Simon arrives at a gala in Beverly Hills, California, in October 2013.

Simon arrives at a gala in Beverly Hills, California, in October 2013.

In the early seventies, singer-songwriter Carly Simon scored a string of hits including “Anticipation” and the feminist anthem “You’re So Vain.” With her gravelly voice, deeply personal lyrics, and endless smile, she became an icon of the era. Her romance with fellow musician James Taylor seemed to complete the folk-rock fairy tale. Yet in her new memoir, “Boys in the Trees,” Simon says that was hardly the case. A childhood filled with secrets and trauma left her insecure. Crippling stage fright plagued her career. And the end of her marriage to Taylor almost destroyed her. A conversation with Carly Simon about heartbreak, resilience and taking refuge in song.


  • Carly Simon Award-winning singer and songwriter; author of "Boys In The Trees: A Memoir"

Read An Excerpt

Excerpted from BOYS IN THE TREES: A MEMOIR by Carly Simon, published by Flatiron Books on November 24, 2015.
Copyright © Carly Simon. Reprinted by permission of Flatiron Books.

Boys In The Trees: A Memoir


  • 11:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Over the years, singer/songwriter Carly Simon has offered fans glimpses of her life through her deeply personal lyrics. Now, the 70-year-old musician known for songs like "You're So Vain" and "Let The River Run" provides a more complete picture. She's written a memoir titled "Boys In The Trees." In it, she chronicles her turbulent childhood, her rise to fame and her famously difficult marriage to fellow musician James Taylor.

  • 11:07:33

    MS. DIANE REHMShe's also released a companion CD set called "Songs In The Trees," which uses her music to tell her story. This includes a new song written and performed with her son Ben Taylor. Carly Simon joins me from a studio near her home on Martha's Vineyard. You're invited to be part of the program. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Carly Simon, it's great to see you.

  • 11:08:16

    MS. CARLY SIMONIt's great to see you and it's over Skype. Are we allowed to say that? That...

  • 11:08:21


  • 11:08:23

    SIMONI'm seeing you on Skype and I just think what is the technology going to allow five years from now.

  • 11:08:29

    REHMWho knows?

  • 11:08:29

    SIMON'Cause, obviously, there's going to be Skype plus. What do you think it's going to be, the next generation?

  • 11:08:34

    REHMI think it's going to be 3D at least, don't you?

  • 11:08:40

    SIMONI think it's probably going to be hologram and maybe in the hologram, we can sort of merge entities.

  • 11:08:48

    REHMThat's wonderful. You know what I want to ask you about and that is your appearance with Stephen Colbert. You and he sang together. What I want to know is whether you and he had rehearsed that beforehand.

  • 11:09:13

    SIMONWell, you know, when I watch him, there's always something that he does which looks unrehearsed and for instance, I saw -- who was it that did his own stunts? He asked him if he did his own stunts. Was it -- oh, it was Bruce Willis. And Bruce said, yes, of course I do. And so Stephen kind of challenged Bruce to do his own stunts right there and then. And, of course, it had to have been rehearsed because they were going through the drum kits and they were landing on their faces and the sounds of punches were booming and filling the air.

  • 11:09:52

    SIMONSo because that was rehearsed, I'm sure that Stephen rehearsed -- I'm sure that he learned "Mockingbird" and really learned it perfectly. And so he suggested just before the show, do you mind if I break into a song. So there was an innuendo that we were going to be doing something, but I didn't know exactly what it was going to be. And it was just fortunate that we both knew the song and we both knew where we were going to sing. And sometimes we didn't and that's what made it fun.

  • 11:10:24

    REHMWell, it was perfect. I just found that it was wonderful to watch and to listen to and so I thought I'd ask. So tell us about the opening scene of your book, Carly Simon. You and your family are meeting a nanny for the first time for your baby brother and you did something absolutely special at that moment.

