You’re So Vain

One of American singer, songwriter and children’s author Carly Simon’s most popular hits is “You’re So Vain,” which she wrote in 1971 and recorded the following year.

Over the years, part of the song’s allure has been the mystery surrounding who exactly she’s saying is so vain. There has been much speculation, guessing and prodding over the years, with much of it pointing to American actor, director, screenwriter and producer Warren Beatty. Wikipedia tells me Simon confirmed in 2015 that, yes, he was the subject, but only of the second verse; two other as-yet-unnamed men also share the “spotlight” in the others. The song initially had a fourth but rarely performed verse (possibly implicating another man!).

Aside from all that drama, another thing attracted me to the song.

I was listening to random songs from my library the other day while answering a person who had reached out via the “Contact” page on my website to send a kind message about my post on Band of Horses’ “Ode to LRC.” During that time, “You’re So Vain” played and, as I listened to it, I heard something I had never noticed before: a backup singer who sounded just like Mick Jagger, the (now) near-octogenarian lead singer of the English rock band The Rolling Stones. Sure enough, reading up some more, I learned Jagger provided uncredited backing vocals on the piece. The word is, Jagger was in the studio when Simon et al. were recording backing vocals, and she invited him to come and join in.

“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, 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
When 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, 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, 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 Lear jet 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, I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you? Don’t you? Don’t 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
You’re so vain, bet you think this song is about you”

“You’re So Vain,” by Carly Simon.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of Genius.com.

I must have heard “You’re So Vain” thousands of times since Simon released it but, strangely, have never caught Jagger’s vocal before. I think he adds a magical sort of country music twang in his singing of it. What do you think? Did you always know he was on the recording? It’s interesting to me that, in the context of corresponding with another music lover, maybe I was open to more of the artistry of the song. Either way, it’s a terrific hit that stands up well, fifty years after its release.

“You’re So Vain” comes from Carly Simon’s third studio album, No Secrets (1972). I’ve previously posted writeups on two other Simon songs, “Anticipation” and “Touched by the Sun.” Please check those posts out while you’re here visiting.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a 1987 performance of the song at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, USA from a concert DVD on Carly Simon’s official YouTube channel:

And, the original studio version:

Thanks for stopping by,

Steve

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