But at long last, Carly Simon has solved the mystery – well, sort of.
The singer, 70, tells PEOPLE that the second verse of her famous song refers to none other than Warren Beatty.
“I have confirmed that the second verse is Warren,” she tells PEOPLE in an interview pegged to her much-anticipated memoir, Boys in the Trees, to be released later this month.
Does Beatty know about the seminal role he plays in the song? In keeping with its theme, “Warren thinks the whole thing is about him!” says Simon.
The mother and grandmother, who still resides in the same Martha’s Vineyard home she shared with former husband James Taylor, explains that the other verses refer to two other men – and she still isn’t naming names.
Will she ever? “I don’t think so,” she says, “at least until they know it’s about them.”
For more on Carly Simon’s exclusive interview pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
“Probably, if we were sitting over at dinner and I said: ‘remember that time you walked into the party and … ” she says. “I don’t know if I’ll do it. I never thought I would admit that it was more than one person!”
The second verse of the song gives some insight into her time with Beatty:
You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive
Well you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved and one of them was me
I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee, and …
Having kept the secret for so long, Simon says she’s struck by how interest in the song’s inspiration has endured.
“Why do they want to know?” she muses. “It’s so crazy!”