You have to admire somebody who can keep a big secret for so long.
I rank Carly Simon as No. 2, behind Carole King, on the female side of the group of young singer-songwriters who rose to prominence in pop music in the first years of the 1970s. Simon ended up marrying James Taylor, another big-time singer-songwriter of that era who spent some of his growing-up years in North Carolina.
Simon’s greatest claim to fame was a popular 1972 song, “You’re So Vain.” Through the years it’s made various lists of the best songs ever.
Long before Taylor Swift of recent times began writing about disappointing boyfriends, Simon penned the ultimate romance-gone-sour song. It left kids in my day wondering: who is she writing about?
From the chorus: “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.”
For 43 years Simon, who’s 70 now, kept the secret despite some pressure to spill the beans.
Contrast that with my live-in, secret-birthday-party planner. Six days before my birthday, as she was coming to bed, she up and told me, “Chad called and said he can’t come to your party.”
Oh really, I thought.
The next morning the first thing out of her mouth was, “Did I tell you last night about your party?”
I didn’t do much better. About a month later I was planning a surprise birthday trip for her to Biltmore Estate in Asheville. She had never been. I got one of her sons to get me a couple of discounted tickets.
The clever boy without warning up and sent me a receipt by e-mail. To the e-mail account that both of us use.
“What was that receipt to Biltmore?” she asked with a sly grin.
I’m just not good at keeping secrets.
I was coming home one time from a trip to Memphis where some college buddies and I had attended the Liberty Bowl football game. I’d been traveling all day and was getting excited at finally making it home.
I had the car 8-track player loud. (Kids, you can look up “8-track” on your internet.) I was singing and rocking along and tapping on the steering wheel and bouncing on the seat and having a grand ol’ time.
I did not know that the then two-lane Highway 421 around North Wilkesboro was a speed trap.
A line of cars coming from the other direction hid a patrol car right in the middle of the pack. The trooper waved me over.
He said he clocked me at 65 in a 55-mph zone. But I looked and I was only going 60.
I did not plot to keep my one and only speeding ticket a secret. It was more of a you-didn’t-ask and I-didn’t-tell kind of thing.
I quietly mailed in the fine. A few months later Dad up and asked, “Did you get a ticket?” He’d gotten the insurance bill. I fessed up. Aw, why didn’t I think about the insurance?
I’m just not good with secrets.
Oh, I almost forgot. Carly Simon, who’s selling a new kiss-and-tell book, after so many years finally revealed in her book that the vain one was actor Warren Beatty. The second verse, she said, is about the actor when he and Simon dated prior to Beatty becoming a big movie star. She’s still not telling about verses one and three.
From the second verse:
“But you gave away the things you loved
and one of them was me.”
Now it’s your turn, Don McLean. Tell us the meaning of “American Pie.”
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.