Simon charts a new course

By Charles J. Gans

The singer was inspired by Brazilian music for her new work.

NEW YORK — Carly Simon was worried about preserving her voice as she rehearsed for her first public performance of tunes from her new CD, but she couldn’t restrain herself as she got swept away singing the sexy title song, “This Kind of Love.”

Tall and slender, her blond hair flowing, she gently swayed her body and snapped her fingers to the beat of the samba-inspired melody, singing passionately about making love on moonlit beaches.

The CD is not only her first collection of original songs in eight years, but also finds the legendary 62-year-old singer-songwriter charting a new musical course inspired by the music of Brazil from Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa to Caetano Veloso and Jorge Ben.

“I’m setting the lyrical themes to a carnival or Brazilian or slightly samba tempo so that life is joyous even in its sadness,” said Simon during a break at the Manhattan studio. “Life is a dream even in its most painful moments, it’s a dream that we can dance to.”

“It all kind of reminds me of ‘Black Orpheus,’ which I must have seen 10 times when it came out, and was so much the impetus for my getting into Brazilian music,” she said, referring to the 1959 film with the Jobim-Bonfa score which retold the Greek Orpheus-Eurydice myth during Rio’s Carnival.

Simon, whose 20-year marriage to writer-businessman Jim Hart ended in divorce last year, doesn’t want to specify who’s the boyfriend that inspired “This Kind of Love,” in which she sings of falling in love with someone she “didn’t see ... as my type at all.”

But the new man in her life, Dr. Richard Koehler, a surgeon who served in the Gulf War, is unlike the musicians, writers and actors she’s been involved with in the past.

“Because he’s not an artist ... he’s very different,” said Simon, who met him when he was practicing on Martha’s Vineyard, where she lives year-round. “Getting to know him has been quite amazing ... because he’s more capable of love than anybody that I’ve known with the exception of one musician who I was engaged to a while back.”

During the rehearsal, Simon put the finishing touches on new arrangements of some past hits — including the Oscar-winning “Let the River Run,” “Anticipation,” and “You’re So Vain” — realizing she can no longer sing them as hard as she did in the good old days.

Simon considers her songs to be “problem solvers” that have helped her channel her emotions and deal with life’s challenges. That was the case with her last album of original songs from 2000, “The Bedroom Tapes,” recorded at her Vineyard home when she was suffering depression after battling breast cancer.

“There were some very starkly real, scary to myself, so open songs,” said Simon. “I love that album ... and think it has some of the best work I’ve ever done.”

Simon says her last label, Columbia, considered her a “heritage” artist and insisted she do standards albums such as the Grammy-nominated “Moonlight Serenade” (2005). Simon, who had sung these songs since childhood, was the first ’70s pop star, before Rod Stewart or Linda Ronstadt, to record a Great American Songbook album with “Torch” (1981).

“I wanted to do original songs but they thought it was safer ... and would sell a certain number of records if I did the standards or lullabies [on the 2007 album ‘Into White’],” she said. “I was creatively directed in that way by very well-meaning people who didn’t recognize that a woman of my age has viable thoughts and feelings that people want to hear.”

She got her chance when Starbucks’ Hear Music label asked her to do an album of originals.

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