Remembering the influential Carpenters lead singer and drummer
Karen Carpenter was born 70 years ago today
Karen Anne Carpenter was born on March 2, 1950, in New Haven, Connecticut. She became one of the most praised Pop music vocalists ever, with her unique and distinct vocal tone. But it took Karen some time till she could make her voice noticed by people. She moved to Downey, California, in 1963 with her family, including her brother Richard, there, she began to study the drums in high school, and joined the Long Beach State choir after graduating. Karen thought that the drums were the place where she belonged in music, her brother Richard was impressed with his sister’s musical talent, saying she would “speedily maneuver the sticks as if she had been born in a drum factory”. During the mid 1960’s, she had a few bands, until finally settling with her brother and formed The Carpenters, however, group found difficulty attracting a live following, as their sound was too dissimilar from the hard rock and psychedelic rock then popular in clubs. Karen started progressively taken more the role of a frontwoman and less of a drummer. The Carpenters were finally signed to A&M Records in 1969, achieving commercial and critical success throughout the 1970s. They scored several hit singles worldwide including “(They Long to Be) Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”, “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “Superstar”. Despite the global success the band had, Karen kept in secret her eating disorder anorexia nervosa, which was little-known at the time. As the 1970’s came to an end, Karen became increasingly more prisoner of her disorder. While the Carpenters were on hiatus in the late 1970s, she recorded a solo album, which was released after her death. She died on February 4, 1983 at age 32 from heart failure caused by complications related to her illness; her death led to increased visibility and awareness of eating disorders. Her work continues to attract praise, Karen Carpenter remains an influential singer among new generations. Some of her fans include Madonna, Sheryl Crow, Pat Metheny, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Shania Twain, Natalie Imbruglia, and k.d. lang. Former Beatle Paul McCartney has stated she had “the best female voice in the world: melodic, tuneful and distinctive”. She has been called “one of the greatest voices of our lifetime” by Elton John.
Remember Karen Carpenter, watch The Carpenters performing “(They Long to Be) Close to You” in 1971
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