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Solitaire

by

Carpenters



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Neil Sedaka wrote this song with Philip Cody, who collaborated with Sedaka on his comeback hits "Laughter In The Rain" and "Bad Blood." In this song, the card game solitaire becomes a metaphor for loneliness, as a man finds himself alone after losing his love. Cody told us: "Neil just hit me with a lot of sad music, and that kind of thing for me was a surprise - I didn't know I had that in me. But Neil encouraged me to make him cry. So I went for that particular part of Neil's throat - I was trying to get a reaction out of Neil, and if I got a reaction out of Neil, I knew I'd done good. Because I had no idea what a hit song was. I'd been in the studio and I'd been out and about on the streets for six years at that point. But this was the first time that I ever really hooked up with anyone who actually knew what they were doing."
Neil Sedaka recorded this song in 1974, but it was the Carpenters who had the big hit with their 1975 recording, thanks to a mighty vocal performance by Karen Carpenter. Sedaka, who fell off the charts when the Beatles took over, enjoyed a resurgence as a performer and songwriter in the mid-'70, and this was one of his most successful compositions. Neil had to push for this song, as his publisher Don Kirshner didn't think much of it.
Some of the many artists to record this song include Andy Williams, Sheryl Crow, Elvis Presley and Clay Aiken. For the Andy Williams version, his producer Richard Perry asked the song's lyricist Philip Cody to change some of the words to make them easier to sing. Cody balked at first, and then came to accept that altering his words to accommodate a popular singer wasn't the worst thing in the world. Said Cody: "Once I let go of the idea that my lyrics were inviolate, it went rather smoothly. Over the course of time, as the Carpenters did the song, they basically did a mash-up of the old lyric and the new lyric, which actually was better than either of the two, the Andy Williams or Neil's original. I think the Carpenters' version was the one that I like best."
This is one of the few songs that was successful with singers of both genders. Philip Cody told us that when he wrote it, he imagined a female voice singing it. Said Phil: "When I heard Karen Carpenter, I had chills down my spine. As a lyricist, you want that thing where an artist owns your lyric. You can measure success by the amount of money you make off a song, but I measure the success of that song by that particular moment, when she made it totally her own. And it's still great. I sat down one day and I listened to all 90 versions of 'Solitaire' that people have done, and of all the ones that are out there, Karen Carpenter's is still the one that is the benchmark for all the covers on that song."
The Andy Williams version of this song was a #4 UK hit in 1973, two years before the Carpenters' version came out. There was a completely different song called "Solitaire" that was a hit for Laura Branigan in 1983.
The Greek chanteuse Nana Mouskouri not only did a cover of this song but also recorded versions in French and German. (thanks, Jerro - New Alexandria, PA)
Carpenters
Carpenters Artistfacts
More Carpenters songs
More songs covered by Elvis Presley
More songs about loneliness or isolation
More songs that reference playing cards or card games

Comments (25):

In an article of Newsweek, Neil mentioned something to the effect that he was glad that the song had been recorded by Karen.
- 350hunny, Shizuoka, Japan
Oh and he only lived for one more year after this recording.
- Diana, Woodinville, WA
Clay's version is as wild and unruly as his hair. Love Neil, but he has co-authored a masterpiece beyond his vocal gifts. I love the Carpenters version. But Elvis will blow your socks off! When the full force of his pipes slam the hook "And solitaire's the only game in town." It will punch you in the stomach. He half talks the words - there is the connection too of Elvis' solitary life - trapped by fame. He understands these lyrics better than most.
- Diana, Woodinville, WA
I have a recording of Solitaire by Glenn Yarbrough. Can anyone tell me when it was recorded or released and on what album (original album rather than a later compilation or best of)?
- Rumley, Ottawa, ON
I have heard all of the versions of this song and I don't know how one can say that this is not the best rendition of it.
Those who say that the Carpenters ruined this song don't have any clue of what they're sayin'.
Bubble gum, vanilla, sweet coated candy, whatever you call Richard and Karen's music, it's either you take it or you
leave it. This is the Carpenters love them or leave them, I happen to love them.
- Henry, MANILA, Philippines
You gotta be 3 things to say Sedaka's version is better than the Carpenters'.
1) You're an old avid avid avid fan of Neil sedaka and his music (with all due respect)
2) You're deaf.
Those who say that the Carpenters runied this song have no good taste in music! The Carpenters made one
hell of a gem from a so so standard song of Mr. Sedaka, and that with the help of course of Richard Carpenter.
Richard Carpenter was undeniably a musical genius. Bubble gum, sugar coated candy whatever you define Carpenters music is,
It's either you take it or you leave it. And a lot of people happened to love them for giving the world
such classic songs as this one.
pieces as this one.
It's either you take it or you leave it!


