Since breaking onto the scene in the 1970s with her eponymous debut album, Carly Simon has become one of the most popular singer/songwriters of all time. She’s won two Grammy Awards, countless other awards, and released some of the most affecting pop music of the last 50 years. Here, we take a look back at her career with our pick of the ten best Carly Simon songs of all time.
In 1980, Carly Simon decided to jump on board the new wave wagon with the album Come Upstairs. It doesn’t entirely work, and some of the tracks are downright extraordinary, for all the wrong reasons. But Jesse is a delicious nugget of country-infused pop gold, with killer lyrics and a chorus that will stay in your head for days. Released in July 1980, it was a massive success, peaking at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 8 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and eventually certifying Gold – her fourth single to ever do so.
9. Playing Possum
Even die-hard Carly Simon fans would have to admit that 1975’s Playing Possum is a patchy album. It does have its charms though, not least a title track that paints a picture of a former 60’s firebrand who’s given up their radical ways for a life of quiet domesticity. “Are you finally satisfied?” Simon concludes by asking. It didn’t get the single treatment, but it’s an incredible piece of songwriting nonetheless.
8. You Belong To Me
If you’ve ever bought a Carly Simon compilation LP, there’s a very good chance that You Belong to Me is on it. Released in 1978 as the lead single from her seventh album Boys in the Trees, it’s one of her most successful songs of all time, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and No. 4 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. At the following year’s Grammy Awards, it picked up a nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Named as one of the best love songs of all time by the Telegraph, Simon was just 16 years old when she wrote this searingly honest depiction of desire and confusion as she waited nervously for her first date with Cat Stevens. It was later used, somewhat less romantically, as the soundtrack for several Heinz Ketchup commercials. Released as the lead single for the 1971 album of the same name, it was a major hit, peaking at No. 13 in the Billboard Pop Singles chart and No. 3 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. It also managed to scoop a Grammy nomination for Best Female Vocalist.
6. Like a River
If you like songs that pack an emotional punch, listen to Like a River. Written by Simon about the death of her mother and the family squabbles that followed, it’s a hauntingly lovely song that’s guaranteed to pull at the heartstrings. Recorded for Simon’s 16th studio album Letters Never Sent, it remains a firm fan favorite to this day.
5. Legend In Your Own Time
Named as one of the greatest Carly Simon songs of all time by the Guardian, Legend In Your Own Time combines two distinct songwriting styles, offering a withering but ultimately affectionate portrayal of a successful man. It’s something similar to You’re So Vain, but there are enough twists and turns in the lyrics and melody to make it a standalone classic. Issued as the second single from the 1971 album Anticipation, it reached No. 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No.11 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
4. Nobody Does It Better
James Bond theme tunes don’t get much better than Nobody Does It Better, a song that Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has described as “the sexiest song ever written.” Released as a single in July 1977, it became an international hit, peaking at No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart, and reaching No. 7 on the UK Singles Chart. It also managed to pick up Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Grammy Award nominations.
3. That’s The Way I Always Heard It Should Be
As Classic Rock History writes, That’s The Way I Always Heard It Should Be defines Simon’s gift for melody. Recorded for her 1971 debut album, it’s a stunningly accurate portrait of a marriage – “the couples cling and claw and drown in love’s debris” – that’s sure to convince a listener to postpone those “I dos” for as long as possible. Released as a single in April 1971, it reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
2. Coming Around Again
On the surface, Coming Around Again is a smooth, made-for-radio piece of pop candy. Dig a little below the surface, and you’ll find a surprisingly honest, heartfelt account of a woman struggling to maintain a relationship amidst the strains of raising children. Released as a single in 1986, it became a major hit, breaking into the Top Ten in Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, and reaching No. 18 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
1. You’re So Vain
If one song defines Carly Simon’s career more than any other, it’s You’re So Vain. If she’d laid down her pen in 1972 and never written another song again, she’d still have a place in pop history thanks to this one, utterly perfect song. 50 years after its release, we’re still none the wiser about who it was written about. It doesn’t really matter though – regardless of the subject, the smart lyrics, luscious string arrangements, and stupendous chorus are what counts. Released in November 1972, it reached No. 1 across multiple countries and has since been named as one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.