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Carpenters

With their light, airy melodies and meticulously crafted, clean arrangements, the Carpenters stood in direct contrast with the excessive, gaudy pop/rock of the '70s; yet they became one of the most popular artists of the decade, scoring 12 Top Ten hits, including three number one singles.

Karen Carpenter's calm, pretty voice was the most distinctive element of their music, settling in perfectly amidst the precise, lush arrangements provided by her brother Richard. The duo's sound drew more from pre-rock pop than rock & roll, but that didn't prevent the Carpenters from appealing to a variety of audiences, particularly Top 40, easy listening, and adult contemporary. While their popularity declined during the latter half of the '70s, they remained one of the most distinctive and recognizable acts of the decade produced.

The Carpenters formed in the late '60s in Downey, CA, after their family moved from their native New Haven, CT. Richard had played piano with a cocktail jazz trio in a handful of local Connecticut nightclubs. Once the family had moved to California, he began to study piano while he supported Karen in a trio that featured Wes Jacobs (tuba/bass). With Jacobs and Richard forming her backup band, Karen was signed to the local Californian record label Magic Lamp, who released two unsuccessful singles by the singer. The trio won a Battle of the Bands contest at the Hollywood Bowl in 1966, which led to a record contract with RCA. Signing under the name the Richard Carpenter Trio, the group cut four songs that were never released. Jacobs left the band at the beginning of 1968.

Following Jacobs' departure, the siblings formed Spectrum with Richard's college friend John Bettis. Spectrum fell apart by the end of the year, but the Carpenters continued performing as a duo. The pair recorded some demos at the house of Los Angeles session musician Joe Osborn; the tape was directed toward Herb Alpert, the head of A&M Records, who signed the duo to his record label in early 1969.

Offering, the Carpenters' first album, was released in November 1969. Neither Offering nor the accompanying single, a cover of the Beatles' "Ticket to Ride," made a big impression. However, the Carpenters' fortunes changed with their second single, a version of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "(They Long to Be) Close to You." Taken from the album Close to You, the single became the group's first number one, spending four weeks on the top of the U.S. charts. "Close to You" became an international hit, beginning a five-year period where the duo was one of the most popular recording acts in the world. During that period the Carpenters won two Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist of 1970, and had an impressive string of Top Ten hits, including "Rainy Days and Mondays," "Superstar," "Hurting Each Other," "Goodbye to Love," "Yesterday Once More," and "Top of the World."

After 1975's number-four hit "Only Yesterday," the group's popularity began to decline. For the latter half of the '70s, the duo were plagued by personal problems. Richard had become addicted to prescription drugs; in 1978, he entered a recovery clinic, kicking his habit. Karen, meanwhile, became afflicted with anorexia nervosa, a disease she suffered from for the rest of her life. On top of their health problems, the group's singles had stopped reaching the Top Ten and by 1978, they weren't even reaching the Top 40. Consequently, Karen decided to pursue a solo career, recording a solo album in 1979 with Phil Ramone; the record was never completed and she returned to the Carpenters later that year. The reunited duo released their last album of new material, Made in America, in 1981. The album marked a commercial comeback, as "Touch Me When We're Dancing" made it to number 16 on the charts. However, Karen's health continued to decline, forcing the duo out of the spotlight. On February 4, 1983, Karen was found unconscious at her parents' home in Downey; she died in the hospital that morning from a cardiac arrest, caused by her anorexia.

