Interview: Carly Simon, Author Of 'Boys In The Trees' The woman behind "You're So Vain" has stories for days about love and music. On the occasion of a new memoir, she joins NPR's Scott Simon to unfold a few of them.
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Carly Simon: 'I'm Constantly Reemerging In My Life'

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Carly Simon: 'I'm Constantly Reemerging In My Life'

Carly Simon: 'I'm Constantly Reemerging In My Life'

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Carly Simon was born into what sounds like a charmed life. Her father Richard was the co-founder of Simon & Schuster. The family moved in glamorous circles. But then there was the other, which she writes about in her new memoir, "Boys In The Trees," which includes sharp vignettes into personalities that include Kris Kristofferson, Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, James Taylor, but most of all, insights into Carly Simon and her music, including that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE SO VAIN")

CARLY SIMON: (Singing) You're so vain. You probably think this song is about you. You're so vain.

SCOTT SIMON: Carly Simon, who has recorded some of the most personal, poetic and popular songs of our time, in a voice that's at once dusky and resonant, joins us now from her home in Martha's Vineyard. Thanks so much for being with us.

CARLY SIMON: Oh, it's very nice to be here.

SCOTT SIMON: What was it like for you to write about what, on the surface, sounds like golden days growing up in New York?

CARLY SIMON: You know, the main reason that I wrote the book was because I had kept diaries for a good part of my life, starting really from when I could write, you know, handwrite. And I talked about my sisters and my brother and my mother and father and various people who lived in our apartment building in New York City, which was a six-story building that my father owned. And there was a lot of charm - it was a lot charm in just living in a big family compound of the house. And my two uncles, who were into jazz, lived in the basement, and they were young blokes at the time. And they had - one of them, Uncle Peter, taught me how to play the ukulele and taught me my first songs on the uke (ph), which was a predecessor of the guitar, really.

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah. You and your sister Lucy were the singing Simon Sisters. How did you start singing together?

CARLY SIMON: Well, we started singing together in my junior or senior year of high school, and she was already in college. And she got a guitar first, and she learned some chords. And she came home and taught me the chords on the weekends and holidays when she'd come home. And she wrote a song called "Winkin', Blinkin' And Nod."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WINKIN', BLINKIN' AND NOD")

THE SIMON SISTERS: (Singing) Winkin' and Blinkin' and Nod, one night, sailed off on a wooden shoe.

CARLY SIMON: We learned the chords to it from a boy named Davey Goud (ph), who lived up on the Vineyard. And he taught Lucy some chords and also a strum to play the song. And then Lucy taught me the strum, and we could both sing that one song. And then we learned maybe a couple of others, a Harry Belafonte song, a Judy Collins song, a Tarriers song - and also we had a book of folk songs in our house on Martha's Vineyard. And we would just look through that book and just gobble it up. We just were so happy when we learned more than four chords.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WINKIN', BLINKIN' AND NOD")

THE SIMON SISTERS: (Singing) Winkin' and Blinkin' and Nod.

SCOTT SIMON: I can't get out of this interview without asking - who did you write about in "You're So Vain"?

CARLY SIMON: Well, you know, of all the things in the book, that's the one thing I feel most uncomfortable about. I feel as if my answer is a little bit ingenuous. It's not - it's - I would say it's not not about Warren Beatty, but I can't understand why there's been such intense interest about this over the years. And I don't really want to play into that. To me, it's not an issue. It's a kind of a fun riddle. And I wish that people would get off trying to figure out because it would be unfair, really, to go into it any further than this. And I hope that people stop talking about it.

SCOTT SIMON: May I ask about you and James Taylor?

CARLY SIMON: Yes, sure.

SCOTT SIMON: It's - because it's very - on the one hand, there's sections you read, and he sounds like the dearest person in the world, his drug habit notwithstanding. And then there are times when you don't like him because of what he does to you. Now, we've interviewed him on this show. He's welcome anytime. I liked him. Has he read the book? do you know?

CARLY SIMON: I'm pretty sure he won't read the book. I can't imagine that he would. He certainly hasn't shown very much interest in me post-1980 or something or '82.

It's a little bit confusing to me why a door is closed in such a vehement way. But I think when you get married, it's not a totally free ride. It's not without its unglamorous periods and its fights and its angry noons and silent dawns or vice versa. And yes, of course, he did hurt me, and I'm sure I hurt him, too. But I think I had the best of James. I mean, I was so in love with him, not with blinders on. I was in love with him because he is remarkable man, and he gave me a tremendous amount when he did.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COMING AROUND AGAIN")

CARLY SIMON: (Singing) I know nothing stays the same, but if you're willing to play the game...

SCOTT SIMON: If I had to pick a favorite Carly Simon song, it would be "Coming Around Again."

CARLY SIMON: Thank you.

SCOTT SIMON: That great line - don't mind if I fall apart. There's more room in a broken.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COMING AROUND AGAIN")

CARLY SIMON: (Singing) So don't mind if I fall apart. There's more room in a broken heart.

You know, that's so much a part of life, or certainly a part of my life, is being able to embrace the broken heart, not just cast it off as having no meaning or trying to get rid of it. I think the book gives a very good journey through the way I handled things that were desperately frightening for me. I have made that journey. It's as if I'm coming up through the water and having oxygen again. You know, I'm constantly re-emerging in my life.

SCOTT SIMON: Carly Simon, her memoir "Boys In The Trees." Thanks so much for being with us.

CARLY SIMON: Thank you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COMING AROUND AGAIN")

CARLY SIMON: (Singing) I know nothing stays the same, but if you're willing to play the game, it will be coming around again.

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