Carly Simon Went from Trauma to Timeless

Carly Simon was born Carly Elisabeth Simon on June 25, 1945, in the Bronx, New York City. Her father, Richard Simon, was a professional pianist who co-founded the famous Simon & Schuster publishing house. Her mother, Andrea Heinemann Simon, was a singer and a civil rights activist.

Carly Simon / Carly Simon and James Taylor / Carly Simon and James Hart / Carly Simon as a child.

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She had two older sisters, Joanna and Lucy, as well as a younger brother, Peter. Although her father’s family line was German-Jewish, Carly was raised as a Roman Catholic. Her Catholic roots came from her maternal grandmother, originally from Cuba and was of biracial Pardo descent.

A Traumatic Childhood

Her brother Peter made a shocking revelation in a book he published in the 1990s. Growing up with her family in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, Carly was a victim of sexual assault committed by a family friend who was still in his teens when she was seven years old.

Carly Simon standing next to her brother and mother.

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Carly described it as a heinous act that changed her views about sex for a long time. She suffered severe stuttering at age eight and found solace in singing and songwriting.

Singing Was Her Therapy

Carly Simon even had a psychiatrist to try and cure her stuttering at such a young age, which ultimately failed. Writing songs and singing was the only way to release her voice naturally without stammering and stuttering.

Carly Simon as young girl looking sideways and holding a wooden bat.

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She even described that it would feel like the throat was strangling her when she tried to speak normally. She attended Riverdale County School and continued her studies at Sarah Lawrence College. She did not finish her education after that dropping out to pursue a career in music.

The Simon Sisters Get a Record Deal

Carly Simon kicked off her music career when she started a band with her sister Lucy called The Simon Sisters. They signed to Kapp Records in 1964 and released two albums for their label in the same year.

Lucy Simon, Carly Simon and Joey singing while playing the piano.

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The first album was called “Meet the Simon Sisters” that featured the minor hit single “Winkin’, Blinkin’ and Nod,” and the second album was called ‘Cuddlebug.” While making their third album called “The Simon Sisters Sing the Lobster Quadrille and Other Songs for Children” in 1969, Lucy left the band to start a family.

Finding Her Way in the Business

With the break-up of The Simon Sisters, Carly Simon decided to collaborate with a band called Elephant’s Memory. They were a very eclectic and familiar New York rock band in the 1960s that used to back John Lennon and Yoko Ono from 1971 to 1973 but under a different name called “Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band.”

Carly Simon, Yoko Ono James Taylor and John Lennon at an event.

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In 1971, Carly also appeared in the film “Taking Off,” where coincidentally or not, she played an aspiring singer. The song “Long Term Physical Effects” became one of the film’s soundtracks.

The Start of Her Solo Career

It wasn’t long after the break-up of The Simon Sisters that Jac Holzman signed Carly to Elektra Records. This took place in 1970, and in March 1971, Carly released her self-titled debut album that peaked at number thirty on the Billboard charts.

Carly Simon performs on stage in New York City.

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This album also included her first top ten hit, “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be,” which peaked at number ten on Billboard. This song earned Carly her first nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 14th Annual Grammy Awards and won Best New Artist.

Carly Simon’s Huge Hit Song

Carly’s greatest success was in 1972 when she wrote and released her biggest single called “You’re So Vain.” The song ruled the Pop and Adult Contemporary charts, where it peaked at number one and sold well over a million copies in the U.S. alone.

Carly Simon posing on a chair in a golden dress.

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It was one of the decade’s biggest hits and skyrocketed her album “No Secrets” to the top spot on the U.S. album charts for five consecutive weeks. The song was nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female in the 16th Annual Grammy Awards in 1974.

The Success Continued

In 1974, Carly released another album titled “Hotcakes,” which was also an instant hit when it reached number three in the Billboard’s album chart. She had two top ten singles from this album, namely, “Mockingbird” and “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain.”

James Taylor and Carly Simon in New York City.

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The former, a duet with James Taylor, peaked at number five on Billboard’s Pop Singles chart while the latter reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. Her label later released an album called “The Best of Carly Simon” in 1975, which consisted of her bestselling hits.

