If you couldn’t guess from her lyrics, you would immediately be able to tell from the eloquence, candor, and unabashed honesty of Carly Simon’s speech that, if you hadn’t yet read her memoir “Boys in the Trees,” you were in for a ride.
Simon brought her new book to life Wednesday night in discussion with author and journalist Sheila Weller, who had previously written about Simon in her 2008 biography “Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — and the Journey of a Generation.”
“Few women writers in any genre write as passionately about love as you do,” Weller noted. Simon is part of a small group of female rock stars who have paved the way for women today, spending the past forty years writing, singing, and talking publicly about love — and sex — openly, freely, and with a refusal to let society shame them. “Boys in the Trees” is an extension of that, picking up where her lyrics left off.
“I am not a person who lets go of the past easily,” Simon said. But there’s no bitterness or regret when she reflects on it, from a childhood marred by a debilitating stammer and family secrets to a storybook marriage dreamed of with ex-husband James Taylor crumbling under the strain of his drug addiction.
Nor was there any salaciousness when Simon spoke at length about the famous men in her life, including Warren Beatty and Mick Jagger, as well as Taylor, leaving the audience hanging onto every velvety smooth word. Rather, Simon’s seduction of an audience lies in her ability to speak and write from a sensitive, vulnerable, and deeply caring woman’s perspective.
Every word, every description drips with poetic romanticism. Chemistry with Mick Jagger while recording “You’re So Vain” was like “trying to stay within a pink gravity that was starting to loosen its silky grip on me.” She likens her relationship with Taylor to music, like they were a perfect fourth, the reedy tone of his voice piercing through her husk. Even after the end of their marriage, he still has a place in her heart, she said, as if her body contains a part of his DNA. Her biggest revelation: “I’ve stopped trying to stop loving. The parts that were loving are still in me. They’re still there.”
Although “Boys in the Trees” is largely about her relationships with men, there’s more to it than that.
“Pay attention to who you like. You can imitate them — you’ll get your own voice,” Simon advised young women. No, “Boys in the Trees” isn’t a story just about the boys. It’s a story about how one woman stopped emulating other voices and eventually found her own.