When Stephen Davis gave Carly Simon a first look at his new book, “More Room in a Broken Heart: The True Adventures of Carly Simon,” he enclosed a note.
“I sent her the galleys, you know, the uncorrected proofs, and I said, ‘Carly, if you like this book, I haven’t done my job,’” Davis reveals.
The veteran rock writer was right.
“I’ve talked to members of her family and they say that she is upset with the book, and it’s not a good idea to get Carly Simon upset at you,” says Davis. “On the other hand, it would have been an even worse idea to write a boring book about Carly Simon.”
“More Room” is a far-from-boring account of the life of the iconic singer/songwriter and her five-decade career, which is rife with huge hurdles of neuroses, great leaps in composition, and it features bizarre cameos by the most important public personalities of her time. A sampling from her youth:
Pete Seeger was her music teacher in kindergarten. Jackie Robinson played second base in family softball games. George Gershwin came over to hear how “Summertime” would sound with her mom singing. MLK and Einstein visited for lunch. Her first date was with Chevy Chase.
Later in the book, Marvin Gaye comes onto her, Jeremy Irons has a controversial cameo (see below for more on that) and she gets Mick Jagger to sing on her biggest hit.A “did they?/didn’t they?” theme recurs throughout the book. She also enjoys romances with Cat Stevens, Kris Kristofferson, Warren Beatty, lots of drummers, and most notably, she endures a decade-long marriage to James Taylor that saw fire and rain.
“I think she feels that the book is too revealing,” says Davis, who usually drops at least one big bombshell with every musical biography he has written, including previous subjects Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson and Aerosmith. “I think she feels overexposed by this, because she used a lot of her romantic experiences in her songs, and any competent biographer would have to take this into account.”
Simon has been publicly making her displeasure with the book known through various press outlets, but the way Davis sees it, if she’s providing free advertising, nobody does it better.
“If she would just be quiet,” Davis muses, “you know, you can’t buy the publicity that she’s giving this book.”
Irons in the fire
One of the guaranteed controversies of “More Room” takes place on page 320. Davis discloses that in 1984, actor Jeremy Irons cheated on his wife with Carly Simon and got the singer pregnant. She underwent an abortion, which she said was “still a terrible source of pain and guilt.”
“No one ever put that together before because it was very quiet and it was very secret, but she told me about that,” says Davis. “And I asked her about that in July and I said, ‘Look, I’m going to publish this.’ … We had been talking about Jeremy Irons and I said, ‘What about him getting you pregnant?’ There was this terrible silence. And then she goes, ‘How did you know that?’ And I said, ‘Well, you told me five years ago when I was doing the “Reflections” liner notes.’ She then said, ‘Well, I won’t deny it.’”
All in the family
Davis has enjoyed a lifelong friendship with Carly’s brother, photographer Peter Simon, who is reportedly also on the outs with the singer/songwriter.
“I did break a promise to her, and I do feel badly about that,” says Davis. “She didn’t want it to be all his photographs because she thought it would make the book look like a family album, and it would look like it was an authorized biography.”
Davis says that up against pressure from his publisher to get the book out as soon as possible he realized it would take too long to get rights clearances from multiple photographers.
“Instead of taking six weeks, it took six hours,” says the writer, “and if you have a brother who has all these family photos, wouldn’t you want the brother to make the very very good money that you can do with these things?”
Davis is also shouldering some pre-publication criticism online from other writers who have written about Carly Simon in the past. He says another result of the book being rushed to press was that he wasn’t able to include a bibliography or an index.
“I’m being accused of possible plagiarism, and I thought about it and it’s like, ‘No, it’s probable plagiarism.’ In a 400-page book, that’s probably about 1,600 paragraphs, I’d probably have a heart attack if one of them wasn’t copied.”
Joking aside, he does allow that, “There’s no bibliography, there’s no index, and I’m paying the price for that in a way, but I guess in the paperback edition we’ll do some more extensive acknowledgments.”