Building Her Musical Legacy

The 1970s continued to propel Carly’s career and reputation with albums such as “Playing Possum,” released in 1975, and “Another Passenger,” released in 1976. The album cover for “Playing Possum” generated some controversy because Carly posed wearing just a nightgown and knee-high black boots.

Carly Simon on stage playing the guitar.

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Although sales and reception for “Another Passenger” was rather lukewarm, music critics and even The Rolling Stones magazine cited that it was Carly’s best record. 1978 saw her album “Boys in the Tree,” which was both critically and commercially acclaimed. In 1979, another greatest hits album was released entitled “Never Been Gone.”

Ending Her Warner Bros. Partnership

In 1980, Carly signed to Elektra’s sibling label, Warner Bros. Records, where she released her ninth album entitled “Come Upstairs.” The single “Jesse” from the album peaked at number eleven and stayed in the charts for almost six months.

Carly Simon lifting her hand in a fist while singing.

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In 1981, she released another album called “Torch,” containing many melancholy jazz standards. Her last album with Warner, “Hello Big Man,” was released in 1983, but although it was critically well-received, it was not so successful commercially.

Moving On From Warner Bros.

Leaving Warner, Carly later signed for Epic Records in 1985, where she only worked on one album for them, entitled “Spoiled Girl.” Due to the commercial slump, she was dropped by Epic Records but later rebounded when she signed with Arista Records in 1986.

Carly Simon all glammed up wearing a huge fur coat.

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Her album released in 1987 called “Coming Around Again” produced yet another international hit with the title track. The single and the album returned her to the upper echelons of the Billboard Pop Top 20 and the U.K. Top 10. The album also garnered her a nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the 30th Annual Grammy Awards.

Carly Simon Makes an Opera

The 1990s saw Carly Simon releasing “My Romance” and another album of brand-new material called “Have You Seen Me Lately.” The song “Better Not Tell Her” peaked at number four in the charts, and it was one of Carly’s biggest hits of the decade.

Kenny G. Playing saxophone for Carly Simon.

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Carly later produced a contemporary opera called “Romulus Hunt” after being commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera Association and the Kennedy Center in 1993 to create an opera that would appeal to a younger audience. This production was released in November of the same year.

Carly Changes Her Musical Focus

Carly released another album in 1994 called “Letters Never Sent,” which was based on written letters that she found in an old box that were never mailed. In 1997, she released another standards album called “Film Noir,” She was nominated at the Grammys for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance.

John Travolta and Carly Simon sitting beside each other at an event.

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The second half of the ‘90s saw Carly being more focused on writing songs for films and collaborating with other artists such as a touring concert with Hall & Oates, a surprise performance with James Taylor, a duet with Mindy Jostyn as well as John Travolta.

Still Releasing Great Music in the 21st Century

As she entered the new millennium, Carly released an album called “The Bedroom Tapes” in 2000, which she largely wrote and recorded at her home. This album was not commercially successful, but it was critically acclaimed.

Carly Simon poses for a photo with Tigger and Winnie the Pooh.

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Carly performed with Janet Jackson on Jackson’s album called “All for You,” She also sang back-up for two songs in Mindy Jostyn’s album, ‘Blue Stories,” in 2001. 2002 saw Carly release a Christmas album called “Christmas is Almost Here.” Carly also wrote songs for Disney’s Winnie the Pooh films from 2002 to 2005.

Tumultuous Relationship With Starbucks

In 2005, Carly produced another album of standards called “Moonlight Serenade” that peaked at number seven in the Billboard album Charts which nominated her for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album at the Grammy Awards. When she signed to the Starbucks label, Hear Music, in 2008, Carly released an album entitled “This Kind of Love.”

Carly Simon and her son Ben Taylor perform at Starbucks.

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Her contract with Starbucks collapsed when it was reported that she wanted to sue Starbucks for backing away from her music and the album. The album itself did very well by making it number fifteen in the charts and sold well over 150,000 copies.

Carly Finally Sees Her U.K. Support

In 2010, Carly performed live at a BBC Radio 2 broadcast titled An Evening with Carly Simon, the first time she performed in the U.K. From there, she did a lot of television appearances and promotions in the U.K.

Carly Simon and Taylor Swift performing onstage at Gillette Stadium.