  • 11:11:01

    SIMONWell, it was the moment that I figured out what my, at least, persona if not my personality was going to exhibit itself as being. My two older sisters were introduced first and my eldest sister was very, very theatrical almost, but she had a great deal of poise. She was not much more than 11 at the time. She was very -- she learned posture and tricks with her hair and how to put her eyelashes, you know, and she was just very poised and terrific presence.

  • 11:11:37

    SIMONAnd she said, how do you do? And then, my next sister, Lucy, was very shy and she had all of that -- she had that all wrapped up. She had the shy intrinsically adorable, demure, sweet, very sweet. And she had these that looked like Eskimo eyes. And when she went up to meet Helen, she was very, you know, you wanted to put your arms around her right away because she let so much in because she was so dear.

  • 11:12:11

    SIMONAnd so Helen said -- that's the name of the nurse, Helen Gaspard. I hope she's listening now so we're in Winnipeg, Canada. Anyway, she said, how do you do, Lucy? And then, all of a sudden, I was -- I thought, oh, my gosh. I didn't know the words for it yet, but I knew that there was proud and with all of the glamour that you could possibly want in Joey who was very sure of herself and then there was Lucy who the opposite and where was I going to fit, who was I going to be?

  • 11:12:42

    SIMONI thought, in order to be noticed, I've got to do something that's different, but what is that? Who am I? Who is this person? And I remember thinking that and I had just been to the movies to see the Jolson story with my uncle, Peter. And I'd remembered some of the motions that he made, you know, in the movie and I remembered that he was very outward and very exhibitionistic almost. Not exhibit -- no, he was just on stage. And I jumped up on the coffee table, which was a relatively low coffee table, and I spread my arms out and I said, hi.

  • 11:13:23

    REHMI can remember that in the Jolson story.

  • 11:13:28

    SIMONOh, really? My goodness. Well, he was imitating me by that time.

  • 11:13:33

    REHMNow, I want to ask you about your dedication because I found it so touching. It says, "dedicated to the first Orpheus, Richard L. Simon, my father, my beloved hero, understood too late for our peace to come during his lifetime." Tell us about your father who was a very famous man.

  • 11:14:09

    SIMONMy father was the co-founder of Simon and Schuster and if I'm making too many noise with my extravagant jewels -- I should tell you I have a dog whistle on. Anyway, he co-founded Simon and Schuster n 1924 and the first book that he published was really a brilliant idea. It was a collection of crossword puzzles from various newspapers around the country 'cause people were going into this crossword puzzle madness then. And he decided to publish them with a pencil included in the package.

  • 11:14:47

    SIMONAnd so you'd buy this crossword puzzle book for 25 cents and there was a pencil. You didn't even have to go look for one, or when you found it, you didn't have to sharpen it. And so it caught on like wildfire and it was a major success and thus was the beginning of Simon and Schuster. And but I remember him much more since I didn't really understand what a publisher meant when I was 6 and 7. I thought it meant that you went to the office and there were these big vats of dye and you'd stick the paper in the dye and you'd get a paisley effect if you wanted.

  • 11:15:22

    SIMONAnd stick it in another vat to get a certain effect. And then, there was Scotch tape to tape it all together and there was a book. And so that's what my father did when he went to the office every day.

  • 11:15:34

    REHMSo there was no take-your-daughter-to-the-office today opportunity for you back then.

  • 11:15:42

    SIMONWell, I did go to the office, but I was usually left out of the inner sanctums.

  • 11:15:46

    REHMGot you.

  • 11:15:46

    SIMONAnd so I didn't know -- I couldn't see the vats.

  • 11:15:49

    REHMSure, sure.

