Despite stiff competition from all over the music map, we’re not too vain to believe she’s a shoo-in for the 2022 class
This year, Carly Simon’s era-defining hit “You’re So Vain” turns 50, making 2022 the perfect year for her to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
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To be eligible for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, artists must have released their first album 25 years prior to their nomination, and must “have created music whose originality, impact and influence has changed the course of rock & roll.” Carly Simon has been eligible since 1997, and this is her first year being nominated.
If we’re breaking it down into dollars and cents, Carly is among the most successful female singer-songwriters. In fact, along with her contemporaries Carole King and Joni Mitchell (who are already inducted), she helped usher the singer-songwriter genre into the 21st Century.
She has four certified gold singles (‘You’re So Vain,’ ‘Mockingbird’ ‘Nobody Does it Better,’ ‘Jesse’), three gold albums (Anticipation, Hotcakes, Reflections: Carly Simon’s Greatest Hits), four platinum albums (No Secrets, Boys in the Trees, Coming Around Again, Greatest Hits Live), and one triple platinum album (The Best of Carly Simon). In 1994, she was inducted into the prestigious Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2004, ‘You’re So Vain’ was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Her other accolades include two Grammys, an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee, and two New York Times best-selling memoirs (Boys in the Trees, Touched by the Sun). She was also the first and only woman to ever win a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Golden Globe as both the performer and composer with ‘Let the River Run’ for the movie Working Girl (1988).
VIDEO: Carly Simon “Let The River Run”
So, now that her monetary success has been established – let’s get down to the real reasons Carly deserves to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: the way she makes us feel, and the way she changed popular music forever.
Carly Simon’s music provides a balm for broken-hearted lovers in times of romantic crisis. Personally, when my love life is unravelling, I turn to her autobiography Boys in the Trees. She has all the advice anyone could ever need. He’s running late for a date? Don’t panic, write a song about it. Heartbroken? Write about it while you’re crying. Found out he’s cheating? Confront his mistress, then write a song about it. She’s been through it all for us, and has shared her wealth of knowledge in her albums and her books. That’s the thing about Carly – she doesn’t hide behind a smokescreen of ‘the cool chanteuse.’ She feels things passionately, and that comes through strongly in her music.
What is often cited as a point of contention about Carly is her privileged upbringing. No, she doesn’t have a rags to riches story. However, it does not get more rock ‘n’ roll than being the daughter of Richard Simon, the publishing don of the Simon & Schuster publishing house – yes, she’s of THOSE Simons. They always say the best readers are the best writers, and that is clearly evident in Carly’s creativity. Her access to, and consumption of, the greatest literature led her to develop her own style of confessional and intellectual writing that began with her personal diary.
She was a part of the intelligentsia of the East Coast – and it’s transmitted through her lyrics. She sings of the classics in an accessible way, with allusions to Orpheus and Eurydice, William Shakespeare, and James Joyce in many of her songs. Speaking anecdotally, The Best of Carly Simon CD was in constant rotation in my mom’s car when I was growing up. Carly’s vocabulary led me to inquire about definitions – ‘vain,’ ‘gavotte,’ ‘anticipation,’ ‘melodrama’ – all SAT words. I guess, in a way, I owe my scholarships to Carly Simon.
Simon’s music rose to fame at the height of feminism, helping shape what we define as ‘the new woman.’ Her first major hit, ‘That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be’ effectively shattered the fairy tale of conventional western life – growing up, getting married, and having a baby. Deliberating on the institution of marriage, she demonstrated a fiercely independent lifestyle through her music. Her voice is singular, a contralto with a sexy huskiness in the lower range, and as it moves up into the higher register, it turns airy – like a combination of a saxophone and a flute. When she jumps octaves as in ‘Embrace Me You Child,’ you hear the full magic of her voice unleashed. Over the years, she has continued to use her music as her emotional outlet; reminding us that “these are the good old days,” and giving us songs to grow up to (‘It Was So Easy Then’), songs to fall in love to (‘The Right Thing to Do’), songs to break up to (‘You’re So Vain’), and songs to move on to (‘Coming Around Again’).
‘You’re So Vain,’ has become one of the most sensationalized songs in pop music history. For 50 years now, people have attempted to identify the vain mystery man in the song. The debate has spawned an impressive cast of characters: Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger, Cat Stevens, Jack Nicholson, John Travolta, and others. Paradoxically, ‘You’re So Vain’ is on the album No Secrets, and yet the owner of the Learjet remains one of pop music’s best kept secrets.
The 1977 James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, generated a major hit for Carly in ‘Nobody Does It Better,’ the anthem for romantics everywhere, and one of the best Bond tunes of all time. Carly also became a household name when, in the late ‘70s, her song ‘Anticipation’ was used for a Heinz Ketchup commercial. For a certain generation, she will always be synonymous with that essential condiment. A decade later, she wrote ‘Coming Around Again,’ for the 1986 film Heartburn, which featured Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.
VIDEO: Carly Simon “Coming Around Again”
Introducing the brilliance of Carly to a younger generation, the 2004 film, Little Black Book, used her music as a narrative thread for a love life in disarray – Carly also made a brief cameo at the end. To the delight of many mothers, Simon strummed her maternal strings when she provided soundtracks to a few Winnie the Pooh movies, including Piglet’s Big Movie (2003) and Pooh’s Heffalump Movie (2005). By scoring these Disney films, she was able to reach a whole new generation of fans to grow up with her voice.
Musically, Carly’s legacy is that of the confessional songwriter. Her fingerprints are all over modern music, in fact, she’s been cited as an influence by Tori Amos, Taylor Swift, and Natalie Maines of The Chicks. She’s been covered by Anita Baker, Jennifer Lopez, and Radiohead, parodied by Adam Sandler, and sampled by Janet Jackson in her song ‘Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song is About You).’ Carly Simon’s music has crossed the barriers of genre and time, and has a sound that is just as fresh now as it was in the ‘70s, a feat that should make her an obvious candidate for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Carly Simon, the siren of Martha’s Vineyard, belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for helping shape popular music with her originality, making rock & roll that is uniquely feminine and universal, and providing the soundtrack to people’s lives.
VIDEO: Carly Simon “You’re So Vain”