3) You're freakin' kidding and or you are a combination of the mentioned.
I heard all of the versions of this song from the original Neil Sedaka version to Clay Aiken and You gotta bebe kidding m
- Henry, MANILA, Philippines
Morli, shame on you. Your closed mind is but one indication of your station in life.
- Coowallsky, Detroit, MI
Jim for Arcata is so full of it. First, Richard Carpenter is an extremely talented arranger and especially at the age he was at during their heyday. His arrangements are lush and though some get heavy, his instrumentation choices and scores are topnotch.

Neil Sedaka's version is sweet music to the ears. It is indeed a surprise to people when they find out that he is not only the singer but the songwriter.
That's said, Karen Carpenter's handling of this song flies over the top of Sedaka's. Her modulation and volume control with the many changes surpasses Sedaka's.

Jim, at best you're a troll....at worst, a myopic manure spreader.
- Coowallsky, Detroit, MI
First of all, Siansonea from Denver, CO, precisely.

Secondly, I just listened to the Neil Sedaka version, and while I love the use of the piano, Mr. Sedaka, in my opinion, has a fairly common, "vanilla" sounding voice. And as far as Cher goes, if I want to listen to screaming, I'll listen to her version. But to each his own.
- Jonathan, lowell, MA
I think this song is a gorgeous masterpiece (as performed by the Carpenters), a feast for the ears. Karen's voice and this song are perfectly suited for each other, both being inately melancholic.

I cannot find a single sappy "bubblegum" element to their recording. However, I do find that element in some of their other songs, but not this one.

I can't imagine anyone singing this song as beautifully as Karen does, and the musical arrangement is lovely.

If you can come up with a vocalist whose voice is more touching, warm, sincere, silky smooth, sweet, comforting, etc., etc., etc. than Karen's, let me know.
- Jonathan, lowell, MA
- Jim, Arcata, CA nailed it. My thoughts exactly.
- Morli, Columbia, MO
I agree with - Jim, Arcata, CA 100%. The Carpenters ruined this song. I love this song even though it brings me great sadness for the loss of my first husband. I could never even listen to the Carpenter's cover and feel anything close to what Neil Sedaka did with this song and I've not an avid fan of Sedaka's either. Shame on them is right.
- Morli, Columbia, MO
I feel that original artists lack true recognition. Whereas Neil Sedaka was the catalyst, Karen Carpenter was the shining star. Without him she only would possess a nonpareil voice, an empty jewel without its creator. Its time we acknowledge the true artist in life, and that is us, Neil Sedaka, and Karen and her brother.
- hal, louisville, KY
The Carpenters version is my favorite. To my ear, Clay Aiken's version was too bombastic, more of a showcase of his vocal register than a meaningful interpretation of the song. Karen Carpenter had a beautiful voice, but her songs worked because of the authenticity of emotion, not timbre or pitch.
- Siansonea, Denver, CO
I've heard Neil Sedaka's version of this song - both versions - and can not fathom either. Neil Sedaka's voice is quite nasally and he just does not have good pitch or intonation. His arrangements at best are only good. Sedaka was a great songwriter - but a less than adequate singer.

Carpenters' arrangment of "Solitaire" is intensely deep and dark. Karen's vocal performance is sublimly crystal clear. When she hits those deep notes it gives me that "chill" factor.
- TimmyT, Brea, CA
I agree with Jim in Arcata. While the Carpenters' version was the first I'd heard of this song, I heard Neil's years later (as well as some live versions by Neil) and his version beats the Carpenters' version hands down. Not that I don't like their version. I like this song so much, it would sound good howled by a pack of coyotes.
- Richard, Talladega, AL
It is my opinion that Richard Carpenter ruined most of the Carpenters' songs, despite the fact Karen had a tremendous voice. Almost every song had to have some syrupy fa-la-la bubblegum background arrangement, often for almost the entire song. My favorite Carpenters' song, by far, is "Goodbye to Love," because I think Karen's lead vocal and that tremendous lead guitar dominate the song, but even there, Richard had to throw in a few bars of refined sugar in the form of sappy backing vocals. (You know, Richard, you didn't have to write harmony vocals like Lennon-McCartney-Martin or Brian Wilson, but did you have to write such a relentless barrage of tripe?)