After Karen's death, Richard Carpenter concentrated on production work and assembling various compilations of the Carpenters' recorded work. In 1987, he released a solo album called Time, which featured guest appearances by Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Early Lee Ann Rimes had a voice nearly this pure but Karen's is the gold standard.
Early Lee Ann Rimes had a voice nearly this pure but Karen's is the gold standard.
good music stands the test of time
mliu251
30 years after Karen's death, the still not a voice as angelic as hers. Her songs melt my heart every time I heard them.
I am 62 and l can honestly say that the carpenters are the one of the best duos of all times,karens voice and richards liricks ,you will be mised,G.B.Y. Santos.
dinaleader
Listening to her with my husband/love r . The best!
Pure talent. What a huge loss.
Just love them
There will never be another voice like hers. So sad! :(
It's been 31yrs Karen...you passed away on my 21st birthday. Whenever I hear one of your songs my eyes fill with tears.
...I can face all the madness the world has to give, but I won't last a day without you. Turns out I actually can make it more than many days...but I like to think I'm not really without you, Sweetheart.
Karen had the purest angelic voice I have heard to this day
My Dad like the Carpenters especially, their Christmas songs.
John Denver
Karen best
All we can do is listen and enjoy. What a musical lost.
angelic!
drwsoton4
simply magic
Karen Carpenter had one of the sweetest voices I have ever heard. What a tragedy loosing her at such a young age. I saw the Carpenters in concert in Tokyo Japan. The Japanese public were in love with the Carpenters.
I will always love listening to The Carpenters music...
Karen has always been my favorite female singer. I loved that women. Her songs touched my heart like no other. I hate that freaking anorexia nervosa disease. What a shame to have lost her or anyone else like that.
Karen Carpenter had one of the clearest voices I have ever heard. What a shame that she passed at such a young age. Being I am from Southern California it was additionally hard for me to see her life end.
rbi149
One of the greatest female voices in pop music, Karen leaves a legacy of beautiful songs which will always live on.
Sweet and simple song by my favorite. Lovely.
In 1971, while in the Air Force, stationed along the banks of the Yukon River in remote Galena, Alaska, Karen's voice soothed my 19 year-old soul while pining over my high school sweetheart.
kclarbull
It is so hard to believe that 31 years ago yesterday, in fact - February 4th, that Karen passed away. Her angelic voice still causes me to gasp in awe every single time I hear her.
I think if Karen carpenter somehow came back and sang at my funeral it would bring me immediately back to life. Brauriful
fivemacs5
My favorite music ever! I saw them in concert twice and We've Only Just Begun was sung at my wedding.
Her voice gives me the shivers regardless where I am or what I am doing....so perfect.
Love this song. Takes me to a time of innocence.
How tragic that a talented, successful, wealthy and famous performer died from - essentially - starvation. Such an unnecessary loss.
Takes me back to a time in the world of innocence.
Her voice really was angelic, and it's really too bad that she's not around to see the below compliments and the love that so many had for her....sad.. . . b u t she left some legacy.
She makes me cry. Such sweet memories. We lived in such a different world then.
jbtaurus69
My generation in song! Never to be forgotten: The Carpenters!
jbtaurus69
Classic Carpenters! Karen....... .
One Of America's Most Beloved Groups Of The 70's:) Such Great Talent!
I love them, Karen sing like a angel.!!!
Close to You, T.
Beautiful elements,eve r y t h i n g
susan.giddin g s
There will never be another Karen, her voice is MAGIC!!!!!!
I was born in 1940 but in the early 1970's I use to get up at 3:00 am an do tax returns as I listened to 8 track tapes of Karen Carpenter. I continue to listen to her on Pandora radio. I never met her, but I love her.
Fin stuff huh carefree days?
I sang with The Carpenters at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Houston Field House in Troy, NY in 1973. They needed kids to sing the la las on their song Sing. They seemed very nice. Great memory!
I'm a southern-fri e d honky-tonk psychobilly punk and I am proud to love The Carpenters. I'll bet Karen was one sweet lady.
Wow, who DOES these lyrics? Half the song is and there are some other mess ups. Sad, especially since she was such a treasure!
What a fantastic singer Karen was, one of the best voices ever! Had the pleasure of seeing them 9 times, everytime they came to the Philadelphia area
jwilson1495
True class act. They paved the way for the easy Listening genre in music. Their music and style so distintintiv e .
Absolutely loved them in the 70's and still do!
Even today, the clarity of her voice still remains unmatchable. RIP, Karen.
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