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Carly then performed with Taylor Swift on her Red Tour in 2013 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Her autobiography titled “Boys in the Trees: A Memoir,” which focused on her life from age five to thirty-five, was released in 2015 together with a two-disc compilation album titled “Songs from the Trees (A Musical Memoir Collection).”

Release of Her Second Autobiography

Carly collaborated with British indie rock band Gorillaz for the track “Ticker Tape,” from the album “Humanz” in 2017. She finally decided to have Universal Music Publishing Group administer her entire portfolio that includes the compositions under her own publishing companies.

Carly Simon and Jackie pose for a picture at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore.

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Carly’s second autobiography was released in 2019 entitled “Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie,” which primarily recounts her friendship with former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Similarly to her first autobiography release, Carly included a mixed tape live version of “Touched by the Sun” as a single.

No Love Found With William Donaldson

In the 1960s, Carly Simon was romantically attached with William Donaldson. Donaldson was known as a playboy, but he made a name as a writer and satirist. He was previously married to Sonia Avery in 1957 and had a son, but left his wife for Jacki Ellis, whom he then left for a string of affairs that included Sarah Miles and Carly Simon.

Carly Simon sitting on a couch.

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He was famously quoted saying that Carly was “the answer to any sane man’s prayers; funny, quick, erotic, extravagantly talented.” Yet, he still left Carly and returned to Sarah Miles.

The Story of Carly and James Taylor

Carly married fellow singer-songwriter James Taylor in 1972, and they had two children together. Their children are Sarah “Sally” Maria Taylor, born January 7, 1974, and Benjamin “Ben” Simon Taylor, who was born three years later on January 22, 1977.

Carly Simon and son Ben Taylor gripping each other’s hand.

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Both also grew up to become musicians like their parents and political activists. Carly was famously quoted saying, “I’m going to marry him” when she pointed at a cartoon picture of James Taylor on the cover of TIME to her sister when they passed by a streetside newsstand.

A Love That Seemed Destined to Be

Carly and James crossed each other’s paths multiple times. They had already known each other from their youth when their families spent the summer holidays on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Carly Simon and James Taylor dancing on stage.

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James had seen Carly and her sister perform in the mid-sixties and found her attractive when he was only fourteen, and she was eighteen. An incident where James was sprawled out on the floor after having hordes of people visiting Carly in her dressing room after she opened for Cat Stevens in April 1971 was a memory that stood out for Carly.

The Start of Their Relationship

After not seeing each other seven months after the incident, Carly got to see James in his concert in November 1971 at Carnegie Hall, New York. During the concert intermission, she bluntly offered to make him a home-cooked meal while in New York, which James accepted.

Carly Simon and James Taylor performing on stage.

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Carly was offering lunch for a later date, but James asked if it could be dinner instead, on that very night. Carly referred to this “late-night lunch” as the real start of their relationship. They got married in a low-key reception on November 3, 1972.

Unfortunately, It Didn’t Last

Almost a decade into their marriage, Carly and James parted ways, and she believed the breakup was necessary for both of them to be in a better place. Both had differing reasons for the divorce. For Carly, everything started going wrong once James confessed to seeing other women, most notably a mistress named Evey, and there was also his substance abuse.

Carly Simon and James Taylor sitting close to each other.

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James, however, persistently said that the divorce was because their marriage was premature, and he had yet to find a solid footing for himself. Today, Carly and James have not spoken to each other since 2015.

She Found Love Again With James Hart

James Hart was a writer, poet, and businessman, and Carly married him in 1987, and they stayed married for twenty years. Hart first met Carly when he was introduced to her by a friend on a train station platform in upstate New York.

Carly Simon and husband James Hart attend an event together.

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He followed her on the train where they both had an amazing conversation on the way back to New York City, and six months down the line, they married. Carly’s relationship with Hart was extraordinary as James Hart was always wrestling with his sexuality.

A Confused Relationship for Hart

James Hart admitted in his memoir that before meeting Carly, he had always been attracted to men. Though he felt that he was straight when he was with Carly, there are still deep thoughts that he may even be bisexual.

Carly Simon and James Hart attend the Grand Opening of Planet Hollywood.

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Amid his sexual insecurities, Hart still settled in with the world of glamor, especially with Carly as a wife. Hart even helped Carly introduce former first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis to Alec Baldwin, where Alex agreed to be Jackie’s date on her 62nd birthday.

