The Health Scare That Had Carly Simon Invite Fans On Stage During A 1981 Performance

Do you experience anxiety? If so, you're in good company. Iconic "You're So Vain" singer Carly Simon has been nominated for 14 Grammy Awards and won two. She has also dealt with intense stage fright throughout her life. "I think it's the whole experience of being in front of people, exposing yourself and your talent is so unnatural," Simon told ABC News in 2008.

Simon's fear of performing emerged with her career in the 1960s. The songstress got her start as part of a double act with her sister Lucy, according to Britannica. The Simon Sisters landed their first gig in the summer of 1963 as the house entertainers for a bar in Provincetown, Massachusetts, Carly wrote on her website. This led to their first big break, when a friend of Lucy's came to watch them who was partner to the manager of major folk acts the Weavers and Pete Seeger. The manager then booked them on a musical television show called "Hootenanny," and both sisters grew frightened before taping. "Lucy and I were both numb and shaking offstage and then numb and shaking onstage," Carly recalled. She said that her hands and knees were shaking so badly that she struggled to keep her grip on her guitar.

Carly's stage fright followed her into her solo career, which took off in the early 1970s, according to Britannica. In 1976, she became the first and only "Saturday Night Live" musical guest to pre-record her set, according to Classic Rockers.

Panic in Pittsburgh

What Carly Simon has experienced throughout her career is not merely the nerves that anyone might get before stepping onto a large stage in front of an audience, but rather actual panic attacks before or during shows, according to ABC News. A panic attack is a feeling of sudden, intense fear usually accompanied by physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating, and shaking, according to the Mayo Clinic. One particularly acute attack came when Simon was in the midst of a 1981 tour following the release of her single "Jesse," The New York Times reported. During the first of two scheduled concerts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she felt the panic coming on. 

Simon decided to be honest with the audience about what was happening. Her audience rewarded her candor by being incredibly supportive, but Simon's heart was still racing two songs in. To try to power through, she told concert goers that it would be easier for her if she wasn't alone on stage. "About 50 people came up, and it was like an encounter group," Simon recalled. "They rubbed my arms and legs and said, 'We love you,' and I was able to finish the first show." Despite the support, a second show proved too much for her at that time.

Practice makes perfect

Carly Simon's stage fright did improve over the years, according to ABC News. She took a seven-year break from public performing between the early 1980s and a 1987 concert on Martha's Vineyard, according to The New York Times. That concert was both part of a career comeback and a personal triumph. The problem didn't go away entirely. But, as in Pittsburgh, Simon has proven she's not afraid to ask for help. 

in 1996, Simon was going through a particularly difficult time because she was in the process of splitting with fellow singer James Taylor, according to ABC News. She had also promised to perform at President Bill Clinton's 50th birthday party at New York City's Radio City Music Hall. To help her manage her symptoms, Simon asked the horn section of the band behind her to spank her ahead of the show. "The curtain went up and the trumpet player was off his perch and spanking me, and I don't think anyone knew it was happening. He stopped just in time," she told ABC News. So if you're dealing with anxiety, follow Simon's example and ask for the help you need.

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.