Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (2024)

5 March 2024, 16:21

Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (1)

By Thomas Edward

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She's nothing short of legendary.

Singer and songwriter extraordinaire Carly Simon is widely regarded as one of the greatest female artists of all time.

Shooting to fame throughout the early seventies, Simon became renowned for her confessional approach to songwriting and spirited personality.

She became a Grammy Award winner almost instantly after the release of her 1971 self-titled debut album, and never looked back.

Across her 50-plus-year career in music, Carly Simon has won a multitude of awards and was ever-present in the charts throughout the seventies and eighties.

  • Lost Mick Jagger and Carly Simon duet is discovered after 45 years
  • Carly Simon pays emotional tribute to her two sisters who died of cancer a day apart
  • The Story of... 'You're So Vain' by Carly Simon
  • Carly Simon facts: Singer's age, husband, children, siblings and more revealed

The soft rock star was finally given her due in 2022 however, when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the first time of asking, inducted by Olivia Rodrigo after her sisters passed away in the same week prior, leading to her absence.

A musician, singer and songwriter foremost, Simon ventured into literature in later life, becoming a successful memoirist and writer of children's books in her own right.

But it's her music that will ensure Carly Simon's legacy as a great, and here's her ten greatest songs to prove it:

  1. 'Anticipation'

    Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (4)

    Carly Simon - Anticipation

    Carly Simon wrote 'Anticipation' in a matter of just fifteen minutes, as she waited for Cat Stevens to arrive at her flat for a date.

    She was Stevens' main support act for his show at New York City's Carnegie Hall, and they became romantically entangled for a short while.

    He was late for their date, so she penned 'Anticipation', later revealing in the book Anthems We Love: "I was anticipating his arrival. So I just started the song and I wrote the whole song, words and music, before he got there that night."

    It proved to be her second hit in a row, charting at number three on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in 1971.

  2. 'Mockingbird' with James Taylor

    Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (5)

    Mockingbird - Carly Simon & James Taylor

    Covering the Inez and Charlie Foxx soul number that riffed upon the lullaby 'Hush, Little Baby', Simon and her then-husband James Taylor teamed up for a duet of 'Mockingbird' in 1974.

    The track was a major hit, becoming a gold-selling song and helping Carly to overcome her fear of performing live after she joined Taylor on stage for a version in 1975.

    The pair met in 1972 and soon married - sharing two children together in Sarah and Benjamin - before divorcing in 1983.

    In 2004, Carly revealed she has absolutely no relationship with Taylor these days, telling website AskMen: "I would say our relationship is non-existent. It's not the way I want it."

  3. 'Haven't Got Time For The Pain'

    Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (6)

    Haven't Got Time for the Pain

    The follow-up to 'Mockingbird', 1974 single 'Haven't Got Time For The Pain' tells a different story to the radiant, pregnant and content Simon that appears on the album cover of Hotcakes.

    Happily married to James Taylor at the time, this song details a harrowing heartbreak that bogs down the singer until new love shows her a new path.

    It might be because Jacob Brackman actually wrote the lyrics, a journalist who would sometimes collaborate with Carly.

    It did the trick however, as 'Haven't Got Time For The Pain' reached number three in the US Adult Contemporary charts.

  4. 'Let The River Run'

    Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (7)

    Let The River Run - Carly Simon

    Carly Simon wrote 'Let The River Run' for Mike Nichols' 1988 film Working Girl which starred Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, and Melanie Griffith.

    Penning the lyrics after reading the script for the film, Simon described the song as "a hymn to New York" and an "anthem with a jungle beat", mirroring the city's hectic and uncompromising nature.

    After its initial release, 'Let The River Run' wasn't an overwhelming hit, but did achieve a rare feat.

    It became the first song - the second of which was Bruce Springsteen's 'Streets Of Philadelphia' - to an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Golden Globe that was written and created entirely by one artist.

  5. 'That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be'

    Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (8)

    Carly Simon - That's The Way I Always Heard It Should Be - 1971

    Carly Simon's 1971 debut single 'That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be' was a taste of things to come from the singer-songwriter, a track that details the dissolution of a marriage and family despite the affluent, prim veneer.

