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The Carpenters were a vocal and instrumental duo, consisting of siblings Karen and Richard Carpenter. Carpenters were the #1 selling American music act of the 1970s. Though often referred to by the public as "The Carpenters", the duo's official name on authorized recordings and press materials is simply "Carpenters", without the definite article. During a period in the 1970s when louder and wilder rock was in great demand, Richard and Karen produced a distinctively soft musical style that made them one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
The Carpenters' melodic pop produced a record-breaking run of hit recordings on the American Top 40 and Adult Contemporary charts, and they became leading sellers in the soft rock, easy listening and adult contemporary genres. Carpenters had three #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and fifteen #1 hits on the Adult Contemporary Chart (see the Carpenters discography). In addition, they had twelve top 10 singles (including their #1 hits). To date, Carpenters' album and single sales total more than 100 million units.
During their 14-year career, the Carpenters recorded 11 albums, five of which contained top 10 singles (Close to You, Carpenters, A Song for You, Now & Then and Horizon), thirty-one singles, five television specials, and one short-lived television series. They toured in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands and Belgium. Their recording career ended with Karen's death in 1983 from cardiac arrest due to complications of anorexia nervosa. Extensive news coverage of the circumstances surrounding her death increased public awareness of the consequences of eating disorders.
The Carpenter siblings were both born in New Haven, Connecticut to parents Harold and Agnes. Richard Lynn was born on October 15, 1946, and Karen Anne followed on March 2, 1950. Richard was a quiet child who spent most of his time in the house listening to records and playing the piano. Karen, on the other hand, seemed to be friendly and outgoing; she liked to play sports, including softball with the neighborhood kids, but she also spent a lot of time listening to music.
In June 1963, the Carpenter family moved to the Los Angeles suburb of Downey, California. In the fall of 1964, Richard enrolled at Long Beach State, now known as California State University, Long Beach, where he met future songwriting partner John Bettis, with whom he would write classics like "Top of the World", "Goodbye to Love", and "Only Yesterday"; Wesley Jacobs, a friend who played the bass and tuba for the Richard Carpenter Trio; and Frank Pooler, with whom Richard would collaborate to create the Christmas standard "Merry Christmas Darling" in 1966.
That same fall, Karen enrolled at Downey High School, where she found a knack for playing the drums. When Karen joined the marching band, band teacher Bruce Gifford - who had taught Richard in 1963 - assigned Karen a glockenspiel, a quiet instrument that Karen highly disliked. In an interview, Karen stated:
I didn't really like it (the glockenspiel) because it's not a very convenient instrument to play, and it's hard to carry.... It's always a quarter-step sharp to the band, which used to drive me crazy!
Shortly after, though, friend and fellow band member Frankie Chavez inspired Carpenter to play the drums. Karen would often borrow Chavez's drum kit when he taught her. "She and Frankie ... must have worked down the rudiments, the cadences, and the press-rolls for hours", recalls Richard. When Karen finally got a Ludwig drum kit from her parents in late 1964, she was able to play it professionally, in what Richard had described in their documentary, "Close to You: Remembering the Carpenters" as "exotic time signatures".
The Richard Carpenter Trio and Spectrum (19651968)
By 1965, Karen had been practicing the drums for a year, and Richard was refining his piano techniques with teacher Frank Pooler. The two started a jazz trio in late 1965 with their friend Wes Jacobs, who played bass and tuba.
The Richard Carpenter Trio signed up for the annual Hollywood Bowl Battle of the Bands in mid-1966, where they played an instrumental version of "The Girl from Ipanema" and their own "Iced Tea". The trio won the Battle of the Bands on June 24, 1966, and they were signed up by RCA Records. They recorded songs such as The Beatles' "Every Little Thing" and Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" for RCA. However, these recordings were never released (although some tracks were released decades later as part of a boxed set of Carpenters material.)
Karen joined John later in 1966 at a late-night session in the garage studio of Los Angeles bassist Joe Osborn, where Richard was to accompany an auditioning trumpet player. Asked to sing, Karen performed for Osborn, who was taken with her voice. Osborn's fledgling label, Magic Lamp Records, signed Karen as a singer, and the label put out a single featuring two of Richard's compositions, "Looking for Love" and "I'll Be Yours." The single was not a hit, and the label soon became defunct. However, Osborn let Karen and Richard continue to use his studio to record demo tapes until 1969, when they finally got an offer from A&M Records.
In 1967, Richard and Karen teamed up with four other student musicians from Long Beach State to form a band called "Spectrum". The group often performed at the Whisky a Go Go. Spectrum member John Bettis worked with the Carpenters until Karen's death in 1983, composing many songs with Richard.
In 1968, Spectrum disbanded, and the Richard Carpenter Trio's Wes Jacobs left for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Jacobs, who played both the bass and the tuba, would eventually become the symphony's Principal Tubist in 1970. Richard and Karen received an offer to be on the television program, Your All American College Show in mid-1968. Their June 22, 1968 performance was Richard's and Karen's first television appearance.