  • 11:15:49

    SIMONThe vats of dye. But what I really remember most about him was him as a pianist and he -- every day he'd come home from work. And when I got to know -- when I was really old enough to observe him, he was already getting sick and losing his ability -- losing some of his mental abilities and he was an unhappy man by the time I got to know him. And but he played the piano as if he let out all of his emotions when he played music, which is what I think is the greatest lesson I could possibly learn was that in those difficult moments when you have nothing to do except to cry and moan and shout and scream, music is the answer because that, for me, certainly is the answer.

  • 11:16:44

    SIMONIt's not that way for everyone, but I learned that about him, that when he would come home from the office with a face full of sorrow, he would go and sit down at the Steinway and he would crash out Rachmaninoff or Chopin or he would go very delicately into a Debussy piece or list. He'd just -- he was all over the place. He didn't particularly like contemporary music as much as he liked the classics, but he was a fantastic pianist and other pianists, very famous in his day and still famous, like Horowitz and Rubinstein and Firkusny wouldn't play after my father because my father really was the showstopper.

  • 11:17:29

    SIMONAnd he didn't have the finesse of some really great, you know, he didn't have the perfection, but he had all the emotion at hand. He put all of the emotion into his playing and it didn't matter if he missed a note or -- your hand is up. You're going to wave it down and stop me mid sentence. Go ahead.

  • 11:17:47

    REHMCarly Simon and we're talking about her new memoir. It's titled "Boys In The Trees." And, of course, we'll be hearing music throughout the hour after a short break.

  • 11:21:33

    REHMWe have a tweet from Kevin asking, what does clouds in my coffee mean?

  • 11:21:45

    SIMONWell, it came from -- I don't, I mean, I can see -- I can see visually what it means. I was sitting on a plane next to my piano player, Billy Mernit, and he said, look into your coffee. And I looked in my coffee. And he said, look, it’s a perfect reflection of the cloud. And so I said, clouds in my coffee...

  • 11:22:08


  • 11:22:08

    SIMON...the perfect line for a song.

  • 11:22:10


  • 11:22:10

    SIMONAnd I wrote it in my little black book of perfect lines for songs, some of which materialized and became songs and others which just stayed part clouds in my coffee, but not that one. That one had a plot, it had a plot.

  • 11:22:21

    REHMWhat a great story.

  • 11:22:44

    REHMYou know, this song, as you well know, became something of a feminist anthem. Why do you think that was?

  • 11:22:57

    SIMONI, you know, I don't see it as a feminist anthem. It's a -- it may be telling it like it is. But I don't think it's -- it's so tongue-in-cheek that it evades or avoids being serious about the idea that I'm telling a man what to do or getting a higher pay raise than he's getting. I mean, it doesn't -- it doesn't insinuate that. It just insinuates that this guy did that and this guy did that, but...

  • 11:23:28

    REHMHe looks in the mirror all the time. He's watching his...

  • 11:23:32

    SIMONYes. Yes, I mean.

  • 11:23:34

    REHM...his hair.

  • 11:23:35

    SIMONBut I'm -- but I don't really miss out as a result of it. In other words, there's nothing that says, and I find that repulsive.

  • 11:23:44


  • 11:23:45

    SIMONThat's not what I'm saying. I'm saying, you're so vain, you probably think this song is about you. I mean, it's got a funness to it. And I'm not putting anybody down. And I don't see that as a feminist anthem. I would much more see "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be," as being...

  • 11:24:03


  • 11:24:04

    SIMON...a song of resignation about, well, there's nothing more that we can do other than get married. And that's not good enough, that may not be good enough. Which is apparent in the tone of my voice and the way I sing it. It's like, okay, we'll marry. But "You're So Vain" I don't see as a feminist anthem. Because I think just as many men have liked that song and have associated with it as women.

  • 11:24:30

    REHMCarly, in your childhood, you write very honestly about an older boy who took advantage of you. And you really didn't know what was happening to you. Tell us about that.

