest pop stars of the 1970s and ’80s, has written a memoir,Boys in the Trees (Flatiron, on sale Nov. 24), a lyrical look back at her childhood, her career, and oh, the men in her life.
Nestled in a plush leather sofa in the lobby of Robert De Niro’s downtown Greenwich Hotel, Simon munches on a late breakfast, her voice a seductive purr as she talks about her book.
Why keep the identities of the other two men in her hit song – which she performed on stage in 2013 with Taylor Swift, an unabashed fan – a secret?
“I haven’t told either of them that it’s about them, so it would be too much of a shock, too much of a cold, calculated thing to put it in the book without them knowing,” says Simon, who kept a diary for years.
Her anecdote-filled memoir, which she wrote without a ghostwriter and which closes in the early 1980s when her marriage to singer-songwriter James Taylor ends, is dishy without being salacious.
“I wanted to be discreet to a certain level,” she says. “I ended up not being terribly discreet.”
There’s plenty here for fans to feast upon.
For starters, she writes about her difficult relationship with her father (Richard Simon, of the publishing company Simon & Schuster), her mother’s affair with a much younger man, and her disturbing sexual encounters starting at age 7 or 8 with a teenage boy named Billy.
“I didn’t realize that I was being used,” she says. “I thought of myself as being in love with him. I’m sure a lot of girls go through the same thing.”
Singing helped her deal with a stammer (she had stage fright), and in the ’70s the hits (Anticipation, That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be) started coming. She wrestled with anxiety, but fame was also alluring. “I was incredibly shy but I also had a very strong ego. I wanted to be noticed,” she says.
Along with the hits came the famous men, Beatty, Mick Jagger, Cat Stevens, Kris Kristofferson, Jack Nicholson.
Stevens was the inspiration for what later became known as “the ketchup song,” Anticipation. “I’ve never met anybody who was as naturally comfortable in his skin as he was,” she says.
Kristofferson? “When I first met Kris my manager very much wanted me to be with him because he had so much sex appeal, it would rub off on me.”
She tells the story of going to see her shrink one day, who told her, “All I’ll say is, you’re not the only patient of mine who spent the night last night with Warren Beatty.”
There was a period when she was seeing both Jagger, who sang backing vocals on You’re So Vain, and Taylor. “I wonder if it wasn’t the reason James asked me to marry him, because I think men like to stake their claim,” she says.
The last third of her book is devoted to her years (1972-1983) with Taylor, with whom she has a daughter, Sally, and a son, Ben. In the book she writes of infidelities, Taylor’s drug use and the competitiveness between one of music’s hottest couples, but also the love.
If Taylor, 67, reads Boys in the Trees (she thinks “he will stay as far away as he can”), she hopes he will realize “how much I love him, how much I will always love him; it’s not a matter of choice.” At the same time, she says with apparent bitterness, as if she hasn’t got time for the pain:
“Anybody who’s that absolutely final in his determination not to see me -- something’s going on because obviously it can’t make him look good. Maybe it does, maybe I’m wrong, maybe people think, ‘Oh, that’s cool, he doesn’t talk to his ex-wife he has two kids with, hasn’t for 40 years.’”
Today she lives happily on Martha’s Vineyard with surgeon Richard Koehler (she also was married for 19 years to poet James Hart, after Taylor).
She’s releasing a compilation CD, Songs from the Trees, to accompany her memoir, featuring two new songs, one of which, I Can’t Thank You Enough, she co-wrote with her son.
Her memoir, says Simon, now a grandmother, was almost inevitable. “I wanted to get my life story down for my children,” she says. “I so much wanted to tell them the story of who their grandmother was, who their grandfather was. And I wanted to tell them the story of myself and James and what happened to their parents, the dissolution of the marriage.”