Karen Carpenter (March 2, 1950 — February 4, 1983)
Otis Orchards, Washington
July 21, 2016 4:56pm CST
On PBS a few weeks ago I watched a documentary on the Carpenters. Although I listened to their music and was just as surprised as anyone else when Karen died at the age of 32, I never really knew much more than she and Richard (the other half of the Carpenters) were siblings. Karen died of a heart attack brought on by complications of anorexia nervosa. Karen, as anyone who has heard her sing, had a beautiful voice. And many knew she was a good drummer. I have even heard that she thought of herself as a drummer who could sing. That seems somewhat out of place for someone who had several gold records and at least three platinum records and won grammy awards. I watched some old videos on YouTube of her drumming and she was good. So good she could drum and sing at the same time, which I understand takes a lot of concentration. Watching her behind the drums she appeared not to have any problems with either drumming or singing. One can tell she was the happiest behind the drums, as well. Band members who worked with her in the early days said it was extremely hard to convince her to get out front. I’m certain Karen would have never gotten out from behind the drums if she wasn’t pushed into it. But what Richard said may have been true. People wanted to see her and they couldn’t see a 5’ 4” (162.56 cm) person who was behind a set of drums. Another thing I discover was Karen did a solo album in 1979 that was never to be released. Richard claimed that it was Karen’s decision not to release it. I believe that decision was made because all the record executives and Richard gave it a thumbs down. In an interview on the Larry King Show in 1986, Richard said the album would never be released because that was what Karen wanted. I learned from research it was released in 1996. Why it was decided it would be released I can only guess. I found it on YouTube. It is quite different from the stuff her and Richard did. I, personally, don’t think it is as bad as the record executives thought it was. As far as whether it would have become a hit, I can’t say. For those who have never heard it, here is a link to it. And feel free to give me your comments on it.
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6 people like this
• Calgary, Alberta
21 Jul 16
There are no modern singers in this world that sings like her, She always sounded calm and relaxed. Her voice is effortless. She is not like those female singers who tortures their vocal chords with high notes just to prove they can sing.
4 people like this
12 Aug 16
Yes, you described her voice well, though I think Alison Krauss beats her on the same quality. After a real long time I came across a voice that had similar qualities but better..in the sense superior singing...as well as voice quality. All others fade out ...with exception of one or two songs here and there.
• United States
22 Jul 16
I quickly went through the songs - yah, it is a different sound! More lively I think, more "pop". I definitely wouldn't call that a thumbs down at all. But there does seem to be a story behind that shelved solo album . . . I wonder if the public will ever know the truth. It's sad she passed away like that - seems like there must have been a lot of self esteem issues - again we may never know the full story about her.
• United States
23 Jul 16
@RichardMeister "Goody-four-shoes" - that's exactly the image they had! From what I am reading online, Richard thought the solo album was weak . . . but what I'm thinking is was he possibly feeling threatened by the thought of her going solo? I have read too that Karen did want that album out . . . perhaps she had so little say over anything - almost every aspect of her life was controlled by somebody else - all except her eating habits. That's so sad about her marriage - from what I've read too, he sounded like a jerk!
• Otis Orchards, Washington
23 Jul 16
@much2say Karen could have very well wanted the album out, but put yourself in her shoes. If you had experienced people (record executives) and someone you looked up to (her brother) all telling you it was garbage, what would you do? You would most likely believe them over your own judgement. Richard could have feared she would step out on her own, but I don't think she would have left him behind but it may have put her in a position to have more control over what they did. That may have scared Richard more than anything because he had alway called the shots. If you ever listened to Karen in interviews she was always saying things like, "Richard felt that was the best way to do it," or "Richard wanted to do it that way." Rarely did she say "we" or "I." I heard Karen say in an interview that her husband had no idea who she or the Carpenters were when they met. I suppose that could have been true, but I think it was all a ploy to put her at ease. I think he was after her money from the get-go. He was living way beyond his means. Karen wanted to have children but her husband had a vasectomy and didn't tell her–at least not until after they were married. I also agree with you that the only control Karen had over her life was her eating.
• United States
23 Jul 16
@RichardMeister I don't really know much about Karen's personality, but it sounds as if she may have been pretty mousy . . . just letting the controllers handle it all. Besides her brother handling all the music stuff, I guess her mother was a control freak herself. I read that Karen actually wanted to call off the wedding after finding out about the vasectomy, but the mother said something like it was all paid for and people had already made their plans to come, so she had to go forth with it. This was her life and her marriage choice . . . but her mother ruled over her . I just believe Karen felt she couldn't stand up for herself and let everyone run all over her. Maybe she didn't think her solo album was garbage, but she felt powerless and didn't fight to get it out there.