A 43 Year-Old Music Mystery Solved: The Subject of “You’re So Vain”

Back in 1972, long before Taylor Swift was around to extract hit singles from heartbreak Carly Simon had a massive hit with a song written about a real super self-absorbed ex. But who was she singing about?

She never said a word leaving everyone to speculate. Was it about Mick Jagger? If so, how did she trick him into singing background vocals on the song? Could it have been Cat Stevens? Bowie? David Cassidy? David Geffen or some other record company executive? Carly wouldn’t say.

In 1983, she did admit that it wasn’t about Mick Jagger, even though he did have the hots for her in ’72.  Okay, so one down.

About ten years ago, though, she began to drop hints. The letter “E” was in the person’s name. (Fantastic. That was a big help.)  But then more letters started coming out. “A” and then “R.”

This led to David Kent Armstrong, a musician with whom Carly had a relationship. There was also a tantilizing clue about a backwards mention of the name in a certain version of “You’re So Vain.” Some people claim they found it, and the name whispered was “David.” (Carly says that’s wrong; she whispered “Ovid,” which I don’t get at all.)

However, the mystery has been solved by Carly herself in a brand new interview in People. The target of the song is…Warren Beatty.

Duh. He was always one of the main suspects in this manhunt, so the Big Reveal isn’t entirely that big. Beatty himself proclaimed this to be true many, many times. But then you’d expect a self-absorbed sort to do this, right?

I guess it’s nice to put this mystery to bed, but I somehow wish it had been kept a secret. Music needs more mystery and myth.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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