It was a sight no one expected to see: in the seaside idyll of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts on Aug. 30, 1995, James Taylor welcomed Carly Simon onto the stage at a benefit concert. It was the first time they'd performed together in more than a decade, after a union that ended in divorce in the early '80s. How did we get here?
Their story began sometime in early 1971. Simon had just released her self-titled solo debut - sophomore hit Anticipation would follow before the year was over - and was walking past a newsstand with her sister when she saw an illustration of Taylor on the cover of TIME. "Without thinking, I blurted, with confidence: 'I'm going to marry him,'" she wrote in her memoir Boys in the Trees. "James was perfect for me in every way. If you believe in predestination or clairvoyance, that would be a terrific example of why you're right to."
While the pair had encountered each other briefly in club gigs before then - Taylor recalled catching a performance by The Simon Sisters as a teenager - things didn't really get serious until they reconvened after a performance of his at Carnegie Hall in New York in late 1971. Within a year, they were married, and became pretty serious collaborators in and out of the house. The pair raised two children, Sally and Ben (each went on to become musicians themselves) and could be found on each others' albums. "Mockingbird," their duet from Simon's Hotcakes, was a Top 5 hit in 1974, and she contributed harmonies to some of his hits, like a cover of Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You)" and "Shower the People."
But all was not ideal within their family. Taylor struggled with drug addiction through the height of his popularity, and Simon also felt his workload was cutting into time as a father. She gave him an ultimatum: spend more time with the family, or risk losing them. What happened next was rather striking: in 1981, Taylor released an album called Dad Loves His Work, ensuring his position as one of the most extremely divorced men of all time two years later.
While their 1995 performance was a bright spot in the time after their partnership, Simon has admitted it's unfortunately an exception, not a rule. In 2015, she admitted to People that the pair remain estranged, though she still cares for him. “My incredible loyalty to him, in spite of the fact that he has treated me without any regard, has been so painful to me for so long,” she told the magazine. “It doesn’t have to be a two-way street.”