During the 1970s, the baby boomer generation were seeking a new kind of music that didn’t reach either ends of the popular music spectrum of heavy rock or the lounge singers of their parents. What resulted was a king of Adult Contemporary and one of the foremost acts to produce this crowd-pleasing genre was The Carpenters.
Karen and Richard Carpenter was a brother and sister act hailing from America’s West Coast. Karen is best known for her distinctive, alto singing style and Richard often accompanying her on an electric piano. There a two camps in music history that want to label them as either “squeaky clean” or as major influences that deserve induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Together, they experienced a record-breaking, recording career of worldwide hits and 11 albums. Despite Karen’s death in 1983, they are still considered one of the top selling acts of the US.
In 1964, Richard began writing songs at university and met up with future song writing partner, John Bettis and Karen developed a talent for the drums while in high school. Five years later, this brother and sister were signed to A&M records after previously performing under the names Spectrum and Richard Carpenter Trio.
The debut album by The Carpenters had mediocre success. But its second album had two hit singles in the form of Burt Bacharach’s Close To You and We’ve Only Just Begun. By 1971, the two were selling out performances in America, Europe and Japan.
All these singles were included on a compilation album released in 1973. During 1974-1975, they had hits with covers including Jambalaya, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Please Mr. Postman, Desperado and Solitaire.
In 1976, The Carpenters were featured in a television special along with John Denver and Victor Borge. The TV appearances were very popular and reappeared up until 1980. But Richard has been noted as not approving of its farcical, comical approach and thought that they were better suited to a more refined televised performance.
By 1977, trends were shifting again in popular music and soft adult contemporary acts like The Carpenters were beginning to suffer at the hands of disco music. Their experimental album, Passage marked an attempt to broaden their appeal by venturing into other musical genres. But the only notable track was Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft which only charted in the UK and for the first time did not reach gold status in the US.
Karen’s health condition was deteriorating and Richard was developing a dependency on sleeping pills. Another single compilation album was released in the UK only and it reached #2.
Richard entered re-hab and decided to take a back seat to the music while Karen dabbled in setting up her own solo career. But in 1981, the two released Made in America which featured its last US Top 20 hit, Touch Me When We’re Dancing. Karen was hospitalised because of exhaustion and her low weight, she was a mere 80 pounds in 1982.
February 1983, she was found unconscious and pronounced dead of a heart attack which was directly related to the effects of her eating disorder. Her death brought about unprecedented media attention and awareness to eating disorders and many celebrities went public about their own battles with anorexia and bulimia.
A series of recordings have been released after Karen’s death, including studio outtakes and previously unreleased material. Richard continued to produce music and safeguard The Carpenters and in particular Karen’s legacy.
Members included Karen Carpenter (born March 2, 1950, in New Haven, CT; died of cardiac arrest, February 4, 1983, in Downey, CA; married Thomas J. Burris [a real estate developer], c. 1980 [divorced, 1982]), vocals, drums; and Richard Carpenter (born October 15, 1946, in New Haven), vocals, piano.
Recorded single "I'll Be Yours," Magic Lamp, 1965; formed Richard Carpenter Trio; won "Battle of the Bands" competition at Hollywood Bowl, 1966; signed with RCA Records, 1967; formed band Spectrum; became known as the Carpenters, 1969 ; signed with A&M Records and released first album, Offering, 1969; released debut single as the Carpenters, "Ticket to Ride," 1970; mounted world tour, 1971; appeared on own television show Make Your Own Kind of Music, 1971; performed at the White House, 1974.
Awards: Grammy awards for best contemporary vocal performance by a group, for "Close to You," and best new artist, 1970; Academy Award for best song, 1970, for "For All We Know."
Close to You, A&M, 1971.
Ticket to Ride, A&M, 1972.
Now and Then, A&M, 1973.
The Singles 1969-73, A&M, 1973.
Horizon, A&M, 1975.
A Kind of a Hush, A&M, 1976.
Made in America, A&M, 1981.
From the Top, A&M, 1991.
Sources: Juanita Appleby; Ed Decker
This information is provided as a brief overview and not as a definitive guide, there are other sources on the net for that. If however you have a story or information that is not generally known we would love to hear from you. Content@rokpool.com.
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This information is provided as a brief overview and not as a definitive guide, there are other sources on the net for that. If however you have a story or information that is not generally known we would love to hear from you. Content@rokpool.com