Tragic Details About Carly Simon

When one thinks of the music of the 1970s, they probably also think of the singer-songwriter movement, in which a tight-knit group of sensitive folk-rockers with guitars in their hands and songs in their hearts churned out thoughtful, sensitive, catchy jams for the Baby Boomer population as they entered into adulthood and met its challenges. Perhaps the most quintessential musician of this batch, maybe even more so than the likes of James Taylor and Jackson Browne, is Carly Simon, the slightly sweet, slightly raspy-voiced New Englander who carefully wrote and passionately performed poetic, almost inscrutable tunes about love, heartbreak, disappointment, and second chances. Something of a voice of her generation, Simon gave the world favorites like "Anticipation," "Nobody Does it Better," "Coming Around Again," "Let the River Run," and "You're So Vain."

50 years after breakthrough works, the musician who could always turn pain into art is a 2022 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Here's a look into the sometimes sad life, soured loves, and harrowing lessons learned by Carly Simon.

Carly Simon endured years of child abuse

In her memoir, "Boys in the Trees," Carly Simon wrote about a teenager identified only as "Billy," the son of friends of her parents who rented a house near Simon's family one summer. Simon, 7 years old at the time, caught him, 16, spying on her older sister, Lucy, while sunbathing. Shortly thereafter, Billy turned his attentions to Carly, and a series of physical encounters took place over that summer, and subsequent summers as well. Simon had convinced herself that the abusive relationship was consensual. "I thought I was in a romance," she told People

She told her older sisters about what were essentially assaults right away, and while she thinks they didn't believe her, they must have told their mother, because she banished Billy from the family home — for one month. "Which in retrospect feels like a strangely mild response," Simon wrote. What she called "interludes" went on for six years. "It was heinous," Simon said. "It changed my view about sex for a long time."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Her mother wasn't faithful, and her father died young

Carly Simon's parents were a prominent New York power couple, per the New York Times, consisting of Richard L. Simon, one of the founders of the major Simon and Schuster publishing conglomerate, and Andrea Heinemann Simon, a civil rights activist and philanthropist. They raised their four children in the upscale Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, and in 1953, according to "Boys in the Trees," when Carly Simon was 8 years old and her youngest sibling and only brother, Peter, was 6, Andrea Simon hired an athletic, college-age, live-in babysitter named Ronny to tutor her son in athletics.

Andrea Simon quickly took an interest in the babysitter, according to Carly Simon. "The appearance of Ronny in our lives signaled the end of my family's before," she wrote. "As soon as she and Ronny became attached, Mommy's apparent dedication to her husband and children began to fall away." After he was drafted into the army and stationed in Europe, Andrea went to visit him for two months. All the while, Richard Simon was recovering from a near-fatal heart attack that put him out of commission for more than a year. After a second heart attack, Simon retired in 1957 and died in 1960, according to the New York Times, when Carly Simon was a teenager.

Carly Simon has dealt with mental health issues

Throughout her life, Carly Simon has endured a series of mental health issues, ones with their own individual suites of debilitating symptoms that also manifested in ways that affected her professional life and ability to express herself. According to her memoir "Boys in the Trees," "Depression ran in the Simon family," with the singer's father, Richard Simon showing signs of the mental illness and experiencing dark periods in childhood and well into adulthood. 

Simon inherited those episodes. "A lot of my own struggles, good and bad, were the same as his: self-centeredness, shame, inadequacy, ambition — depression," the musician wrote. As an adult, and well into her years of mega-fame, Simon would experience panic attacks. According to ABC News, she was struck during two 1981 concerts in Pittsburgh. In the midst of the first show, she was unable to move; in the second one, she collapsed on stage.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Carly Simon had a tumultuous marriage to James Taylor

The two biggest names in post-'60s singer-songwriter-oriented soft rock combined their empires in November 1972, when James Taylor married Carly Simon. The marriage produced a few triumphs both professional and personal, such as the hit duets "Mockingbird" and "Devoted to You," and two children (Sally and Ben, according to Express), but it led to a lot more problems, heartaches, and pain. In her memoir "Boys in the Trees," (via the Washington Post) Simon honed in on Taylor's destructive drug use, emotional unavailability, and infidelity as some of the worst parts of their marriage. In May 1976, according to Simon's memoir "Boys in the Trees," Taylor told Simon that he had to see a doctor to see if he had gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease. "Ironically, I was just about to tell him that I thought I was pregnant," Simon wrote. "I went downstairs to break the Whitebook guitar on his head. He caught me in time."

