YOU PROBABLY THINK THIS SONG IS ABOUT YOU
An Interview With Carly Simon
Bill Miller - Edited by Edie R. Lambert
Award-winning radio host Bill Miller taped a series of four weekly interviews with Oscar and Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Carly Simon beginning on January 29, 2007 for broadcast on The Bill Miller Show, a weekly syndicated radio program heard in over 100 U.S. markets and Webcast on www.rwpr.net featuring American classics, adult standards and celebrity interviews.
Here, provided courtesy of the incomparable Miller, are excerpts from his lively tÍte-ŗ-tÍte with the disarming Songwriters Hall of Famer.
Bill:† Carly Simon is our guest. The album is Into White, and this is the interview weíve been looking forward to. What a collection your new album is, Miss Carly.
Carly:† I recorded songs I really love that would lull people, not necessarily to put babies to sleep although it works very well, mothers tell me.
Bill:† Your last album, Moonlight Serenade came out about the time the Glenn Miller Festival rolled around last year, and we played it a bunch.
Carly:† The Big Band era was one of my earliest influences. One of my many uncles was George Simon, who was a jazz critic and wrote books on the big bands.
Bill:† I interviewed him about 20 years ago. He moved to Florida and passed away there, didnít he?
Carly:† No, that was Peter Dean, another uncle. George stayed in New York City. He continued to write articles and play drums with a bunch of his cronies down in the Village, and he wrote the book, The Big Bands.
Bill:† I have the book. He actually helped form the Glenn Miller orchestra.
Carly:† Thatís right. And my uncle, Peter Dean discovered Paul Whiteman and Dinah Shore and Peggy Lee and was their manager for a while and was instrumental in the songs that Peggy Lee chose to sing. She gave him a lot of credit in her book.
Peter became a singer at age 68 or 70 and changed his name to Peter ďSnake HipsĒ Dean. He played the ukulele and moved his hips because nobody did it better than Peter.
My grandmother was half black, and my uncle was very influenced by black jazz in Chicago and New Orleans. And when he was up in New York, he really turned a lot of the white jazz singers on to black jazz
Bill:† I have an LP by Peter Dean called Radio. He sings a tribute to The Shadow and people of vintage radio.
Carly:† Music was so strong in my family. We never got together without having music. My father was a wonderful pianist, and everybody played the guitar or ukulele. My Uncle Dutch, his name was Fred Heinemann, was a mouth bass player. He did everything Ė babumpabump-bump Ė with his mouth. He played really well with his mouth.
Peter and Dutch, who were stationed at Fort Dix during the post-war era, had a band, Peter on guitar and Dutch on mouth bass. They would come home and teach us Ė my two sisters and younger brother and me songs that influenced us in many directions.
Bill:† You Can Close Your Eyes on your new album is another family affair.
Carly:† Well, thereís nothing like having a couple of Taylor kids. Ben and Sally have ideal genes, a jumbling of James Taylorís and mine. The three of us can sing together and sound like one body and one heart and one soul. Itís too bad James isnít here with us to do these things, but we paid a really beautiful tribute to him in one of his great songs You Can Close Your Eyes.
Bill:† I had the pleasure of working with the last of the Mills brothers, Donald and his son John III on a Dynasty cruise. The chemistry of those two brought back the other Mills Brothers, and it was a great thing to see that love on stage
Carly:† Iím so lucky to have wonderful relationships with my children and siblings. I sang with my sister Lucy during the first years of what I consider my folk music days, and just as I sound with Sally and Ben as one voice, it was that way with Lucy. We were raised together so we spoke alike, and therefore we phrased alike. And although Lucy is a high soprano, and Iím practically a baritone, we pronounced words the same. A big part of really blending is the pronunciation of words. A lot of groups that get together donít understand that, especially Americans who join with the Brits or with a German singer or whatever. Itís very hard to get the words to sync up so that you can actually blend.
Bill:† I had that feeling listening to the Ames Brothers Ė the sameness in their phrasing.
Carly:† And the Everly Brothers.
Bill:† Letís talk about the Brooklyn Dodgers. That had to tear you up when they moved those guys to the West Coast.
Carly:† Thatís when I lost interest in baseball and started at a premature age to be interested in boys because I had to put my energy somewhere.
