Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I recently heard that Mick Jagger sings back-up vocal on Helen Ready's song, “You're So Vain.”

If this is true, his voice is barely distinguishable. He must have sung in a falsetto voice, possibly like he sounds on the Rolling Stones hit, “Emotional Rescue.”

Might there be some kind of tie-in between “You're So Vain” and “Emotional Rescue”? I'm told that Warren Beatty was Helen Ready's motivation for writing “You're So Vain.” Is that true?
—Mark Landis, Red Lion, Pa.

DEAR MARK: The primary background vocalist you hear on “You're So Vain” is indeed Mick Jagger; however, the tune is by Carly Simon, not Helen Reddy (note spelling).

The high voice heard during the chorus, repeating “You're So Vain,” is an unidentified female singer — not Jagger.

Mick is prominently heard on all of the choruses, except the first one, and is singing in a natural voice, not falsetto. Near the song's end, it is as though Carly and Mick are performing a duet. They each have approximately the same audio level. Far from “barely distinguishable,” I don't know how you can miss it.

“Emotional Rescue” came out eight years after “You're So Vain,” and no connection between the two is known.

The only names credited for this session on Carly's album are: Klaus Voorman (bass), Jim Gordon (drums), Jimmy Ryan (guitars), Richard Perry (Percussion), and, of course Carly Simon (vocal and piano). Carly also arranged the strings. None of the backup singers are mentioned.

All sources seem to agree that an experience with Warren Beatty inspired PART of this tune. There may also be a couple of other past boyfriends referenced in the lyrics.

Carly enjoys and is amazed at the mystique and speculation surrounding her tune, and she doesn't want to spoil the fun by revealing the secret.

I guess now is as good as any for another “Vain” question:

DEAR JERRY: Over the years I have seen you decipher some pretty difficult to understand lyrics. Here are a couple that have been driving me batty for years, both in “You're So Vain,” and one right after the other. “Your scarf it was (blank)

You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself (blank)”

Though both of these mysterious words rhyme, I can't understand either. Can you possibly end my suffering?
—Gordon Shoemaker, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR GORDON: Allow me to fill in the blanks.

“Your scarf it was apricot.

You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte”

Apricot is of course the color of the scarf. Gavotte, a far less common term, is a dance named after the Gavot people of the French Alps. It is similar to the minuet, only faster and much livelier.

Surely this is the only song in history with lyrics that rhyme apricot and Gavotte.

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