How Carly Simon’s ‘Coming Around Again’ Sparked New Success
Carly Simon emerged from a creative rut in 1987 thanks to a movie song. It wasn't the first time. In 1977, Simon's James Bond theme, “Nobody Does It Better,” became a hit. Composed by Marvin Hamlisch, the song is often cited as one of the franchise’s best themes.
Simon followed it with another hit in 1980: the single “Jesse.” And then Simon ran into a commercial wall. An album of jazz standards, Torch, got little support from her label, which didn’t agree with her vision for the project. The two albums that followed charted a familiar Simon pattern but with ‘80s musical elements added to the mix.
But what made her so popular in the ‘70s struggled to find an audience in the '80s. Then Simon was tapped to write a song for the 1986 movie Heartburn, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. The film was written by Nora Ephron, adapted from her best-selling book detailing the dissolution of her marriage to journalist Carl Bernstein.
Watch Carly Simon's 'Coming Around Again' Video
The song - "Coming Around Again" - was a personal take on believing in love after losing it. It reflects the movie’s characters but also Simon’s life. She split from her husband James Taylor in 1983, and much of their relationship was publicly documented in their respective songs. Was Taylor an influence in "Coming Around Again"? It's quite possible.
"Coming Around Again" climbed the charts after its release in the fall of 1986, reaching No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Looking back at the song in a 2015 interview with NPR’s Weekend Edition, Simon addressed the chorus, which declares, “There’s more room in a broken heart.”
“You know, that's so much a part of life, being able to embrace the broken heart, not just cast it off as having no meaning or trying to get rid of it,” Simon said.
In an interview with the Sun Sentinel, Simon clarified her stance on relationships and marriage after a big heartbreak. “I sure like having a man around,” she noted. “I think I liked being married almost more than any other state. I would definitely like to be married again and maybe have another child. I have so much love to give, and I can shower a lot of it on my children, but I love having a primary relationship.”
With new label Arista backing her, Simon thrived under Clive Davis' vision for filling a hole in the market for women of a certain age. (Simon was 41 at the time.) Davis had rehabbed the careers of Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick and saw an opening with Simon after she and Heartburn connected with women old enough to be in their second marriages.
Coming Around Again, the album, was released on April 13, 1987. It marked Simon's 13th studio LP and the first to hit the Top 25 since 1978. Soon afterward, Simon recorded Live From Martha’s Vineyard, which included “Coming Around Again/Itsy Bitsy Spider,” a medley of two songs from the earlier album.
Watch Carly Simon Perform 'Coming Around Again/Itsy Bitsy Spider' Live at Martha's Vineyard
The success of that song was followed by another hit after Simon was invited to write the theme song for 1988’s Working Girl. "Let the River Run" won an Oscar.
In 2009, Simon rerecorded several of her most popular songs for Never Been Gone. “Coming Around Again” received an even more wistful reinterpretation.
Speaking to HuffPost in 2010, Simon discussed sequencing it with “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be,” another hit about marriage. “Coming into this version of ‘Coming Around Again,’ ["That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be"] is much more philosophical," she said. "And it does give you a sense of awe.”