At one point, Taylor kept a mistress near the family's New York home, setting her up in a studio apartment. After mutual infidelities and Taylor's ongoing issues with substance abuse, Simon filed for divorce in 1983.

Carly Simon and James Taylor aren't on good terms

Since ending their troubled marriage in 1983, Carly Simon and James Taylor have barely talked since — and that's all on Taylor. In 2013, Simon was barred from performing at a charity event to benefit victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. "I was told that I couldn't, and the reason was that he was going to be there," Simon told Salon. "There are all kinds of not only political but musical events that I'm just not allowed to be a part of because everybody knows James won't do it if Carly's there." Taylor confirmed that he doesn't communicate with Simon, the mother of his children. "That's sort of the point of divorce," he told The Telegraph.

In 2015, Simon told People that in spite of the heartbreak and silence, she still has affection for Taylor. "I still want to heal him, I still want to make him all right," Simon said. "And I love him so much."

Carly Simon was diagnosed with breast cancer

In May 1998, CNN reported that Carly Simon, 53 years old at the time, had been in treatment for breast cancer for several months. According to The Independent, Simon had noticed a potentially troubling lump some time before. "I asked various doctors about it for years and they said, 'Oh, don't worry, we'll watch it,'" Simon recalled. "Then one doctor said, 'You know what, I'd rather see it in a jar than in your breast.'" Tests in October 1997 showed that it was cancerous, and Simon underwent mastectomy surgery soon after, and then followed it with a course of aggressive chemotherapy treatments. Simon purposely hadn't publicly divulged the news, but only did so after the National Enquirer looked to publish a story the musician worried would make her illness seem more serious than it was. "I was in the hospital for one night," she told the New York Daily News (via CNN). "The prognosis was good. My doctor gave me the option of whether to have chemo. I decided to play it safe."

Nearing the end of her chemotherapy regiment in spring 1998, Simon spoke about the innate terror of being diagnosed with cancer. "It takes some time to get used to the fear of having it," she told the New York Daily News (via the Deseret News). "But I've always thought of myself as being a warrior."

Carly Simon lost a lot of money in a financial fraud scheme

Manhattan accountant Ken Starr once worked as a financial manager for very wealthy clients, including Natalie Portman, Uma Thurman, and Sylvester Stallone, according to the New York Daily News. He reportedly offered huge returns on lower-risk investments, but instead simply took his clients' money and spent it on luxuries for himself and his fourth wife — such as a $7.5 million home, a swimming pool, and diamond jewelry — and then lost the rest in shady deals. In 2010 Starr was arrested and charged with a long list of financial crimes, and he entered a guilty plea on counts of wire fraud, money laundering, and investment advisor fraud, all of it adding up to a Ponzi scheme to the tune of $30 million.

He was ordered to pay restitution to many of his duped clients, which included Carly Simon. "I am that naive and stupid. I thought that that was possible," she told The Observer of Starr's lofty 28% investment return promises. She lost a great deal of her amassed fortune to Starr's scams, pointing out that she wasn't an heir to the Simon and Schuster fortune, because her father sold his shares of the company he started before his death in 1960. In the midst of this financial crisis, Simon considered unloading her family home. "If I sold this house, which is our family compound, if I sold that and lived in a trailer we would have money."

She was bullied by Harvey Weinstein

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein, once among the most powerful individuals in Hollywood, stood trial for the second time in 2022, according to CNN, following allegations of abuse, harassment, and assault. Weinstein's downfall and prosecution led to the #MeToo movement, in which women spoke out about unpunished, unethical, and illegal behavior by male colleagues, and in the wake of that, Carly Simon divulged details of her own unsavory encounters with Weinstein. His actions weren't of a sexual nature, but they left the musician feeling embarrassed and deeply uncomfortable.

"He asked me to score a movie that his wife at the time had made," Simon told The Guardian. "I hired the musicians and scored the movie, and at the recording session, I said: 'Well, how shall I get paid?' He said: 'Well, we'll figure it out later,' and he never followed up."

