Simon, Carly Elisabeth

views updated


SIMON, CARLY ELISABETH (1945– ), New York City-born folk and pop songwriter and singer who achieved the greatest part of her success in the 1970s, when several of her songs scored high on the pop music charts. Simon is one of four children of New York publishing magnate Richard L. Simon, co-founder in 1924 of the publishing house Simon & Schuster, and non-Jewish mother Andrea. Her father was an accomplished pianist who often hosted musicians, including Richard *Rodgers, Oscar *Hammerstein, and George *Gershwin, at the family home. Simon spent two years at Sarah Lawrence College before dropping out and forming a folk duo with her sister, Lucy, singing in 1960s coffeehouses as the Simon Sisters. They recorded the children's tune "Wynken, Blinken' and Nod," presaging her later work on children's music. Her early solo career met with little success. Her first manager, Albert Grossman, asked Bob *Dylan to rewrite the song "Baby Let Me Follow You Down" for Simon, but the recording was never released. Simon's second album in 1971 resulted in a Best New Artist Grammy Award and the Top 10 hit "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be." She next reached #13 on the charts with "Anticipation" (later used in a famous ketchup commercial) in 1972. The song reputedly was about her love interest at the time, singer-songwriter Cat Stevens, later Yusuf Islam. She continued to write about her celebrity lovers, who included actors Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, and singers Mick Jagger and Kris Kristofferson, in her biggest hit, "You're So Vain," (#1, Adult Contemporary, 1973). The subject of the song has never been publicly revealed, although Dick Ebersol, president of nbc Sports, paid $50,000 to find out the name in a charity auction in 2003. Other 1970s chart hits included, "Mockingbird," with her husband James Taylor (#5, 1974) and "Nobody Does It Better," the theme from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (#2, 1977), presaging her later work on film scores. Her work failed to make major dents in the pop charts in the 1980s and 1990s, but her song "Let the River Run" won the Academy Award for Best Song in 1988 for the film Working Girl. As her mass appeal waned, Simon turned to recording albums of pop standards and Christmas tunes, as well as continuing her confessional, folk-tinged records, but returned to regular concert tours in 2005. Her children from her marriage to Taylor, Ben and Sally, continued the family tradition as folk music singer-songwriters. Simon was ranked 28th on tv music channel vh1's 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll, and by 2005 had released 29 albums and had 18 Top-20 singles on the U.S. and U.K. charts. Simon, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994, wrote five children's books: Amy the Dancing Bear (1989), The Boy of the Bells (1990), The Fisherman's Song (1991), The Nighttime Chauffeur (1993), and Midnight Farm (1997).

[Alan D. Abbey (2nd ed.)]