Music Friday: Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’ Is Back in Spotlight After 52 Years

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Welcome to Music Friday when we unravel the mysteries behind famous songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we’re bending the rules a bit to visit Carly Simon’s 1972 hit, “You’re So Vain,” the most popular song ever to use the phrase “total eclipse of the sun.”

This is a particularly timely subject because on Monday, April 8, a rare total eclipse — and the resulting “Diamond Ring Effect” — will be visible to curious sky gazers on a long, bending path that starts at the Texas/Mexico border and exits in the Maritime provinces of Canada. The next total eclipse to span North America will take place in 2045.

In the famous line from Simon’s chart topper, she sings, “Well, I hear you went up to Saratoga / And your horse naturally won / Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia / To see the total eclipse of the sun.”

On Monday, at exactly 4:39 pm Atlantic Daylight Time, viewers in Nova Scotia will see the extraordinary celestial display mentioned in the song. The “Diamond Ring Effect” occurs when the moon completely masks out the sun during a total solar eclipse.

Due to the rugged lunar landscape, the black outline of the moon is not smooth. Tiny beads of sunlight can still shine through in some places and not in others as the moon slowly grazes past the sun. These are called Baily’s Beads. When only one dazzling “bead” remains, momentarily, the view of the eclipse resembles a diamond ring. The ring’s glow is produced by the sun’s corona remaining dimly visible around the lunar silhouette. This phenomenon was first explained by Francis Baily in 1836.

The Diamond Ring Effect will actually happen twice on April 8. The first time will occur in the moment just before the total eclipse, and the second will occur just after the total eclipse.

Now, back to the song…

Historically speaking, Simon’s reference to Nova Scotia’s total eclipse seems plausible. That Canadian province did, in fact, experience a total eclipse on March 7, 1970. Simon wrote the song in 1971 and released it in November of 1972. It appears on her third studio album, No Secrets.

For 52 years, fans and music critics have wondered out loud about the identity of Simon’s vain character. Was it Warren Beatty or James Taylor or Kris Kristofferson or Jack Nicholson or Mick Jagger or Cat Stevens?

In 1974, she told Modern Hi-Fi and Music: “That song is about a lot of people. I mean I can think of a lot of people. The actual examples that I’ve used in the song are from my imagination, but the stimulus is directly from a couple of different sources. It’s not just about one particular person.”

In 2012, Simon revealed to variety.com the inspiration behind the guy wearing the apricot-colored scarf in the first verse.

“In the case of ‘You’re So Vain’ I had the chorus: ‘You’re so vain/You probably think this song is about you.’ I had that written on a piece of paper a year before I got the rest of the song. I thought, ‘that’s kind of funny, it’s sort of a nice twist’ so I put it down in my notebook,” she said.

“And then about a year later I was at a party at my sister’s apartment and a man walked into the party with a big long scarf and he looked at the mirror, which was right as you entered the front door, and he whisked his scarf around his neck as he saw himself and he tilted his hat slightly to the left. I thought, ‘Wow, he’s really vain…’”

Simon offered more details about the second verse while promoting her memoir Boys in the Trees in 2015. That’s when she confirmed that the guy who “gave away the things he loved” was Beatty.

“Warren thinks the whole thing is about him,” she said.

The guy in the third verse with the racehorses, LearJet and interest in the solar eclipse has yet to be identified conclusively. She offered a clue in her 2010 remake of “You’re So Vain,” where she whispers the name “David.”

Some have concluded that it must be record executive David Geffen, who has owned racehorses. Simon pushed back in an email to Showbiz 411, saying that she had yet to meet Geffen when she wrote the song in 1971. On his radio show, Howard Stern claimed that Simon told him the identity of the mystery person, and it was definitely not Geffen.

So the intrigue will linger a bit longer. Simon celebrated her 80th birthday in June of 2023. Beatty is 87 and Geffen is 81.

Trivia: Jagger sings the memorable (“Don’t you? Don’t You?”) backing vocals on the original track. He is uncredited on the album jacket.

Please check out the video of Simon’s spectacular live performance of “You’re So Vain.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“You’re So Vain”
Written and performed by Carly Simon.

Son of a gun

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 (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 (you’re so vain)
I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you? Don’t you? Don’t you?

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 (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 Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, you’re where you should be all 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 (so vain)
I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you? Don’t you? Don’t you now?

You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you

Credit: Screen capture via Youtube.com / Carly Simon.



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