  • 11:24:53

    SIMONI was very young. I lived in a household where there were older women, girls, and my mother and various friends around all the time. I -- it was an overly sexualized atmosphere at home. And my sisters were already having boyfriends. And I was about eight or nine, and this son of a friend of my parents spent some -- spent occasionally some weekends up at our house. And he was very titillating to me. He told me stories. He told me stories about what happened in the movies that he saw. And it was a tremendous turn on to me. It didn't seem at all as if it was something I couldn't tell people about.

  • 11:25:48

    SIMONAnd then he -- one night he brought me down to the swimming pool and he sort of lured me into having -- I don't know if you would call it sex, but it was a sexual experience for me because it excited me. And because I didn't know that I shouldn't feel that way or that it was inappropriate, I enjoyed the feeling. And I told my sisters about it. I said, you know, Billy, this guy that they knew too, and I had had some intimacy. And they just didn't believe me. I mean, I've talked to them about it recently and they said, I didn't know that that was -- I didn't know that that was happening.

  • 11:26:37


  • 11:26:38

    SIMONAnd so I either got one of two reactions from them. One is, don't worry Carly, it's nothing to worry about. It's nothing big. Or they didn't believe me. And either way, it was an arrow to go ahead. And so I didn't really know it was wrong. There was -- I mean, I wasn't getting any S.O.S. signals, although at one point, my sisters told my mother about it and my mother didn't have this young man or his sister to visit us anymore, or at least for a little while. And I was so hurt. I was really -- it was like Romeo and Juliet is the way I felt about it. I felt lost. I felt as if they'd taken my love away.

  • 11:27:31


  • 11:27:32

    SIMONAnd that's how screwy it was. I didn't know how inappropriate it was. And then they sent me to a psychiatrist named Dr. Frunzhaufer, who tried to get it out of me. I think my mother must have said to him, you have to get this information out of my daughter because I think she's being sexually aroused by this young man. And so Dr. Frunzhaufer used music or tried to use music as a way of getting it out of me. So he had me sing -- he sang, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

  • 11:28:09

    SIMONAnd he would sing, you know, twinkle, twinkle, little star, has a man ever touched you down there? And so I, you know, I, I mean, it was a game. It was -- that's the way I, I mean, he didn't say to me, that's a -- that would be a terrible thing if that happened.

  • 11:28:27


  • 11:28:27

    SIMONHe just said, has it happened.

  • 11:28:28


  • 11:28:29

    SIMONAnd so I went along with him. And because I was pretty good at rhyming, I always came up with a rhyme that was just safe enough. I didn't have to confess to anything, in case the confessional would be dangerous for me to do and therefore I would lose my love. I would answer, yes, a man touched me once down there. And not in any direct -- but, he said, he kept on going with the song. And how did that make you feel? And I would answer, oh, yes, make me feel so fine.

  • 11:29:03


  • 11:29:04

    SIMONSo I didn't know what the appropriate response was, as opposed to when I imitated Al Jolson and I know that that was the appropriate response expected of me, to be a new personality. I really didn't know what to do except that it was a game and I seemed to be giving him enough of what was -- of what he wanted.

  • 11:29:23

    REHMDo you think that the game actually helped you?

  • 11:29:30

    SIMONI think it -- no. I think it occluded what was really happening, which was very naughty and which was very -- it was debilitating to me as a sexual being. I got stunted at a certain point in my sexual growth, which was...

  • 11:29:48

    REHMStunted how?

  • 11:29:50

    SIMONI didn't know what it was all about.

  • 11:29:54


  • 11:29:55

    SIMONI didn't, you know, I thought it was all about the pleasure for the man. And yet I thought -- well, I'm feeling something too. I'm feeling excited. So I took excitation as what I was supposed to get from it. And it was so not -- it was so not right. I mean, there are probably some cultures in which sex starts a lot earlier. And, I know Margaret Meade writes...

  • 11:30:26


  • 11:30:26

    SIMON...writes a lot of -- about those cultures.

  • 11:30:28


  • 11:30:28

    SIMONBut there was too much of an age difference between us...

