Carly Simon has been laying her heart bare for decades, gifting fans little pieces of herself with emotionally weighty songs, riddled with fierce honesty, and unapologetic lyrics.
Disarming in her vulnerability, and earth-shattering in her relatability, it’s impossible not the feel something when the singer opens her mouth to reveal raw emotion and unquenchable talent. She is a wordsmith of some of the most enduring pop hits and, at the same time, a narrator of life, love, and loss.
Here are ten Carly Simon essentials.
10. “Tranquillo (Melt My Heart)”
Melt my heart, why don’t you / Melt my heart, she sings in the chorus of the 1978 hit “Tranquillo (Melt My Heart).”
The song appears on her acclaimed album, Boys in the Trees. Her voice shines as she spouts nonsensical lyrics against the funk-fueled, erratic groove.
9. “All The Things You Are”
A composition originally by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, “All The Things You Are” has seen innumerable iterations from acts like Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Barbra Streisand.
Simon’s 2005 rendition of the classic musical tune features her seasoned, husky crooning and shows her breadth as an artist.
8. “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be”
My friends from college / They’re all married now / They have their houses and their lawns / They have their silent noons / Tearful nights, angry dawns, play lines from “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.”
From her 1971 debut, the song reveals some of Simon’s most powerful songwriting as the moody tune paints a darkly-tinted, distorted portrait of the so-called American Dream. The song continues, Their children hate them for the things they’re not / They hate themselves for what they are / And yet they drink, they laugh / Close the wound / Hide the scar.
“That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard it Should Be” catapulted Simon into stardom, earning her a nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 14th Annual Grammy Awards in 1972. It was there that she also won Best New Artist.
What begins with hushed choral flourishes, “Jesse” erupts into a steady groove.
Oh mother, say a prayer for me / Jesse’s back in town, it won’t be easy, Simon sings in the 1980 classic. In a song about a former lover, she calls on the people around her to give her clarity if she ever thinks about going back to him. Don’t let him near me, she sings, Don’t let him touch me / Don’t let him please me.
6. “You Belong to Me”
Written by Simon alongside Michael McDonald, “You Belong to Me” was originally recorded by McDonald’s band The Doobie Brothers in 1977. However, Simon popularized the song when she released a softened, more sultry version on Boys in the Trees a year later.
Simon and her then-husband, fellow singer-songwriter, James Taylor, recorded a remake of the Inez & Charlie Foxx tune, “Mockingbird,” in 1973. While based on the classic lullaby “Hush Little Baby,” “Mockingbird” is a high-energy, soul-textured tune that sounds far from the sleepy serenade from which it was inspired.
Why does your love hurt so much?, Simon asks in “Why?” While the song is a disco-drenched departure from Simon’s trademark soft-folk-pop stylings, the 1982 catalog curveball still deserves a mention.
It was not received well by American audiences, but “Why” was a smashing success in the U.K. and across Europe, proving Simon’s irresistible reach.
3. “Nobody Does It Better”
The 1977 power ballad, “Nobody Does It Better,” is the theme for the tenth James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me. Composed by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, it is among the franchise’s most successful themes, holding a No. 2 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for weeks.
It is Simon’s full-throated, impassioned singing that drives home the to-the-point lyricism, Nobody does it better / Though sometimes I wish someone could / Nobody does it quite the way you do / Why d’you have to be so good?
2. “Coming Around Again”
“Coming Around Again” was written for the 1987 Jack Nicholson-Meryl Streep film, Heartburn, and became a global success.
The tune mirrored the film’s depictions of a relationship’s highs and lows, something Simon could relate to at the time. Her divorce from Taylor was still fresh and there is no doubt she felt plenty of truth in writing the lines: So don’t mind if I fall apart / There’s more room in a broken heart.
1. “You’re So Vain”
You’re so vain / You probably think this song is about you / You’re so vain / I’ll bet you think this song is about you / Don’t you? Don’t you? Don’t you?
Simon’s calling card, “You’re So Vain” is the ultimate essential. A biting song about a mystery man, the 1972 classic gives more questions than answers, but that’s what makes it so delightful. The tune is rumored to be about everyone from Warren Beatty and Kris Kristofferson to Cat Stevens and Mick Jagger, but not knowing gives the menacing song its delicious mystique.
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