A few years ago a rich man paid a lot of money at an auction to have Carly Simon whisper her secret in his ear. That secret? The name of the subject of her indelible hit “You’re So Vain” with its Bob Dylan-level mocking savagery and ear-worm swagger. It doesn’t get a lot better lyrically than the ultra-clever taunt “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.” Now there’s an interesting trap.
Simon’s new book, Boys in the Trees: A Memoir, is coming out this month and in promoting it she revealed to People magazine that the second verse is about the film star Warren Beatty. Beatty has been known to walk into parties like he’s walking onto a yacht, but Simon will say only that the second verse — about the man who “gave away the things you love/and one of them was me” refers to Beatty. The rest is still a mystery. So for the time being, Beatty’s off the hook for that “wife of a close friend” business. Asking Beatty himself won’t likely do much good. He once gave this advice about how to succeed in life: “if you’ve got something to hide, hide it.” Long thought to be potential subjects of the song, Kris Kristofferson, Mick Jagger, and David Geffen remain, by all accounts, vain enough to have inspired the song even if Carly didn’t shout them out.