  • 11:30:31


  • 11:30:32 that it didn't seem -- it didn't seem appropriate at all.

  • 11:30:34

    REHMAnother episode you write about in your book, and this goes back to why your father may have been exhibiting such unhappiness, was that your mother was involved with a much younger man, initially hired as a, quote, "helpmate nanny" to your young brother.

  • 11:31:08

    SIMONYes, that was awfully interesting. He arrived in the house when I was -- it was very much at the same time as my relationship with Billy was developing. And so she thought that -- I think my mother thought that maybe I was affected by that, too, even though she didn't want that to be the reason that I was affected. She was hoping it was all Billy and that not any of it was Ronnie, who was her boyfriend. But, in fact, Ronnie did come to live with us to take care of my younger brother, to teach him football and all the manly arts. And he lived in the house with us. And I think he and my mother became lovers within six months of his living there.

  • 11:31:51

    REHMHe was 19.

  • 11:31:53

    SIMONHe was 19 and my mother was 42. And it was, you know, it was something which I think a very small, inside group of people knew about. But one of those people was my father. And my father was obviously very devastated, but giving her a lot of room. I think he gave her a lot of room because he didn't know how to feel. You know, we weren't given guidelines of how to feel, when it's appropriate, when it's not appropriate.

  • 11:32:27

    SIMONBut, you know, and because we had grown up in a very bohemian environment where my grandmother had actually -- had set the stage in some ways by falling in love with my mother's boyfriend, when she was 16 and she brought home a football player that she -- she'd gone to a Giant's game or some game and she brought Steve Crane home. And he fell in love with my grandmother. So there -- the boundaries were very squirrelly, were just off the table. And so looking for an example was a hard thing to do.

  • 11:33:03

    REHMBut, you know, Carly, it seems to me that we are all such products of whatever that upbringing may be. And you could, perhaps, as I do, look back on your own childhood, squirrelly as it might have been, and say, that's where my talent has come from.

  • 11:33:35

    SIMONWell, I certainly could say that, that there was a desire to figure it out. And the way I came to figure things out was through songwriting. And so, yes, I don't know what would have happened if I'd had a perfectly boring sort of normal childhood. As it is, it was a Peyton Place kind of an environment. And there were all kinds of things going on. And the pain that my father felt over it was really running the household, was that sorrow (unintelligible)

  • 11:34:08

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." How did your mother and father treat you as children?

  • 11:34:23

    SIMONWell, it was -- we were very much a part of the artistic life of the household. There were always artists and writers and musicians coming over for dinner because there were people whose books my father was publishing. And they were very interesting people. I got to be in on conversations that I'm sorry I don't remember that much of now because I was young. But just the group of people, especially the musicians. I remember Benny Goodman. I remember Jackie Robinson wasn't exactly a musician, but he played music on the tennis court and on the baseball diamond.

  • 11:35:07

    REHMAh, yes.

  • 11:35:07

    SIMONAnd he was a very close friend of my family. And we actually -- the Robinson's came and lived with us for a year and a half while their house was being built down the road on Cascade Avenue. And so there were just, you know, now did I know that they were more interesting than my friends' parents' friends, or were they more interesting or? I don't know. I just talk about the people that I was surrounded by and the wonderful slice of very interesting, artistic, intellectual sports -- I mean, there was just a great array of people all -- from, you know, not different walks of life, because I would say that most of them were quite famous. They were in the limelight.

  • 11:35:52

    SIMONAnd I remember once, I asked my father why we had so many celebrities as friends, once I figured out what a celebrity was. And he said, they're more interesting.

