Carly Simon fans waited more than 40 years for the scoop on "You're So Vain." Is it awkward in here or is it just Warren? Of course, the legendary anthem—which hit #1 on January 6th, 1973—is hardly the first inspired anthem. Join us as we dissect the truth about Carly's classic and other songs inspired by leading men.
'You’re So Vain' by Carly Simon
Carly Simon confirmed, in People magazine, that Warren Beatty inspired the second verse of her 1972 hit. But that accounts for less than half of the song, so the speculation will have to continue.
Let's start by ruling a few people out. "It's definitely not about James [Taylor]," Simon told Rolling Stone in 1973. "Although James suspected that it might be about him because he's very vain." A decade later, she told the Washington Post that the song was not about Mick Jagger either.
In 2009, Simon's publicist told CNN, "The man's first name is David. But it could be one of many Davids." Music journalists pounced on David Geffen, but then Simon told Showbiz 411: "Nothing to do with David Geffen!" adding that she had not even met the music mogul when she wrote the song. No word yet about David Cassidy and David Bowie, whose names have also come up in connection with "You're So Vain."
'Anticipation' by Carly Simon
Another one of Simon's hits took her only 15 minutes to complete:
"When I was writing it, I was in a very nervous state. I was sitting on the edge of my bed and I was waiting for a gentleman caller—who was then called Cat Stevens. I was opening the show for him, and we began to be friends outside the world of show business. And I was so nervous about his arriving at the door that I wasn't living in the moment. And so, I wrote the song called 'Anticipation,' which is about the fact that anticipation makes you late. It keeps you waiting."
'Carey' by Joni Mitchell
In 1970, Joni Mitchell traveled to a fishing village on the Greek Island of Crete, where she met Cary Raditz, an American cook at a local café who lived in a cave. "I was still in pain [from her breakup with Graham Nash] and had no one to talk to," she later recalled. "Also, I had a bit of fame by then, and wherever I'd go, hippies would follow. I latched myself on to Cary because he was fierce and kept the crowd off my back. Soon I moved into one of the caves."
Mitchell wrote the song "Carey" (misspelling his name) as a birthday gift to Raditz. "I don't recall his reaction," she said. "He was always detached and sometimes even disrespectful—either trying to belittle me or make me feel afraid. I think at the time he felt greatly superior to women, which is why I refer to him in the lyrics as 'a mean old Daddy.'"
'Coyote' by Joni Mitchell
Playwright, actor and musician Sam Shepard inspired this 1976 song, according to Sheila Weller's "Girls Like Us." Its lyrics refer to three women ("Now he's got a woman at home/He's got another woman down the hall/He seems to want me anyway"). The first is Shepard's then-wife, O-lan Jones. And then there's Chris O'Dell (the inspiration for George Harrison's "Miss O'Dell") whose 2009 memoir refers to her fling with Shepard while they were touring with Bob Dylan. "This was a tour, after all, and we both knew the relationship would end when the tour was over," she writes. As for woman number three, O'Dell adds: "Joni Mitchell, of all people—how could I compete with her?"
'True Blue' by Madonna
This September, Sean Penn attended a Madonna concert in New York, where she sang the title track from her 1986 album "True Blue"—a song about him.
In the liner notes of that album, Madonna wrote: "This is dedicated to my husband, the coolest guy in the universe." Their marriage ended after four years amid rumors of domestic abuse. But Penn recently filed a $10 million defamation suit against Lee Daniels, asserting that the filmmaker had falsely accused him of hitting women.
Reflecting on Penn's appearance at her recent concert, Madonna said: "After the show, he wrote me a letter. And he said he finally appreciated my art. And that is what I have to say about marriage, OK? Thirty years later!"
'I Will Always Love You' by Dolly Parton
In 1967, country singer Porter Wagoner discovered 21-year-old Dolly Parton and gave her a permanent spot on his TV show. The two performed countless duets, but seven years later Parton decided to branch out on her own. "We had a hard time making that separation—both of us—'cause we had a lot of history between us, lot of feelings, lot of emotion, lot of career," Parton recalls. "So Porter just wasn't having it. He was not liking that at all.
"And I thought, Now how can I make this hard-headed man listen to me? And tell him how I feel: that I love him and I appreciate him, but I gotta go on and do some more stuff," Parton continues. "So finally I asked God to help me with it. So, I got this feeling. Why don't you do what you do best? Put your feelings in a song."
'Silver Springs' by Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks wrote this song about her ex and bandmate Lindsey Buckingham. "We were in Maryland somewhere driving under a freeway sign that said Silver Spring, Maryland," Nicks said in 1998. "And I loved the name. ... And uh, 'You could be my silver springs ...' that's just a whole symbolic thing of what you could have been to me."
"Silver Springs" was originally to be included on Fleetwood Mac's 1977 album "Rumours," but it was relegated to the B-side of "Go Your Own Way" instead. It was "probably one of the most devastating things anybody has ever done to me in my life," Nicks recalled. According to the singer, she eventually quit Fleetwood Mac because the band refused to give her the rights to "Silver Springs."