Trying to Work Through Their Troubles

Even though Hart loved Carly and had a life surrounded by wealth and fame, Carly started to become suspicious of her husband’s sexuality from around twelve to fifteen years into their marriage.

Carly Simon and husband James Hart walking on the streets of New York City.

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When Carly confronted him about it, Hart was deeply in denial and extremely defensive. Even so, Carly was open to working around the situation and working together with Hart to explore different avenues to understand his sexuality yet maintain their husband-and-wife relationship.

A Troubled Relationship Finally Ends

Regardless of how gracefully accepting Carly was regarding Hart’s sexual attraction to men, she, like any other wife, was still worried that Hart was cheating on her. This reached a point where Carly went undercover as a hooker to investigate the matter herself but to no avail.

Carly Simon and husband James Hart attend the

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When Carly was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, Hart was always by her side. In 2002, Hart started becoming addicted to cocaine after being sober for twenty-one years. So, after nineteen years of marriage, Carly and Hart filed for divorce in 2006.

She Found a Different Type of Man

Today, Carly Simon is in a relationship with a surgeon, who is ten years her junior, by the name of Richard Koehler. Dr. Koehler used to serve in the Gulf War before starting his practice at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

Dr. Richard Koehler and Carly Simon attend an event.

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Based on Carly’s past relationship, Koehler was neither a musician, actor, writer, nor an artist of any kind. Carly mentioned that she doesn’t see him as “her type at all” but then explained that “he’s more capable of love than anybody that I’ve known except one musician who I was engaged to a while back.”

He’s Very Talented in a Different Way

Carly met Dr. Richard Koehler in 2008 but some reports had stated that the relationship had started in 2006. They are both living together since 2015 in Martha’s Vineyard. Dr. Koehler is a board-certified surgeon specializing in general and laparoscopic surgery. He is originally from Orleans, Massachusetts, where he went to Nauset Regional High.

Dr. Richard Koehler in a white shirt and striped tie.

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He later studied at Boston College and studied Human Biology and Molecular Biology at Tufts University School of Medicine. Dr. Koehler was also a trauma surgeon in Operation Desert Shield/Storm and a former General/Trauma Surgery at U.S. Navy Medical Corps.

Carly Simon Is Also a Great Mother

Sarah Maria Taylor, or Sally Taylor, is Carly’s eldest child from her marriage with James Taylor, and she, like her parents, is also a singer-songwriter. She is currently pursuing a career as a solo artist but was once a former member of the indie band The Slip.

James Taylor and daughter Sally Taylor attend the 5th annual Musicians on Call benefit concert.

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Sally has dyslexia, but her disability did not become a great burden in her childhood, with Carly and James fully supporting her. Carly would play a game of metaphoric questions and answers with Sally to help her decode the meaning of words and sentences, which gradually helped her to communicate and understand the world.

Sally Taylor’s Music Career

Sally studied at Brown University with a great interest in anthropology and the nature of cross-cultural human perception and expression. Her fascination with the senses made her embark on exploring the human experience as an artistic adventure.

Sally Taylor strumming and singing on stage.

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In 1998, Sally was reluctant to sign with a major record label, so she decided to start her label, where she could be independently responsible for producing and recording her albums. She produced three albums of her own called Tomboy Bride, Apt #6S & Shotgun.

She Continues Her Interesting Journey

By age thirty, Sally retired from being an active, touring musician. Before retiring, she actively toured one hundred and eighty days a year with a five-piece band. Sally decided to move to Boston and teach music at the Berklee School of Music.

Ben and Sally Taylor performing together on stage.

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Now, she has taken time off from that position to work exclusively on ConSenses, which is her effort to encourage artistic collaboration, exploring human perception, and spread the idea that art should be recognized as a journey. This has always been something of a great personal passion for Sally.

Her Second Child Is Also Musically Gifted

Benjamin Simon Taylor or Ben Taylor is Carly’s second child with James Taylor. Again, just like his sister Sally, Ben is also following in the footsteps of his musically gifted parents. He has been active as a musician since 1995 and is currently a solo artist with a strong influence on folk, folk-rock, soft rock, pop, and funk music.

Ben Taylor playing the guitar.