    She later reflected on the lyrics in an interview with The Independent in 2011, revealing: "When I first wrote it I thought it was an unusual thing for people to break up, and now all my friends are divorced."

    Despite being from a woman's perspective, it was again Brackman that helped Simon put the song together, after in-depth conversations about the relationships with their partners.

    The song broke Carly Simon into the top ten of the US charts, and paved the way for her stellar career.

  6. 'You Belong To Me'

    Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (9)

    You Belong To Me - Carly Simon

    Co-written by Carly Simon and Michael McDonald, 'You Belong To Me' was originally recorded by The Doobie Brothers in 1977, before Simon made it a hit the following year.

    Appearing on her 1978 album, Boys In The Trees, the sultry, saxophone-inspired ballad catapulted Carly into the top ten of the US charts, peaking at number four on the Adult Contemporary chart, and staying there for nineteen weeks.

    Her venture into a soul-tinged, R&B sound that was dominating airwaves at the time proved an inspired decision.

    'You Belong To Me' also bagged Simon a Grammy Award nomination in 1979.

  7. 'Coming Around Again'

    Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (10)

    Carly Simon - Coming Around Again

    Written for the 1986 Mike Nichols film, Heartburn, which starred Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, this was Carly's first soundtrack for the director's films, who she became romantically involved with.

    The lyrics - like most of Simon's work - reflect her own sentiments at the time she wrote them.

    Divorced from James Taylor with two young children to bring up, she herself felt the alienation and disappointment that the film's central character played by Streep feels.

    It's a gorgeous and emotionally mature song, one that resonated with people upon its release as it reached the top ten of the charts in both her native US and the UK.

  8. 'Nobody Does It Better'

    Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (11)

    Carly Simon Nobody Does It Better HD + HQ

    Often heralded as one of the greatest James Bond songs of all time, Carly Simon's 'Nobody Does It Better' featured on the Roger Moore-starring, The Spy Who Loved Me.

    It was even Moore's favourite 007 song, he later quipped: "because nobody did [do it better]. No, it is a terrific song as it embodies everything about Bond's character and why he is better and more popular than other movie spies."

    • All 25 James Bond theme songs ranked from worst to best

    The first Bond song not to be named after the film's title, it does feature in the lyrics when Simon sings in the first verse: "Like heaven above me, the spy who loved me is keepin' all my secrets safe tonight."

    Nevertheless it was was an international hit, reaching number two in the US charts and number seven in the UK charts.

    It could've been a different story however - 'Nobody Does It Better' was initially offered to Dusty Springfield who turned it down due to her issues with her mental health and addiction.

  9. 'Why'

    Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (12)

    Why - Carly Simon

    Despite the low-budget music video that shows Carly Simon prancing around her local New York streets (dancing clearly wasn't her strong point), 'Why' remains one of her most enduring songs.

    Appearing on the soundtrack for 1982 movie Soup For One, the lyrics mirror Simon's crumbling relationship with James Taylor, though she didn't even write it.

    • The shoestring music video for Carly Simon's 'Why' is absolutely hilarious

    Written and produced by Chic legends Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, it saw Simon embrace the groove having ignored the disco sensation - probably for the best by this point as disco was deemed incredibly uncool.

    The US didn't quite get to grips with Simon's dance moves, yet the UK - where it peaked at number ten - and clubs in Europe jumped on 'Why', and it's still a floor-filler to this day.

  10. 'You're So Vain'

    Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (13)

    Carly Simon - You're So Vain

    What else could it be? It's Carly Simon's signature song, which transformed her into a global superstar. It's 'You're So Vain'.

    In the fifty-plus years since its original release in 1973, the song has been the subject of speculation in terms of who actually inspired the scathing lyrics.

    Earlier in her career, Carly had fleeting flings with the likes of Mick Jagger - who provides uncredited backing vocals on the song - Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, and Cat Stevens. She was a woman about town who had her pick of men.

    • The Story of... 'You're So Vain' by Carly Simon

    Throughout the years she's changed the story, so fans can't quite put their finger on who the target of her derision is.

    In 1974, she told Modern Hi-Fi and Music: "That song is about a lot of people. I mean I can think of a lot of people. The actual examples that I've used in the song are from my imagination, but the stimulus is directly from a couple of different sources. It's not just about one particular person."

