Now a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, legendary singer-songwriter Carly Simon still feels right at home on Martha’s Vineyard.
by Juliet Pennington
Photos by Matt Cosby
It was March 14, 1972, and Andy Williams was hosting the Grammy Awards in New York City. The evening’s big winner, with an unprecedented-at-the-time four Grammys, was Carole King, whose blockbuster album Tapestry ruled the airwaves.
Also receiving a fair amount of attention that night was a tall, slender, almost painfully shy 26-year-old named Carly Simon, who was named “Best New Artist” for her self-titled debut album. It was nominated for its chart-topping single, “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.”
Fifty years—and many personal and professional successes later—Simon has finally achieved what many would say is the ultimate accolade for a musician. On November 5, Simon, at age 77, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
When the names of the inductees were released in May, there was widespread approval, with many—fellow musicians and fans posting on social media—applauding the decision to induct Simon while claiming the recognition was long overdue. For her part, Simon says she is equal parts “thrilled” and “shocked” to be chosen, especially as she has been eligible for more than two decades (to be considered, 25 years must have passed since the release of a musician’s first commercial recording).
One of the most popular recording artists during the 1970s and ’80s, Simon had a slew of hits, including “You’re so Vain,” “Anticipation,” “The Right Thing to Do,” “Jesse,” and “Nobody Does It Better,” the theme song from the 1977 James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. Simon, whom critics have lauded for her memorable melodies and insightful honesty in translating emotions into music, became the first artist to win a Grammy Award, Academy Award, and Golden Globe for a song (the 1988 hit “Let the River Run” from the movie Working Girl) that was written, composed, and performed by a single artist.
She also authored two memoirs and five children’s books, picked up painting and photography, and created a line of wallpaper and high-end silk scarves. The scarves feature photos of her beloved peonies that grow in abundance on her property and include lyrics from some of her hit songs.
“She is the most creative person I know,” says Tamara Weiss, a childhood friend from Riverdale, New York, who, like Simon, calls Martha’s Vineyard home. “Her property has grown—what started as this small house that once belonged to James [Taylor, Simon’s ex-husband] is now this magical world of Carly. She appreciates beauty so deeply, down to the tablecloth, the flowers, the wall coverings, and the smells coming from the ever-lit candles…There’s nothing left unturned, and she’s always thinking of a new project. It’s a magical place, and it’s magical because she’s the magician who makes things happen at Hidden Star Hill.”
Weiss, a producer and author who for 20 years owned an upscale boutique (in which Simon, godmother to Weiss’s adult twin sons, partnered) in Vineyard Haven, is quick to point out that Simon’s creativity and generous spirit extend beyond her own pursuits.
“She brings people together and is always helping others, whether it be the Possible Dreams auction [which raises money for MV Community Services] or other charitable endeavors. I remember many Thanksgivings where Carly would take her kids to the food pantry or go to the hospital and sing. She does what she can to make people smile,” Weiss says. “She loves this island; it’s her home. She often refers to her childhood memories on the Vineyard. I think New York City, Los Angeles, and London just started to fade away as her love affair with the Vineyard became more and more important to her.”
While many stars of Simon’s stature have vacation homes in places like Martha’s Vineyard or the Hamptons, the legendary singer-songwriter has made the Vineyard her year-round residence for decades.
Growing up in New York City and Connecticut, Simon spent summers on the island with her family. When she started dating fellow musician James Taylor, who also had ties to the Vineyard, she moved there and made it her home.
“There’s something about it,” she described in a 2017 interview. “It just won’t let me go.” She shares her tasteful and creatively decorated home—with a warm, welcoming, shabby chic vibe—on 25 acres in the town of Tisbury with Richard Koehler, a surgeon who has been her partner for nearly two decades, and her cavapoo Aja.
Simon also has miniature ponies, goats, sheep, and donkeys living on her property, and amenities like a swimming pool, tennis court, office, and way-cool treehouse she had built when her now 15-year-old grandson was young. Her son, Ben, 45, lives in a separate home on the property. (Simon has two children with Taylor: Ben and Sally, 48.)
Despite her comfortable life on Martha’s Vineyard and yet another career accomplishment, Simon is not done creating.
“There is still so much more music and magic,” Weiss says. “During COVID-19, Carly spent a lot of time writing, and there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s an ocean of music to come and be shared with all of us.”