  • 11:36:02


  • 11:36:02

    SIMONAnd that was a really -- that stuck with me. But it wasn't an answer that I liked, because I had a more democratic spirit. And I knew that there was something, you know -- well, I knew that he was being honest, which I liked, because I could tell that he was being honest. On the other hand, he spent most of his time with the man who ran the land, whose name was John Lucksho and he was -- he's the man that planted the trees and who was in charge of the gardens and apple orchards and the lawns. And my father, on any new evening, would be found sitting on John's porch and talking about the, you know, which trees we were going to plant where at the next planting season. So he was Tolstoyan.

  • 11:36:53

    REHMThere's a song here that you and your sister did together. Let's hear it, as we go to a break.

  • 11:41:05

    REHMAnd here you are with your son, Ben. Tell us about this.

  • 11:41:12

    SIMONOh, goodness, that song is so -- was so cathartic. It was just an example of what songwriting really is for me at its best. We were having an argument that really nipped at my tail. I was really upset about something that he said or something that we got into. And I started crying and I went upstairs. And he came upstairs right afterward and he apologized.

  • 11:41:42

    SIMONHe said, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to say that. He went back downstairs again, 'cause he was in the middle of a meal or something. And so -- and I picked up the guitar because I -- there was like a lot of feelings going around, roiling inside of me. And I picked up the guitar and I started to write the first verse of that song. And just, you know, "I can't thank you enough, 'cause you've told me that you hear me."

  • 11:42:07

    SIMONAnd so I took it downstairs and I played just that much for him. And he said, I love it. Can I finish writing it with you? So he took it over from there. And he just flooded into this gorgeous kind of this new texture. As the song goes on it gets big, it gets, like, just from my heart, I can't thank you enough. It's just…

  • 11:42:56

    REHMSo beautiful, Carly. So beautiful.

  • 11:42:58

    SIMONThank you. It doesn't get much better than that.

  • 11:43:01

    REHMCarly, I want to ask you about something you've dealt with a great deal. And that was stammering. Until one day when you wanted to say something like, pass the butter at table, you couldn't say it. And your mom said to you, "Carly, sing it."

  • 11:43:34

    SIMONShe recognized that when there's a rhythm going on under my trying to say something, that it was much easier for me to follow the rhythm, follow a rhythm like that, follow a rhythm. So she said, tap your thigh and just say what you -- ask for the butter while you're tapping your thigh. So I went pass the butter, pass the butter now. Of course I was immediately jazzy. Pass the butter, yeah, yeah, pass the butter.

  • 11:44:06

    SIMONAnd I was doing it in front of my whole family so I was a little bit embarrassed. So I was trying to make it a little bit funny or absurd at the same time. And that certainly was a huge hint for me 'cause I thought about that, as long as there was rhythm to something I was saying, whether I was singing it or just saying it, I could do it. Now, that didn't end my stammer at all. I mean it was just -- it was one of the tricks that I learned over the years to be able to disguise it.

  • 11:44:32

    SIMONBut I still -- you know what's funny, is it used to be that I thought as long as there's nobody in the room I don't stammer. Except what about this, when I put my dog out at night and I say, Asia, come here, come here, let's go out. I can't say let's go out. I can't -- or sometimes I can't say Asia. And it's just, it's a dog. It's a dog. Does that mean that I attribute the dog with the same amount of consciousness as people? Or am I, I mean, it's so weird that I think that she's gonna notice whether or not I stammer, the dog. And…

  • 11:45:09

    REHMAnd then there is the stage fright. Does that still continue?

  • 11:45:16

    SIMONIt all -- it's all part of the same thing.

  • 11:45:18


  • 11:45:19

    SIMONAnd things don't get very far from the tree. And the stage fright came, I believe, from years and years and years of being terrified to go to school. And the reason I was terrified to go to school was because I couldn't even say the word stammer because it was too embarrassing for me. It meant failure at every level. I couldn't communicate. I couldn't answer the questions, which would mean I was stupid. I couldn't -- it was so embarrassing for me.