'Hands Clean' by Alanis Morissette
The lead single from Alanis Morissette's 2002 album "Under Rug Swept" refers to an affair with a older man that began when the singer was 14 and lasted four years. "He was about 15 years older than me," Morissette told Q magazine in 2004. "There was more than one; whether it was, like, father issues or whatever, when I was younger I used to date men who were ridiculously older than me … The grudge I hold is against myself for having been quiet for so long … I've covered his a** for so many years."
'Frederick' by Patti Smith
The lead single from Patti Smith's 1979 album, "Wave," is a tribute to Fred "Sonic" Smith, the MC5 guitarist she married in 1980.
Smith: "I met Fred at Lafayette Coney Island. It's a place where they sell hot dogs in Detroit. ... I looked at him. I didn't know who he was. He looked at me. And I swear to you I thought, 'That's the fellow I'm going to marry.' I don't know why that happened. It was an instant moment of alchemy."
The Smiths had two children together and lived "very simply," Patti has said. "I did all the cooking and cleaning. Fred did all the repair work in the house. Occasionally he or I would get royalty checks. It was great. I had a chance to learn and study. My husband taught me about politics and golf and how to play the clarinet."
Fred Smith died in 1994.
'Diamonds and Rust' by Joan Baez
Joan Baez's 1975 hit is about an unexpected phone call from a former lover, Bob Dylan. The folk-music power couple had met in 1961 ("I was crazy about him," Baez recalled), but Dylan broke up with her in 1965 while on tour in the U.K. Nine years later, Baez was working on a song when she received that out-of-the-blue call. "He read me the entire lyrics to 'Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts' that he'd just finished from a phone booth in the Midwest." The song she was working on turned into "Diamonds and Rust." "I don't remember what I'd been writing about [before the call], but it had nothing to do with what it ended up as."
'Day Dreaming' by Aretha Franklin
The Queen of Soul was briefly engaged to Dennis Edwards of the Temptations, and word has it that she wrote the 1972 single "Day Dreaming" about him. "I should have married Aretha," Edwards said many years later. "It was all in my court and I think I'm the one that was so scared of marrying this superstar." By the time he came to that realization, it was too late. "I was no longer interested," Franklin told Ebony magazine in 1995. "He had drop-kicked me a couple of times and I had just had enough."
'Chuck E.'s In Love' by Rickie Lee Jones
Rickie Lee Jones' 1979 hit was inspired by singer Chuck E. Weiss. Weiss, Jones and her then-boyfriend Tom Waits were drinking buddies who spent long hours together at the Tropicana Motel in Los Angeles. The origin of the song is simple: One day Weiss called the motel and told Waits he had traveled to Colorado to be with his sweetheart. Waits hung up the phone, turned to Jones and said, "Chuck E.'s in love!"
'Lake Charles' by Lucinda Williams
From her Grammy-winning 1998 album "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," this song—named after Lucinda Williams' hometown—was a tribute to a former boyfriend Clyde Woodward, who died from cirrhosis of the liver in 1991.
In the Austin Chronicle, Woodward's friend Margaret Moser described an encounter with Williams after his death. "He comes to me in dreams, sometimes," Moser recalled Williams saying. "In one, he's whipping me. In another, he's trying to pull me, make me go with him.," Moser continued: "Suddenly, I missed Clyde terribly. I put my arms around Lucinda and held her like a child."
'Don't Come Home A' Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)' by Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn's first No. 1 single, which topped the charts in 1967, was reportedly about Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn, the man she married in 1948 when Loretta was 15. Although they had six children and remained together until Doolittle's death in 1996, it was a difficult marriage. Doolittle drank heavily, beat her ("He never hit me one time that I didn't hit him back twice") and serially cheated on Loretta, who said she stayed with him for the sake of her children. According to the country legend, "Doo" was present in "every song I wrote."
'Don't Explain' by Billie Holiday
In her 1956 autobiography "Lady Sings the Blues," Billie Holiday reveals that she wrote this jazz standard about her then-husband Jimmy Monroe. "I guess I always knew what I was letting myself in for when he married me. I knew this beautiful white English girl was still in town. He didn't admit it, of course. But I knew.
"One night he came in with lipstick on his collar … He saw I saw it and he started explaining and explaining. I could stand anything but that. Lying to me was worse than anything he could have done with any bitch. I cut him off, just like that. 'Take a bath, man,' I said. 'Don't explain.'"
Inspiring stories of stars who rose and fell—and then rose again, big time
Even though the artists never returned to the Top 40, these songs are forever stuck in our head
20 things you may not know about the original riot grrrl
20 things you may not know about Billie Jean King, Bobby Riggs and the 1973 tennis match that inspired the movie
Photos and fun facts about the Neapolitan beauty who became a Hollywood icon
What made some of the most celebrated groups ever fall apart