Carly Simon has faced her fear of flying before. In 1971, she forced herself to board a plane to Los Angeles for her first-ever show at the Troubadour, where she opened for Cat Stevens. In 1989, she made another momentous trip there, this time to attend the Academy Awards, where “Let the River Run,” from Working Girl, won her a Best Original Song trophy. And this fall, she’ll return to L.A. for the 2022 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where she’s finally being inducted after being eligible since 1996.
“There’s that first thought of, ‘I don’t believe it. It must be the House of Pancakes I just got into,’” says Simon, 76. “Somebody bought me a space on the Walk of Fame, so I got confused with that. Truly, I was dumbfounded. I thought they must be mistaken.”
Simon is calling from her home in Martha’s Vineyard, where she’s just had chiropractic treatment for her second knee replacement, as well as a massage. “It’s a long process of healing,” she says. “Some people don’t like massages at all. Luckily, I love them.”
Simon spoke to RS about getting into the Hall of Fame, the upcoming film adaptation to her 2015 memoir Boys in the Trees, and the 50th anniversary of No Secrets.
Congratulations on the Hall of Fame! This is insanely overdue. I mean, I’ve been mad for years over this.
What a surprise, my God! I was mad earlier on, when I was more in the public eye and I thought I would have gotten in. But I’ve forgotten about wanting it, or feeling that I deserved it, or feeling anything about it at all.
You have a theory you were shut out because [RS founder and Rock Hall co-founder] Jann Wenner was mad about the scene in Perfect where you threw a drink in John Travolta’s face. It’s a great scene in an otherwise terrible movie.
I had known Jann prior to all the years where he was in charge, and I didn’t understand why he was so obviously alien to me, or why he didn’t reach out to me in some way. Not necessarily putting me in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but somehow just reaching out to me and saying, “I have this new thing called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. You want to come see it?” Anything. But anyway, that was a theory of mine for a while. It didn’t hold much water, even for me.
People are prone to a lot of feelings about themselves, not all of which are positive. In my case, I thought, “Well, this is confirmation that I’m not very good.” I realized that when I was first starting out writing songs. I sent my demo to Jerry Ragovoy, who was a record producer and wrote “Piece of My Heart.” He wrote me back saying, “I just don’t know who you are. I don’t know if you’re a rock & roll singer or a blues singer or a Broadway singer or a folk singer. I can’t place you, and therefore, I don’t think the public would have an easy time being able to relate to you.” And that made that made sense to me, even though it upset me.
Do you see yourself as a rock star?
Oh, yeah. When I first started to work with Richard Perry and made [1972’s] No Secrets, he said, “You’re much more of a rock singer than a folk singer.” When I made the album, I felt that that was kind of a stretch, but it wasn’t difficult to make the stretch. Mick Jagger also told me he thought I was a rock & roll singer.
Rock & roll is a loose term these days. Dolly Parton is in your class in the Hall of Fame.
Well, she was huge. She tried to pull out of it because she didn’t feel she deserved to be in rock & roll. But I think the term is used much more loosely now. It’s more of a crossover feel about music in general.
Slim Shady — Eminem — isn’t exactly a rock & roll singer, but there are elements of his style that are. Certainly the same thing with the Eurythmics. In fact, I worked on a track with Dave Stewart [1994’s “Halfway ‘Round the World”]. He’s such an imaginative and creative musician, and Annie [Lennox] is as well. Her singing could go anywhere. She always reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe set to music. Like the song “Jennifer.” The orange hair and the green eyes, the purple dress. That was one of the first songs that made me aware of Annie.
Are you a fan of other inductees, like Duran Duran and Lionel Richie?
Oh, I love Duran Duran. I got to know them in the mid-Eighties — it was the only concert that my kids wanted to go to. Lionel Richie, I had a great, visceral, positive reaction to him. I always loved the video for “All Night Long,” which was directed by a friend of mine, Bob Rafelson. That song has everything. It just makes you want to move to it, and I love the Latin feel. The Commodores’ “Easy.” They should get inducted, too.
Do you think you’re going to perform at the Hall of Fame?
I don’t know. I’m not going to put myself onstage and scare the hell out of myself.
I saw your most recent performance — “Let the River Run” at the Tibet House Benefit at Carnegie Hall in 2018 — and loved it.
That was so much fun. It’s so awful, feeling that I can’t walk down the stairs. That’s a real challenge for me now. I think about that performance at Carnegie Hall, and I think, “My God, I could move so easily then. Why can’t I do that now?” It’s annoying to me.
Do you have any idea who you’d want to induct you?
I mean, I would love that. But who is your dream pick?
Cat Stevens, Robbie Robertson. Those are the two people who were instrumental in my first solo light. Robbie produced the first record I ever made, which was a song that [Bob] Dylan rewrote for me called “Baby Let Me Follow You Down.” [Dylan manager] Albert Grossman put me and Robbie together. I just adored Robbie right from the start.
Then, when I made my first solo appearance, it was opening for Cat Stevens. I got to know him and we became good friends. That would be a fantastic possibility. I daren’t wish — except if you don’t put it out there, there stands little chance for it to happen. But listen, I’m just amazed that I was inducted, and with this particular group of people. I never thought that I’d be with Eminem, you know?
How do you think you’ll feel when you’ll be standing at the podium and accepting the honor?
Angie, I have no idea. When I got an Oscar, I had no idea what to expect. I just thought, “If I take one step at a time, I’ll walk up two steps to get on the plane. I’ll have Harry Winston’s people come around with the jewelry, and I’ll get to pick out special things to wear for the occasion. I have to figure out what to wear, and I’ll have to figure out what to do with my hair.” So little things got in the way that took my mind off the big moment. I don’t like planes.
You’ve always had a fear of flying. Even in 1971, you tried to get out of the Troubadour show by saying you’d only perform if Russ Kunkel was your drummer. But he actually said yes, and you had to fly to L.A.
That’s right. He’s the reason I played at the Troubadour in the first place. He’s a big part of why I had any success at all. These things have all been surprises for me, because ever since I’ve been a child, I’ve been very shy about being in front of other people, except for my mother. She was my only safe person. But Russ has no idea how important he’s been in my life.
If you end up performing, I’m sure he’d drum for you.
Or maybe I could take the drums and he could sing.
How often are you asked to go on tour?
I don’t think it’s been in consideration for a while. Certainly not for the last four years, because once you break your hip …that was a real setback for me. I have been asked to appear a lot. Touring is a whole different thing. You’ve got to get in shape, you’ve got to get a band. I haven’t had a definitive band for for a long time.
Do you have any plans for the 50th anniversary of No Secrets this fall?
They’re putting it out on vinyl and doing a whole re-release. Jac Holzman is behind it. He’s the man. If there’s one person who I credit with recognizing what I could be in the world of commercial music, it would be Jac.
You recently confirmed that your memoir, Boys in the Trees, is being adapted into a biopic.
Yes. The director is actually the one who optioned it for us. Simon Curtis is his name. He just did Downton Abbey, which is being released this week. They don’t have a girl to play Carly yet. Maybe they can ask Robbie Robertson if he’d do that.