  • 11:45:51

    SIMONAnd so all during high school I -- every time it looked like a question was gonna come around to me, I would -- I developed pneumonia. I would quickly go to the -- I'd cough and I would excuse myself and go to the bathroom. And there were so many excuses and so many -- it was just a tribulation to think of all the excuses.

  • 11:46:13

    SIMONAnd so I just -- I was quite -- the idea of being in the light, in the focus of attention was scary, whether it was on stage, in the lights, even though I was gonna be launching into a song, which I would just be -- I would be singing that, it didn't matter. It was having the lights on me, having the expectation of a response out of my mouth.

  • 11:46:41

    REHMAnd now how has it changed?

  • 11:46:48

    SIMONIt's still a very -- it's still tricky because sometimes I can have the attitude of hey, here I am. I'm on stage, it's fine. Here I am on "The Diane Rehm Show," that's fine. But other times it doesn't work for me. Other times it's like, I'm on stage. It's fine, no it's not. And so the…

  • 11:47:12

    REHMIt's the voices.

  • 11:47:14

    SIMONThe alternate voice.

  • 11:47:15


  • 11:47:16

    SIMONThe voice that says no, you're, you know, that starts fighting with the I'm-fine voice.

  • 11:47:20


  • 11:47:21

    SIMONAnd there's so many -- when that voice is present, that's kind of the beast voice. And it doesn't let me have a moment to absorb the positive voice. So…

  • 11:47:35

    REHMI know the feeling well.

  • 11:47:37

    SIMONYes. Yes, I'm sure. It's very disconcerting because you don't know what's gonna hit you when.

  • 11:47:44

    REHMQuite right. Carly, one thing your dad, you felt, was disappointed in you about, as opposed to your sisters, was the shape of your nose. Why do you think he -- and he did make an issue of it in a tiny poem he wrote to you.

  • 11:48:16

    SIMON"Roses are red, violets are pink. I love you with your darling fat nose. I just had a drink." That's what he put in my autograph book. And that was a nice way for him to put it. That was not bad, but still made me very self-conscious that I had a fat nose and my sisters had lean, perfect, aria noses. And he, I think as quite a few Jews were in sort of post-World War II, I think he was still very nervous that he was -- that there was gonna be a knock at the door and that his family was gonna be removed to a concentration camp.

  • 11:48:54


  • 11:48:54

    SIMONAnd so the idea that I might be a part of that giveaway was scary to him. And he -- it took him a while to really lose that. My grandmother Chibie, my mother's mother, who was -- who stole her boyfriend away, was a Moor. She was definitely black. And she had a very -- she had a face that was exotic and filled with personality and expression. And he very much admired Chibie, who spoke nine languages and she was FDR's campaign manager.

  • 11:49:36

    SIMONShe did a lot of things that she never talked about because she was very likely an illegitimate child. And she was very embarrassed about that. And so she didn't want anybody to know. And she said, and when I die you find nothing, but nothing. She was very, you know, sure that nobody would. And in fact, we haven't found any conclusive information about her and her life.

  • 11:50:01

    REHMSo you have no idea about her parentage?

  • 11:50:06

    SIMONWell, I know that the story is that she was the illegitimate child of somebody from King Alphonse (sic) XIII's reign in Spain. Either him or his -- or a brother of his. And there -- and his union with a slave girl from his court produced my grandmother. Doesn't everybody? And so she was asked to -- there was a kindly nursemaid who said that she would dispose of my grandmother over the side of the ship.

  • 11:50:45

    SIMONAnd so she was supposed to dump Chibie overboard. And the story is that she couldn't do it, so she brought her over to Cuba and put her with a foster family.

  • 11:50:55


  • 11:50:55

    SIMONAnd I've seen pictures -- after my mother died I went through all the pictures. And there are pictures that say, on the other side of them, Chibie's sister, Blanca. And that was, I think, her foster family sister. And there is a picture of a man that she was supposedly in love with. And there were definitely -- there was a Cuban look to the whole family. And I mean, I think whether or not she was born there or whether she made that her family is unsure.