In 1998, Simon encountered Weinstein at the Camp David presidential retreat, both of them invited guests by then-President Bill Clinton. Weinstein screened the film "Paris, Texas," and then approached Simon. "Harvey had the nerve to get this cheap guitar from somewhere and bring it to me in the theatre seat and say: 'Sing now. Sing 'Anticipation.' The guitar was out of tune and one of the strings was off it. So he embarrassed me greatly," Simon remembered. "I couldn't not do it because everybody turned around to look at me in the theatre and there I was."

Her brother died of cancer

Carly Simon was raised in a family of four siblings, including two older sisters and a younger brother, Peter Simon, who, according to the Martha's Vineyard Times, worked as a freelance photographer, and a prominent gadabout one at that. He published calendars of his landscapes and collections of his photographs and produced a biographical DVD of his life behind the lens as a chronicler of the 1960s anti-war protest movement, the hippie counterculture, and the golden age of rock 'n' roll, photographing the likes of Robert Plant, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and very often, his sister Carly when she was emerging as a major talent in the early 1970s. "He was a mover and shaker, and always originating the games we played and he got everyone to play them," Carly Simon remembered (via The Vineyard Gazette). "And he always had a project."

In November 2018, Peter Simon died at Martha's Vineyard Hospital, with the reported cause of death being cardiac arrest following a cancer diagnosis. He was 71 years old.

Her sister Joanna died of cancer...

There was a lot of talent in the Simon family, particularly of the musical variety. In addition to pop superstar Carly Simon and composer Lucy Simon, there was eldest sibling Joanna Simon, who first made a name for herself as an opera singer in the 1960s, according to the Associated Press. In 1962, she co-starred in the New York City Opera's production of "The Marriage of Figaro" and won the Marian Anderson Award for most promising new singer, which she turned into a career as a classical concert vocalist. Simon segued again in the ensuing decades, working as an arts correspondent for "The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour" on PBS, where she won an Emmy Award in 1991.

On October 19, 2022, Simon's daughter, Lucy, confirmed on Facebook that her mother had died, having been diagnosed with thyroid cancer some time before. The singing Simon who sang opera was 85 years old.

...And then her sister Lucy died of cancer the very next day

Before she struck out on her own as a solo act in the 1970s, Carly Simon's first stab at performing came as part of the duo act, the Simon Sisters. According to USA Today, Carly and her immediately older sister Lucy Simon fashioned a vocal folk act, serving as openers for more prominent groups playing clubs in the thriving folk scene in Greenwich Village, New York, in the 1960s. After the Simon Sisters separated, Lucy Simon had a very successful solo career, cutting two albums, — "Lucy Simon" and "Stolen Time" — in the 1970s, before moving into children's music in the 1980s, winning Grammy Awards for "In Harmony" and "In Harmony 2." Then she wrote the score for the Broadway musical adaptation of "The Secret Garden," for which she received a Tony Award nomination

According to a family representative who spoke to the Associated Press, Lucy Simon died at home, in Piedmont, New York, on October 20, 2022 — the day after sister Joanna died — following a breast cancer diagnosis. Simon was 82. Carly Simon, coping with the back-to-back deaths of her two older sisters and only remaining siblings released a statement of tribute and mourning. "Their loss will be long and haunting. As sad as this day is, it's impossible to mourn them without celebrating their incredible lives," she wrote.

The deaths of friends Jacqueline Onassis and Linda McCartney devastated her

In 1983, Carly Simon began one of the most profound friendships of her life, and it was with someone even more famous than she was: a former First Lady of the United States. While dining at the Martha's Vineyard restaurant the Ocean Club, according to NBC News, Simon ran into her friend John F. Kennedy, Jr., who introduced the singer to his mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, then an editor at the Doubleday book publishing company. "And it wasn't long after that she called me and asked me if I would write a memoir." Simon didn't produce the book at the time, but she wrote two children's books with Onassis' guidance, who served as a mother figure to the musician. In April 1994, when Onassis' family announced the matriarch's impending death from blood cancer, Simon was among the very few people invited to the deathbed to say goodbye. "I held her hand and told her I loved her," Simon said.

Four years later, another close and very well-known friend of Simon would die prematurely from cancer: 56-year-old photographer and Wings member Linda McCartney, according to the Washington Post. In 1997, Simon was diagnosed with breast cancer, the disease that killed McCartney in 1998. "I've visited some women who are so much worse off. My heart breaks for them," Simon told CNN, adding that when her close friend McCartney died, she was left "crushed."