I am a songwriter because of Carly Simon. There's no doubt in my mind. I was a budding musician and needed guidance. She sang about her incongruities, her longings, her insecurities, her whimsical pleasures. Many recording artists did. But what she said and how she said it resonated with the girl I was. She gave me my palette.
When wore out Carly’s albums on vinyl, I bought them on cassette. And then Cd. I still listen to them via that invisible stream. They take me back to how I felt when I was young and naive and finding myself…back to the days when I was listening to music on vinyl. :)
In my new memoire, Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, I write about a brush I had with my icon many years after becoming a super fan: on a very ordinary day I walked into an elevator in NYC and there she was. The door shut. It was just the two of us. I froze. Should I or shouldn't I say something? I made a choice.
A few weeks ago, on another very ordinary day, the name “CARLY SIMON” appeared in my email queue. I thought it was Spam. It wasn’t. Apparently, Ms. Simon got a hold of my book and thought she’d share some thoughts with me. How crazy is that? Imagine randomly checking your mobile device and seeing a message from Prince. Or Billie Holiday. Or Lady Gaga. Juss sayin’.
It was a surreal moment and it took a while to compose myself. How to respond? My daughter suggested I tell her she was so vain to think that piece was about her. I did no such thing (although I chuckled at the idea). I told the truth: Thank you for all the music that’s helped me discover and understand myself as a songwriter but even more so as a young girl and as a woman.
I spent the next 2 weeks finally reading Carly’s memoire, Boys In The Trees. It was given to me as a gift last Christmas but I had been afraid to read it. What if? What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? What if she could write songs but not non-fiction? But it did. And she could. I read it slowly so it wouldn't end.
I never knew that when she started out her intention was to pen songs for other recording artists but as fate would have it she would be the vehicle for her own material. (For me it was the other way around.)
She pulled back the curtain and revealed what was going on in her head (and who was late for dinner) on the night she wrote “Anticipation,” a classic that’s still in constant rotation in my heart. But even her album cuts—the songs sandwiched in between her hits—“The Girl You Think You See” and “Julie Through The Glass” (which I played for my daughter on the day she was born), were just as poignant. No peripheral status at all.
I fantasize that someday down the line, we might spend a few hours together somewhere. Anywhere. I don’t need to write a song with her. I’d be too self conscious. I wouldn’t want to have a meal. I’d choke on my salad. Perhaps we could just stroll through a park and share the oxygen in the air around us. We wouldn’t even have to talk. Just knowing we were side by side would be enough for me.
For now, however, I simply wish to honor the ones without whom we wouldn’t be who we are today…whether we follow in their footsteps or simply live a life that’s been altered by their contribution. Who was it for you?
Who knows—maybe you’ll be that person for somebody else someday. :) And if you are, and if they thank you…I hope you’ll let them know that you heard them—that they matter. I would hope you’ll show up in their email queue (or on whatever medium we communicate in the near future) because I assure you, it will mean the world.