Bill:† I read that you compared yourself to Pee Wee Reese.
Carly:† I donít think I compared myself to him. I used to sit on his lap.
Bill:† The quote was, ďA shortstop is not quite in the infield and not quite in the outfield, and thatís me.Ē
Carly:† You know what? That sounds right. When I was eight, I was the Dodgersí mascot because I went to the stadium so often. They made me a little baseball suit, and I got to sit in the dugout, and thatís when I sat on Pee Weeís lap.
Jackie Robinson and his family lived with us during the summer of 1955, and I would drive to Ebbets Field with Jackie and very often my father and mother for the home games. Sometimes Rachel, Jackieís wife and their children, Jackie Jr., David and Sharon came with us.
Bill:† Do you still have your little Dodgerís baseball suit?
Carly:† No, I donít know what happened to it.
Bill:† Iíve always loved the song Jamaica Farewell by Harry Belafonte, and now I can say I love it by Carly Simon. Did I read somewhere that you had seen Mr. Belafonte perform?
Carly:† I was a huge fan, and I used to go to Carnegie Hall whenever he was there. He was the first performer I ever saw who changed his shirt between songs. The top two or three buttons were always open. He was very, very sexy. Jamaica Farewell and Day-O were my favorite Harry Belafonte songs. I must have been 11 or 12 when I used to go see him, and he made a big impression on me.†
Bill:† Werenít you on Hootenanny?
Carly:† Lucy and I were on Hootenanny twice. We sang a song that she wrote called Winkiní Blinkiní and Nod and a French version of Blowiní in the Wind. I was 19 and stood very still. I recently got a tape of it, and I was standing so still that you could have broken me. I was playing the guitar, but I wasnít moving to the music. I was just too terrified. The Smothers Brothers were on just before Lucy and I went onstage, and that should have loosened me up, but it didnít.
Bill:† Yea, they were such funny guys, but you were Miss Cardboard, heh?
Carly:† Gosh were we stiff, especially me.
Bill:† What are your children doing when theyíre not recording with mom?
Carly:† Ben is in Scotland singing. He has a hit record in England. Thatís the way he is. He goes and does his own thing, and then he comes home.
We live in a compound called Hidden Star Hill on land that James bought when he signed his first contract with Apple Records in 1969. I live in the main house, and Ben has his house, and Sally and her husband have their house. Itís on Marthaís Vineyard, but not on the water. Itís beautiful rolling hills and farmland. I donít grow many crops, but weíve got animals. Itís a very lively place.
I put up musicians who make albums here. In fact, one of them is David Saw, who plays on Into White and who wrote the two original songs. One is called Quiet Evening, which is one of my favorite songs on the album.
Bill:† And the other original song is Iíll Just Remember You.
Carly:† Yes, Ben and David wrote it, and itís one of the most beautiful songs Iíve ever heard. It feels like itís always been around.
Bill:† Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt and Nelson Riddle a few years back Ė I guess that might have been the first wave of bringing back the standards. Is it as refreshing to you as it is to me to hear todayís artists recording some of those great standards?†
Carly:† Yes, and itís almost become de rigueur for artists. I think that Nilsson and Willie Nelson and I were the first. I did an album in 1980 called Torch. Then I recorded My Romance and then Film Noir. Then most recently Moonlight Serenade so I have a compilation of four standards records, the first of which was Torch, which has a beautiful rendition of a Stephen Sondheim song called Not a Day Goes By that I absolutely love. It isnít a real standard, but I think it will become a standard.
Stephen was in the studio when I recorded it. He was sitting in the control booth, and I was standing in the vocal booth recording, but I didnít want to see Stephen because it was too scary. So I knelt down and sang the song on my knees. When I finished, I went into the control booth. Stephen had his face in his hands, and he was crying. I thought it was because he didnít like it, but in fact he said he was crying because he was so moved. To this day, when I want to weep, I put on Not a Day Goes By.
Bill:† I hope that when the next project happens, the ĎPee Wee Reeseí of the singing world will join us again, and we can chat some more because youíve been a lot of fun.
For web broadcast times of The Bill Miller Show, call Bill at his Studios at: 913-397-9651. And when visiting Branson, listen to Billís Sunday morning show from 7:00 a.m. till noon on 101.1FM Ė KOMC.