  • 11:51:28

    REHMAll right. Let's go to the phones to Allen, who's on the Eastern Shore in Maryland. You're on the air.

  • 11:51:37

    ALLENThank you for taking my call.

  • 11:51:39


  • 11:51:41

    ALLENYou guys are making my day because you're both the best, the very best at what you do. And the two of you talking together is fantastic.

  • 11:51:51

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:51:53

    SIMONThank you.

  • 11:51:55

    ALLENI have one question that's always bugged me. And I've seen a couple references to it, but who was singing backup harmony on "You're So Vain?"

  • 11:52:11

    SIMONMick Jagger.

  • 11:52:14

    REHMMick Jagger.

  • 11:52:15

    ALLENI thought so.

  • 11:52:17

    SIMONYou were right.

  • 11:52:17

    REHMSo you were right. Congratulations. Thanks for calling, Allen. Somebody else, Michael, wants to know your response to the passing of David Bowie.

  • 11:52:38

    SIMONYou really have caught me off guard.

  • 11:52:39

    REHMYou didn't know?

  • 11:52:40

    SIMONI didn't know. No.

  • 11:52:42

    REHMOh, my dear. He died last night or today…

  • 11:52:48

    SIMONOh, my God.

  • 11:52:49

    REHM…of cancer at 69.

  • 11:52:53

    SIMONI'm speechless. I'm just speechless.

  • 11:52:55

    REHMI'm so sorry to be the one to tell you.

  • 11:52:59

    SIMONGoodness. Goodness (unintelligible).

  • 11:53:00

    REHMDid you know him?

  • 11:53:02

    SIMONI did know him. I didn't know him well, but I certainly knew his music. And I did meet him a couple of times. And it's just -- it's really shocking when you hear something about a contemporary who's passed. It's just, I mean, it just seems -- of course, as you grow older, there are more and more. I'm afraid to say that's a little like life.

  • 11:53:24

    REHMExactly. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I want to hear a cut from your CD that you wrote back in 1978. Let's hear the titled song from your CD, "Boys in the Trees."

  • 11:55:06

    REHMTell us who everybody is in this song.

  • 11:55:14

    SIMONWell, you know, the -- I did an audiobook of -- which I read myself, which was a large hurdle to get over. And it's -- it was called "Boys in the Trees" because I think I developed my feeling of who I was through boys more than girls. Even though girls were my role models, it was so important to me what boys thought because of my father and because of, you know, just my sense of attractiveness.

  • 11:55:50

    SIMONAnd I never expected that I was gonna be going into a life of show business where I was going to be, you know, somewhat of a famous figure myself and people would be looking at me and past me, not into my soul at all. The -- and show business is far too busy for souls. You don't get time to really explore that. And there's so much competition. Once you have a little bit of it, you want more. And once you want more, that's not enough.

  • 11:56:26

    SIMONAnd it's just -- it's very much like -- it's like food. It's like any kind of -- it's an addiction. You become addicted to fame and to the notoriety and to the privilege that you get from being famous. And unfortunately, it crowds out the soul. It doesn't leave much room for the soul. And so what I try to do -- I live in the country. I don't live in either of the mega centers of the social life and the professional life of the, you know, the show business.

  • 11:57:00

    SIMONI don't live in New York or L.A. And so down comes the arm, see I can see you. I can see that you're doing you're conducting…

  • 11:57:08

    REHMOh, Carly.

  • 11:57:08

    SIMON…the whole orchestra out there in the studios. You're gonna come in with a little song.

  • 11:57:11

    REHMI wish we could talk all afternoon. Let's talk again sometime.

  • 11:57:19

    SIMONOh, please. I would love to. Thank you so much.

  • 11:57:21

    REHMCarly Simon, her new book, "Boys in the Trees: A Memoir," and two CDs that come along with that. Thank you, Carly. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

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