One of my earliest memories is being around 7 years old and singing along to Carly Simon’s timeless mega-hit “You’re So Vain.” I played the 45 record constantly (show of hands from everyone who is old enough to remember 45s!), blissfully unaware of the provocative questions that still linger today. I didn’t even understand most of the lyrics but I knew enough to know that I loved the poetry of I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee years before I ever had my first cup.
I don’t have a favorite Carly song. It’s impossible to choose just one. I do tend to gravitate to the lesser known ones, I’ve noticed. Many have become mantras for me at different times of my life, and never more so than when our kids were born.
As premature newborn twins, our babies spent a few weeks in the NICU. During that time, we were told to talk to them, sing to them, anything to get them acquainted with our voices and so they could sense we were there. My husband, the consummate Beatles fan, sang George Harrison’s entire catalogue (The Quiet Beatle had died during our NICU days) and I sang Carly Simon. “Julie Through the Glass” (“Julie through the glass, just born a day ago/ and who knows where you’ve been/ and where you’re gonna go”) and “Libby” (“If all our flights are grounded/ Libby, we’ll go to Paris/ dance along the boulevards and have no one to embarrass ….”) were both on heavy rotation.
Finally, we were on the verge of being discharged and all that stood in the way of us going home was a few ounces of formula that our girl needed to drink — but stubbornly refused. So, I sang the only song that was in my head at the time, “Let the River Run,” over and over and over.
A few years ago, that same girl and I were grocery shopping when “Let the River Run” came on over the speakers. I had to hold in the tears in the middle of the frozen foods aisle. “Mooo-ommm,” she said, in her dramatic teenage style, “you’re not going to cry and tell me the story about this song and me being in the hospital again, are you?” Why, yes. Yes, I most certainly am.
Back to being NICU parents. This all happened in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, making it especially hard to be so isolated and scared, so when Carly’s Christmas album came out a year later, in 2002, it seemed like “Christmas Is Almost Here” was written for us, with that whole experience in mind. It has become one of my very favorite Christmas songs because it is so intertwined with those fragile NICU days.
In 2005, I noticed an ad in the newspaper announcing that Carly was going to be in concert at The Borgata casino in Atlantic City. This was, as any Carly fan knows, an extremely rare event. We were the parents of nearly four-year-old twins, I had just started working full time again a few months earlier, and concert tickets had long ceased to be among our discretionary expenditures. We crunched the numbers; nope, no can do. Maybe there would be a time when Carly would be comin’ around again, but most likely, this was a once in a lifetime thing that we had to be responsible about and let go. I was crushed, to put it mildly.
A few days later at work, I opened an email from The Husband. “From Santa!” it said, and it was a printout of the confirmation from Ticketmaster that we had tickets in the front section for Carly’s 2005 Serenade Tour. It was, without a doubt, one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended (and I’ve been lucky to see some great ones). Her kids, Sally and Ben Taylor, were with her on that tour and they sang a rendition of “You Can Close Your Eyes” that was exquisite. At the time, we sang that to our son every night.
The Husband says that I am responsible for introducing him to Carly Simon’s music. I count this as one of my greatest accomplishments. He knew the most popular songs, but not her backlist. (He did the same for me with The Beatles and their solo stuff, too, so we’re even.) One of the first gifts The Husband ever bought me was Carly’s picture book, The Fisherman’s Song, which is the words to her song of the same name.
There are so many moments in my life that have Carly Simon’s music as a soundtrack. And there are so many other moments in my heart that are perfectly captured in the lyrics of a Carly Simon song. I’ve been listening to her for as long as I can remember and I can’t imagine my life without her music.
Happy 74th Birthday, Carly.
And thank you.