Carpenters

1968-1983
Richard Carpenter
Karen Carpenter
  • The brother-sister duo the Carpenters was one of the best-selling recording acts of the 1970s. Ten of their singles sold a million copies or more and the voice of lead singer, Karen Carpenter, was a staple on the radio airwaves throughout the decade. Karen's voice inspired legions of singers that came after her, ranging from kd lang to Madonna, who included a tribute to her with the song "Rain" on the 1992 album Erotica. However, Karen's brother, Richard, a piano player and composer, said that Karen really thought of herself as a drummer who happened to sing.
  • The Carpenters broke into recording when they were signed to A&M Records in 1969. By 1970, on the strength of the title track to Close to You and the single "We've Only Just Begun," the Carpenters became a music sensation. The album earned eight Grammy nominations, with wins for Best New Artist and Best Contemporary Vocal Performance. They followed that up with a Grammy award in 1971 for "Superstar" from the album Carpenters. The song was remade decades later by Sonic Youth as part of a Carpenters tribute album and was played in a key scene in the 1997 movie, Juno, in which Juno claims to prefer the original version better. So does Richard, who said he neither likes nor understands the interpretation, although the band's singer, Kim Gordon, is a big fan of Karen's work.
  • During an era when rock and roll dominated radio, later followed by disco, the Carpenters offered a distinctive, softer sound that many dismissed as corny or too sweet. Hits like "There's a Kind of Hush," and "Rainy Days And Mondays" were in stark contrast to other songs of the day from the likes of the Rolling Stones or the Guess Who. Richard addressed this issue in an interview with NPR in 2009, when even interviewer Terry Gross said she used to think their music was "corny." Richard responded by saying people who think that are "ignoramuses." However, he also confessed in an interview for the Huffington Post that same year that he regretted "There's a Kind of Hush," which he called "pop fluff."
  • The Carpenters recording career came to an abrupt and tragic end in 1983. Karen battled anorexia nervosa for many years, at a time when relatively little was known about the condition. She was visibly underweight and began to suffer the effects of her disease in the late 1970s. Attempts at treatment were unsuccessful and on February 4, 1983, she was discovered collapsed in her home. She died from heart failure and complications of anorexia. In 2009, 40/40 was released, featuring 40 tracks to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Carpenter's signing with A&M Records.

Comments: 2

  • Patrick Jobling from Victoria Australia The carpenters gave the greatest ever performance in1974 .. BBC 4 England live medley 13:14 the best live performance fullstop ..no iffs or maybeys ..Karen you are truly missed ..god bless and go with grace ..
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaKaren was 18 when they started their music career; Richard was 22. . . ahh, young love. . .
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