Who is YOU'RE SO VAIN about?

Carly Simon with the You're So Vain usual suspects, Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, Mick Jagger and Cat Stevens
How the riddle got started:

In January of 1973, You're So Vain was the # 1 hit song on the radio. Carly Simon had just married fellow pop-superstar James Taylor a month before, so when You're So Vain hit the airwaves, it stirred intense curiosity about which one of her previous lovers was the subject of this wry nod to the male ego.

A radio station in Los Angeles had their listeners call in to cast their ballot as to who they thought the song was about. Was it Mick Jagger? Cat Stevens? Warren Beatty? Kris Kristofferson? It was common knowledge that she had been involved with each of them in the past. To this day, she is still asked the question "Who is You're So Vain about?", but she has never publicly revealed the answer.

Will you ever reveal who You're So Vain is about?
I don't see why I ever would. What would it advance? I wrote that song in the days when people kept confidences to themselves. Carly Simon
David Geffen is not the subject of You're So Vain
Responding to the rumor on social media in 2010:

What a riot! The song has nothing to do with David Geffen. What a funny mistake. Someone got a clue mistaken for another mistake! Carly SimonShowbiz 411 2010

Detailed Info About This Rumor:
Showbiz 411, Vanity Fair
James Taylor is not the subject of You're So Vain
Some people think "You're So Vain" is about (your husband) James Taylor.

No, it's definitely not about James, although James suspected that it might be about him because he's very vain. No, he isn't, but he had the unfortunate experience of taking a jet up to Nova Scotia after I’d written the song. He was saved by the fact that it wasn’t a Lear. Carly Simon Rolling Stone 1973

Mick Jagger is not the subject of You're So Vain
Who was ‘You’re So Vain about? Mick Jagger?
No. Carly Simon The Washington Post 1983

"The apricot scarf was worn by Nick....there's nothing in the words that refer to Mick."
Carly sang On Janet Jackson's 2001 song Son Of A Gun

How did you get Mick Jagger to sing on You're So Vain?

This Morning 1995

Warren Beatty might be the subject of You're So Vain
Was ‘You’re So Vain about Warren Beatty?
It certainly sounds like it was about Warren Beatty. He certainly thought it was about him - he called me and said thanks for the song. At the time I met him he was still relatively undiscovered as a Don Juan. I felt I was one among thousands at that point – it hadn’t reached, you know, the populations of small countries. Carly Simon
The Washington Post 1983

Warren Beatty?
I won't tell.....well, it's certainly not, not about Warren. Pure Oxygen 2000

For the record, Simon acknowledges the song is a little about Beatty; it's a composite of three men from her L.A. days.

I never took him seriously. He was great fun and very, very, bright. But noooo ... as a boyfriend.

In the beginning Warren was pretty good at pretending he was only smooth on the outside and a bowl of jelly on the inside. But he doesn't do that secondary act very well now. Carly Simon Fame Magazine 1989

Is Kris Kristofferson the subject of You're So Vain?
During the summer of 1971, Carly & Kris embarked on a summer-long love affair. He was 35; a Rhodes scholar turned singer-songwriter, who had just been named "the hottest thing in Nashville" by the New York Times (Due in part to the #1 hit of Me, and Bobby McGee).

During their time together, she wrote Three Days about Kris, and he wrote I've Got To Have You about her.

Looking back on the romance, Kris says, "I was pretty self-absorbed in those days. Carly was funny and really smart - she had more brains than I did. I have a hard time now believing she tolerated my company." Girls Like Us

Is Cat Stevens the subject of You're So Vain?
After the success of Carly's first single That's The Way I Always Heard It Should Be, Carly opened for Cat Stevens at The Troubadour in April of 1971. The three nights sold out to rave reviews.

When Carly flew back to New York, Cat Stevens did too, and he asked her out. While waiting for him to arrive for their date, she wrote the song Anticipation. She also dedicated the album, of the same name, to him - using his real name Steve (Steven Demitri Georgiou).

In turn, he wrote Sweet Scarlet for her.
Girls Like Us

Is Nick Delbanco the subject of You're So Vain?
"The apricot scarf was worn by Nick....there's nothing in the words that refer to Mick."
Carly sang On Janet Jackson's 2001 song Son Of A Gun

The photo above, of novelist Nick Delbanco, is not how he looked back when he and Carly lived together in the South of France (mid-1960's), but it has that whole "hat strategically dipped below one eye" thing going ON, so we used it here.