I also like the song about the Interplanetary Craft (whose specific title escapes me), again because Karen's voice is allowed to shine without all the syrup for most of the song. And "Close to You," despite having been played to death in 1970, and despite having its moments of bubblegum-backup, is a great, great performance by Karen. If it hadn't been played to death when I was in high school, it might join "Goodbye to Love" (#23) on the list of my 70 favorite songs of all time.

But the vast majority of their hits, in my opinion, were ruined by Richard's arrangements, which sound like they were for the sugar-addicted, unsophisticated taste buds of 10-year-olds. Obviously the great tragedy of Karen's life is her losing battle with anorexia, but the great tragedy of her career is that, with her voice, she could have done so much more, but for the tediously saccharine "contributions" of her brother.

Ahhh, what might have been....
- Jim, Arcata, CA
The Carpenter's version of "Solitare" is THE BEST THERE IS. I have recordings of this song by other great artists (Shirley Bassey, to name one), but it's as if this song was meant for Karen's voice. And the orchestratios is SUPERB. NO "sappy bubble-gum rubbish" whatsoever.
- Chris, Seattle, WA
The only version of this song anyone seems to know is the Carpenters' cover version, and that's really a pity. In my opinion, they destroyed this song--and I mean, they really desecrated it.

I'm not a Neil Sedaka fan, for the same reasons most people aren't Neil Sedaka fans, but his original version of this song is one of my 10 favorite recordings ever. He calls it his "most deeply moving and introspective song." I think that's understating it. I think it's emotionally overwhelming, both lyrically and in its presentation.

I've played Sedaka's "Solitaire" for a lot of people over the past 35 years. I never tell the listener who it is, because if he/she hears me say "Neil Sedaka," that will be the end of it and there's no way he/she will give the song a fair listening. When the song has run its 5 minutes and 3 seconds course--the same length as the Beatles' incredible "A Day in the Life," one of only 8 songs I like better--the listener is almost always overwhelmed and wants to know who it is. They are then stunned to hear the answer, having previously felt Sedaka was capable only of shallow bubble-gum music.

It's a masterpiece.

But not the way the Carpenters did it. They put all the bubblegum they could think of into it, and even deleted the great line "and still the king of hearts is well concealed"... an egregious mistake.

The song is supposed to be about a desperate loner who is in control of his own little kingdom, but at the expense of solitude and great pain--a Roy Orbison-like theme to which many can relate, especially as they age. The Carpenters turned it into just another song about a specific lost love ("without her love it always ends the same"), draining it of its lyrical profundity, along with its musical majesty.

One never likes to hear one's favorite songs covered by someone else, but I find the Carpenters' version of this song especially unforgivable. It is the bright, shining 5-carat diamond in Neil Sedaka's career work, and the Carpenters turned it into sappy bubble-gum rubbish.

Shame on them.
- Jim, Arcata, CA
This was one of Karen's least favorite recordings. I Need to be In Love being her #1.
- Curt, Clinton Township, MI
i often play this song in my program.it's a beautiful song.
- Bivel Dan Djoko, Cimahi, Indonesia
When Tony Bennett recorded Blue Velvet in 1951 there was a song on the flip side called Solitaire--Not sure if it is the same as that which you say was a great hit by Karen Carpenter-I recall it was a Bennett hit also, as was the case with "B" side songs of the 50's ie recordings by the 4 Aces and 4Lads
- ron, williamsburg, VA
I remember Andy Williams also doing a cover version of this song - not sure when but quite some years ago
- Shirley, Poole, Dorset, England
I loved Clay Aiken's version from American Idol.
Oh how I LOVE this song ! It is lovely ! When I was watching TV some years ago, I heard Cher sing it on the Sonny and Cher Show. I never knew who the original singer was until I got the internet and looked it up. Cher did well on this song, but Karen had her beat by a thousand miles ! :)
- Janetlee, Panama City, FL
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