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As a musician, Ben not only can sing but also can play both guitar and piano. Off-stage, Ben still participates in music-related tasks such as songwriting, sound engineering, and record production.

A Multi-Talented Son

Ben attended high school at Tabor Academy, a college prep-boarding school located in Marion, Massachusetts. Surprisingly, Ben is an avid fan of martial arts and has been training in martial arts such as Qigong, Tai Chi, and Kung Fu since he was a teenager.

Ben Taylor and Carly Simon arrive at the 2012 ASCAP Pop Awards.

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Recently, Ben has also started learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Aside from music, Ben also has a knack for acting. He has had roles in “American Dreams” in 2004 and a U.K. show called “Always and Everyone” in 1999. He also participated in a family reality series called “The Vineyard” in 2013.

Following in His Mom’s Footsteps

Ben first released an album titled “Famous Among the Barns,” He collaborated with artists like Adam MacDougall and Larry Ciancia to form The Ben Taylor Band. But for Ben, the band’s sonic direction of being neo-psychedelic folk-funk did not fit his personal preference, so he followed up with a solo effort that was more in tune with his true musical nature.

Carly Simon with her children, Sally and Ben Taylor.

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The album, called “Another Run Around the Sun,” was acoustic and featured his sister Sally and Carly’s mother. In 2012, Ben released a second album called “Listening” in the U.S. and toured Europe in 2013.

Carly Simon’s Most Famous Songs

Where do we even start? Without a shadow of a doubt, “You’re So Vain” is a must-listen for anyone that wants to start off listening to Carly Simon. The song achieved gold status when it was released and was nominated for the Grammys in multiple categories.

Caryl Simons wearing a blue dress.

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In 1997, which is twenty-five years after its release, the song was certified Platinum. “Mockingbird” is also a famous single, where she showcased her ex-husband as her duet partner in the song.

She Made a Bond Theme

Another extremely recognizable song by Carly Simon is the song “Nobody Does it Better.” Why? Because it was the theme song to the James Bond film entitled “The Spy Who Loved Me.”

Carly Simon presents the 'Most Stylish' award to Pierce Brosnan at the 2000 GQ 'Men of the Year' Awards.

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Not only did this song brought attention to Carly in the film industry, but it was also her second biggest hit after “You’re So Vain.” Another notable song is “Let the River Run,” which was the soundtrack for “Working Girl.” The song is significant as it won Carly an Oscar.

She’s Also Made Some Jingles

Carly’s second single, called “Anticipation,” was once used by the J. Heinz Company as the music for their commercials, making the song a pop culture phenomenon. This single was written in fifteen minutes while Carly was waiting for Cat Stevens to pick her up for a date.

Carly Simon smiling at a hotel in London.

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Before the success of her first single, Carly worked with her uncle writing jingles for $5.00 each. Some of her jingles were used by Noxzema, O-Cedar, and a bank in New England. She also did the music for a show on NBC called “Who Killed Lake Erie.”

Carly Becomes a Children’s Author

For someone well known as a singer and songwriter, Carly was also an avid author. She has multiple talents, which she has given to her children, who must have inspired her writing work.

Carly Simon signs one of her books.

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She wrote five children’s books entitled Amy the Dancing Bear (1989), The Boy of the Bells (1990), The Fisherman’s Song (1991), The Nighttime Chauffeur (1993), and Midnight Farm (1997).

The Self-Taught Musician Faced the Greatest Battle

Carly never formally learned how to play the piano and only learned how to play the guitar from friends. Carly Simon was the first artist to win an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy for a song composed, written, and performed entirely by a single artist.

Carly Simon on stage.

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During a show and album promotion in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1980, Simon collapsed on stage from exhaustion and subsequently performed considerably less throughout that decade. Carly was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 and underwent successful surgery and chemotherapy.

A Few More Interesting Facts

In the 1990s, it was alleged that Carly was punched by a drunk Chrissie Hynde, the vocalist for The Pretenders, at a Joni Mitchell concert. In November 2001, Carly wrote an Oscar-winning song called “Let the River Run” used as a part of a public service ad for the U.S. Postal Service.

Carly Simon looking across her shoulder.

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The ad entitled “Pride” was produced to boost public confidence and postal worker morale following the September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre and the 2001 anthrax attacks.