Nick Delbanco - Bio
Is Willie Donaldson the subject of You're So Vain?
In London in the mid-60's, Carly fell into a very passionate, ardent summer-long love affair with writer, satirist, producer, Willie Donaldson and they decided to marry. Shortly after announcing their engagement, he wrote to say that he had reconciled with actress Sarah Miles and Carly was cast aside.

Willie's rejection of her "was the first cut in my life," she has said, "and the first cut is the deepest.

"There are so many ways that, very narcissistically; I thought of myself through Willie's eyes....the love affair was a solid , six-week-long kill for both of us, so intense it was as if we'd both died. I don't think either of us recovered." Carly Simon Girls Like Us

Willie Donaldson must be the most interesting character in this "who is it?" lineup. He passed away in 2005, and if this Obituary is even-half true, he led a life that even the best fiction writer could not have dreamt up.
Carly Simon gives a clue as to the name of the person who You're So Vain is about.
Paula Zahn: You once admitted that it could potentially be a composite of a number of men in your life.

Carly: Well, I guess for those who are interested in clues - the name of the person it was about had an "E" in it.
Paula Zahn: Oh, well thank you...that's very helpful Carly.
Carly: Maybe I could disclose another letter. OK, it also has an "A".
Paula Zahn: (Laughter) Ok, we'll be asking you about this for the next thirty years.
Carly: Well listen, two vowels ain't bad!CNN 2004

Was it a single person or a composite of objectionable traits in a variety of people?

Hardly objectionable! I think it's a very attractive man.

I think it's a very complicated man who is obviously concerned with his image, but obviously worthy of my love or my interest.

I don't LOVE just anyone. You know, he's gotta have a certain amount of character. If he was only vain it would be boring, but there's a lot more to him. He hob knobs with the underworld. Carly Simon NBC 1994

You're So Vain was just a series of lines in a notebook for a long time.

There was you're so vain you probably think this song is about you, and you walked into a party like you were walking onto a yacht.

And then one day I figured out 'Hey, these two lines could be about the same person. Carly Simon E!

Carly Simon gives a clue as to the name of the person who You're So Vain is about.
Regis: Isn't it time for you to tell the world - who's the guy you're singing about? Is it Warren Beatty? Is it Mick Jagger? Or is it me? Tell us!

Carly: If I tell it, it's going to come out in dribs and drabs. And I've given out two letters already, and "A" and an "E". But I'm going to add one to it. I'm going to add an "R", in honor of you. Regis & Kelly 2004

The second verse is about Warren Beatty. The subjects of the first and third verses don't know that this song is about them, so it would be rude to disclose their identities.

Here's a verse that never made it into the recording:

A friend of yours revealed to me
That you'd love me all the time
You kept it secret from your wives
You believed that was no crime
You called me once to ask me things
I couldn't quite divine
Maybe that's why I have tried to dismiss you, tried to dismiss you...

Carly Simon Boys In The Trees (Memoir)


Carly Simon's long awaited Memoir includes rememberances of her romantic entanglements with some of the most famous men of the day and the unraveling of her storybook marriage to James Taylor.

What does "Clouds In My Coffee" mean?

It came from an airplane flight that I took with Billy Mernit, who was my friend and piano player at the time. As I got my coffee, there were clouds outside the window of the airplane and you could see the reflection in the cup of coffee. Billy said to me, 'Look at the clouds in your coffee'. I liked the phrase and used it to illustrate my "illusion" of having a relationship with the subject of the song. Carly Simon

You're So Vain (Live)

Carly Simon performing You're So Vain in 1987 from her Live From Martha's Vineyard DVD

You're So Vain - Official Video (Contest Winner)

Back when You're So Vain reigned # 1 on the Billboard Charts in 1973, there was no such thing as a 'music video" to accompany a single song release.

In 2010, Carly Simon and Iris Records ran a contest which asked fans and filmmakers to create the first and only concept video to accompany her iconic hit. They were provided with "green screen" footage of Carly singing the song, and were told they could use either the original recording of You're So Vain or the newly recorded version from her Never Been Gone CD. This wining video incorporates both versions.

While there were quite a few excellent videos submitted, Brett Bisogno ultimately won Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain' video contest and a Grand Prize of $10,000. He also had this winning video premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival..

Brett Bisogno receiving his check as Carly Simon's official You're So Vain contest winner
You're So Vain video contest winner - 2010