10 Reasons Why Carly Simon Belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Why Carly Simon Belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Feature Photo: Elektra/Pam Frank, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Carly Simon is one of seventeen nominees for the 2022 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She’s not a hard rocker like fellow nominee Judas Priest, but her confessional songwriting style, powerful vocals, and unique contribution to the 1970s singer-songwriter movement make her a deserving choice.

Why should Carly Simon be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Here are ten very good reasons.

# 1 – She Has Been Making Great Music for More Than 50 Years

Carly Simon started singing when she was in her teens with her older sister Lucy, as the Simon Sisters. She went solo in 1970 and released her first album the following year. Carly Simon was a blockbuster debut, hitting #30 on Billboard’s Top Albums chart and spawning the Top 10 hit single, “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.” She won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1972, and it’s been fifty years of great music ever since. (To be eligible for the Rock Hall an artist has to have released their first album at least 25 years prior to the nomination – Carly’s been eligible since 1997!)

# 2 – She Had Thirteen Top 40 Hits

Over the past fifty years Carly Simon had 13 tracks hit the top forty on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, including four in the top ten. Her top forty hits, including year of release and top Billboard chart position, are:

  • “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” (1971, #10)
  • “Anticipation” (1971, #13)
  • “You’re So Vain” (1972, #1)
  • “The Right Thing to Do”/”No Secrets” (1973, #17)
  • “Mockingbird” (with James Taylor, 1974, #5)
  • “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain” (1974, #14)
  • “Attitude Dancing” (1975, #21)
  • “Nobody Does It Better” (1977, #2)
  • “You Belong to Me” (1978, #6)
  • “Devoted to You” (with James Taylor, 1978, #36)
  • “Jesse” (1980, #11)
  • “Coming Around Again” (1986, #18)
  • “Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song is About You)” (with Janet Jackson and Missy Elliott, 2001, #28)

# 3 – She Had Eight Gold and Platinum Albums

Not surprisingly, all those hit singles contributed to strong album sales throughout Carly’s long career. Eight of her albums have achieved Gold, Platinum, or Triple Platinum status, including:

Anticipation (1971, Gold)

No Secrets (1972, Platinum)

Hotcakes (1974, Gold)

The Best of Carly Simon (1975, Triple Platinum)

Boys in the Trees (1978, Platinum)

Coming Around Again (1987, Platinum)

Greatest Hits Live (1988, Platinum)

Reflections: Carly Simon’s Greatest Hits (2004, Gold)

# 4 – She Influenced Generations of Female Musicians

Carly was an unabashed feminist in the boys’ club of rock and roll, and she looked at life through eyes open wide. Carly’s emotionally intelligent words and music – along with her strong, distinctive vocal stylings – established her unique place in the world of 1970s singer-songwriters and influenced several generations of strong female musicians.

Tori Amos, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Natalie Maines, Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift are among the artists influenced by Carly’s music. Ms. Swift notably called Carly one of her “absolute heroes” and even called her up onstage in 2013 to duet on one of Taylor’s favorite Carly Simon songs, “You’re So Vain.”

# 5 – She Traveled with Rock Royalty

Carly Simon has led a charmed life. She’s the daughter of publisher Richard Simon, of Simon & Schuster fame, and grew up around all kinds of celebrities, including Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. When she started performing, she naturally hung out with and dated other musicians, many of them famous or soon-to-be famous. Carly Simon reportedly had romantic relationships with dozens of famous actors and musicians, including Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger, Kris Kristofferson, Jack Nicholson, and Cat Stevens. She was briefly engaged to drummer Russ Kunkel in the mid-1980s and was friends with Linda McCartney, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Carly Simon wrote several of these relationships into her songs. Her early hit, “Anticipation,” was written while she was waiting for Cat Stevens to show up (late) for a date. And “You’re So Vain” was about several of the men she dated, Warren Beatty supposedly being one of them.

Carly’s most famous romance was with singer-songwriter James Taylor. They met in 1971 and married the next year. They became true rock royalty, singing on each others’ albums, performing together, and even releasing a hit single (“Mockingbird”) together as a duet. James and Carly had two children together (Ben and Sally) before splitting in 1983.

# 6 – She Recorded with Rock Legends

Carly not only traveled with rock royalty, she recorded with many of them. A quick search of her album credits reveals names like Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Glenn Frey, Steve Gadd, Lowell George, Andrew Gold, Nicky Hopkins, Dr. John, Jim Keltner, Russ Kunkel, Andy Newmark, Robbie Robertson, David Sanborn, Leland Sklar, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, and Jimmy Webb backing her up.

Carly also had friends like Bonnie Bramlett, Jackson Browne, Rita Coolidge, Mick Jagger, Carole King, Paul and Linda McCartney, Michael McDonald, Linda Ronstadt, and Luther Vandross sing backing vocals on her many albums. She even sang on a 2001 single by Janet Jackson, along with Missy Elliott.

# 7 – She Sang a James Bond Theme Song

How many Rock and Roll Hall of Famers have a James Bond theme song to their credit? Well, Carly’s one of them, having performed the song “Nobody Does It Better” for the soundtrack of the 1997 Roger Moore 007 flick, The Spy Who Loved Me. The song, written by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe award, and two Grammy Awards – Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

# 8 – She Writes Great Tunes

Most people know Carly has a terrific singer, but not everyone knows that she wrote or co-wrote almost all of her own songs – and they were great songs, too. Many of her songs are openly confessional, including “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” (about her parents’ broken marriage), “Anticipation” (about living for the moment, not for a lifetime), “You’re So Vain” (about the vain men she’s dated), “Legend In Your Own Time” (also about a vain lover), “Jesse” (about reuniting with an old lover), and “No Secrets” (about sharing a little too much with a current lover).

Carly co-wrote many of these tunes with her musical partner Jacob Brackman, who helped her distill her feelings into words. Her songs show a steely-eyed, realistic approach to life’s heartbreaks. Carly’s a strong woman, and it shows in her music.

# 9 – She is Already in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame

Carly isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yet, but she is a member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall in 1994, which noted that her “body of work encompasses a significantly wide spectrum of activity.” Carly has also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Boston Music Awards and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music Degree from the esteemed Berklee College of Music. Her most famous song, “You’re So Vain,” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.

# 10 – She Was One of the First Modern Singers to Promote the Great American Songbook

Today it seems like every aging rock and roller has recorded at least one album of standards, but Carly was there first. Her 1981 album Torch was filled with “torch songs” from the Great American Songbook and preceded similar albums of standards by Michael Bolton, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart, Boz Scaggs, and Willie Nelson. Torch included songs by such songwriting greats as Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and Stephen Sondheim.

Carly followed Torch with several other albums of standards, including My  Romance (1990), Film Noir (1997), and Moonlight Serenade (2005). These albums were all filled with legendary tunes by the likes of Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, Frank Loesser, and other contributors to the Great American Songbook.

Carly Simon – Ready for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Any one of these factors might qualify Carly Simon for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The simple fact that everybody of a certain age knows her songs –and owns her albums – is reason enough for induction. Carly was a major factor in the world rock music in the 1970s and 1980s and belongs in the Rock Hall along with her contemporaries Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, and James Taylor.

10 Reasons Why Carly Simon Belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022

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