    Irrespective of who the song is about, 'You're So Vain' propelled Carly Simon to the top of the charts around the globe, particularly the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, as well as reaching number three in the UK.

Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked (2024)

FAQs

Carly Simon's 10 greatest songs, ranked? ›

Simon scored the biggest success of her career in 1972–73 with "You're So Vain". The single hit No. 1 on the U.S.

Did Carly Simon have a number one hit? ›

Simon scored the biggest success of her career in 1972–73 with "You're So Vain". The single hit No. 1 on the U.S.

Did James Taylor remarry after Carly Simon? ›

After Carly Simon, James Taylor married actress Kathryn Walker in late 1985. Walker helped him fight his heroin addiction, but they ultimately divorced in 1996. In 1995, James began dating Caroline 'Kim' Smedvig, the director of public relations and marketing for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Are James Taylor and Carly Simon friends? ›

The two singer-songwriters married in 1972, a year after their relationship began, and welcomed two children. They divorced in 1983 and no longer speak.

Was Carly Simon born wealthy? ›

One of the myths the book debunks about Carly Simon is that she was born rich and as a result success arrived easily, with no more effort than it took to ring the maid's bell. After all, her father, Richard Simon, was one of the founders of the publishing powerhouse, Simon and Schuster.

Who was Your So Vain written about? ›

discussed in biography. “You're So Vain,” like the album No Secrets, reached number one on the Billboard chart in 1973. She eventually revealed the subject of the song to be actor Warren Beatty. She had a major hit with her album Hotcakes (1974), which included “Haven't Got Time…

Does Taylor Swift like Carly Simon? ›

The point is it's a song about Carly Simon waking up to someone else's nonsense – a lyrical approach that many artists have been quick to adopt, most notably Taylor Swift. In fact, Taylor is such a huge fan she brought Carly onstage to sing the song with her in 2013.

What was Carly Simon's best original song? ›

Let the River Run

Did Carly ever like Simon? ›

Generally, Carli is quite shallow and has little romantic interest in Simon but uses his obvious infatuation to her own advantage.

Is you're so vain about James Taylor? ›

Nothing in the words referred to Mick [Jagger]." Shortly before the writing of the song, Simon was married to James Taylor; she has said that he was "definitely not" the subject of the song. David Bowie, David Cassidy and Cat Stevens have all been cited by the press as speculative candidates.

Who is James Taylor's daughter? ›

When did James Taylor come out? ›

1960s
TitleAlbum detailsPeak positions
US
James TaylorRelease date: December 6, 1968 Label: Apple Formats: LP, 8-track62

Did James Taylor serve in Vietnam? ›

Taylor, Armor, was serving as executive officer of Troop B, 1st Squadron. His troop was engaged in an attack on a fortified position west of Que Son when it came under intense enemy recoilless-rifle, mortar, and automatic-weapons fire from an enemy strong point located immediately to its front.

Who is the mother of James Taylor's twins? ›

March 28 -- James Taylor's got a friend — and she's about to give him and his wife twins. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, 52, and his 47-year-old wife, Caroline Smedvig, are expecting twins, who will be delivered next month by a surrogate mom, the Boston Herald reports.

Is James Taylor a vegetarian? ›

So about half of the days, we eat vegetarian, and the other half meat from animals I've hunted.

How many #1 songs has Carly Pearce had? ›

1 Hit Song. Carly Pearce's latest single “What He Didn't Do,” has climbed to the top of the Mediabase Country Airplay chart, marking her fourth No. 1 hit on country radio.

What is the number one hit single of all time? ›

This is a list of best-selling singles in the world. The Guinness World Records named the holiday single "White Christmas" (1942) by Bing Crosby as the best-selling single worldwide. According to Guinness, "White Christmas" sold over 50 million copies. The single is known as the "best-selling single of all time".

Who has the most #1 single hits? ›

The Beatles lead all acts, with a whopping 20 No. 1s — they've had the most since 1965, when they surpassed Elvis Presley.

What does gavotte mean in You're So Vain? ›

References in the song

Gavotte—used in the line "You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte"—is a French dance. In this context it can be taken to mean moving in a pretentious manner.

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