Carly Simon’s 1972 song “You’re So Vain” was a #1 hit and ranked 72nd on Billboard’s list of the greatest songs of all-time. But was it also defamation?
Let’s assume for purposes of this post, that the reference to spending time with “the wife of a close friend” is defamatory and untruthful. Also, let’s ignore various constitutional issues about malice, public figures, and damages. All of these are big assumptions, but, hey, it’s a blog post.
The key issue then becomes whether a plaintiff could establish that the song was “of and concerning” him. Over the years, a number of men have been suggested as the song’s object, including Warren Beatty, James Taylor, and Mick Jagger. Simon has avoided identifying the song’s subject, saying that he is a composite of three different men. Apparently, however, she has at least told NBC President Dick Ebersol, who paid $50,000 in an auction for the right to learn.
Could any or all of these men successfully claim that the song was of and concerning them? Could Ebersol be compelled to testify? And, could Simon defend herself because, after all, the song isn’t really about whomever it is supposedly about? Of course, anyone who did bring suit would only be confirming Simon’s initial observation of his vanity.
With assistance from 1L GSOT Daniel Taylor.