Richard and Karen sent their demo tapes to many record labels until A&M Records' co-owner and trumpeter/vocalist Herb Alpert (who happened to be a friend of a friend of their mother's) became attracted to their distinct sound. Alpert was Richard's and Karen's lucky break, and his decision would change their lives.
Richard and Karen Carpenter signed to A&M Records on April 22, 1969, under the name "Carpenters". Karen was technically underage (she was 19 at the time), her parents had to co-sign for her. Richard and Karen had decided to sign as "Carpenters", without the definite article. In the album notes for their 2004 release, Gold: 35th Anniversary Edition, Richard stated:
After much thought, we decided to name the act "Carpenters" (No "The"; we thought it sounded hipper without it, like Buffalo Springfield or Jefferson Airplane.)
When Richard and Karen Carpenter signed to A&M Records, they were given carte blanche in the recording studio. Their debut album, entitled Offering released in 1969, featured a number of songs that Richard had written or co-written during their Spectrum period. However, the most significant track on the album was a ballad rendition of The Beatles hit "Ticket to Ride", which soon became a minor hit for Carpenters, peaking at #54 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Top 20 of the Adult Contemporary chart. In an effort to cash in on the success of that track, Offering was repackaged with a different cover under the name Ticket to Ride in 1970.
Close to You (1970)
Despite the lukewarm chart performance of "Ticket to Ride", Richard and Karen persevered and finally achieved success with the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song "(They Long To Be) Close To You", which was released in 1970. It debuted at #56, the highest debut of the week ending June 20, 1970. It rose to #1 on July 25, 1970, and stayed on top of the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks.
Shortly afterward, Richard had seen a television commercial for Crocker National Bank featuring a song entitled "We've Only Just Begun" written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols. Richard realized the song's hit potential when he heard it on television and three months after "(They Long To Be) Close To You" reached #1, Carpenters' version of "We've Only Just Begun" reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song became the first hit single for Williams and Nichols and is considered by Richard Carpenter to be the group's "signature" tune."
"Close to You" and "We've Only Just Begun" became RIAA Certified Gold Singles and were featured on the best-selling album Close To You, which is placed #175 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The duo rounded out the year with the holiday release of "Merry Christmas Darling". The single scored high on the holiday charts in 1970 and made repeated appearances on the holiday charts in subsequent years. In 1978, feeling she could give a more mature treatment to the tune, Karen re-cut the vocal for their Christmas TV special and the song became a hit all over again.
Carpenters and A Song for You (1971-1972)
A string of hit singles and albums kept Carpenters on the charts through the early 1970s. Their 1971 hit "For All We Know" was originally recorded for a wedding scene in the movie "Lovers and Other Strangers" in 1970 by Larry Meredith. Upon hearing it in the movie theatre, Richard realized its potential and subsequently recorded it in the autumn of 1970. The track became Carpenters' third gold single.
The duo's fourth gold single "Rainy Days and Mondays" became Williams' and Nichols' second major single with Carpenters, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, kept from the top slot only because of Carole King's "It's Too Late". According to Ray Coleman, "Rainy Days and Mondays" is arguably one of Carpenters' most popular tracks.
"Superstar" written by Delaney Bramlett and Leon Russell became another Carpenters classic and is acclaimed for Karen's "haunting" vocals on the song. Richard modified the original lyric of "And I can hardly wait to sleep with you again," to "And I can hardly wait to BE with you again." The song is often described as "poignant". The record became the duo's third #2 single on the Billboard Hot 100. Their eponymous album, entitled Carpenters was released in 1971. It became one of their best-selling albums, earning RIAA certification for platinum four times. It won a Grammy Award for Carpenters, as well as three other nominations.
"Goodbye to Love" is the title to an unheard magnum opus in the 1940 Bing Crosby movie "Rhythm on the River". Crosby played a songwriter trying to come up with a song called "Goodbye To Love." Although the song's title was mentioned several times in the movie, no such song ever existed. Richard Carpenter happened to see this movie on late-night television one night and decided that it was great title. He and Bettis wrote the song on a Learjet for his sister Karen to sing. The song was Carpenters' third hit single in 1972, peaking at #7.
"Goodbye to Love" starts off slowly with Karen singing softly a cappella, then builds up to an intense electric guitar solo in the middle. The second verse starts off calmly then builds up again to an blistering drum and electric guitar fade-out. The fuzz-guitar solo was played by lead guitarist Tony Peluso, who was called personally by Karen herself and asked to play on the song, thereby launching the genre which would come to be known as the Power Ballad. Peluso recalls that, at the time, he thought someone was playing a joke on him when a woman called and said she was Karen Carpenter. Peluso would ultimately be a part of Carpenters until their end in 1983.
"Top of the World" was the group's biggest country hit. Lynn Anderson had heard the album cut version in 1972 (Anderson's cover is considered a virtual carbon-copy by Richard of the album version of the song) and decided to record her own version. Anderson released her version in early 1973; Richard and Karen debated as to whether or not they should release their version on a single. Gil Friesen, an A&M co-worker, argued that they had released too many records from the A Song for You album already (Hurting Each Other, It's Going to Take Some Time, Goodbye to Love, and later, I Won't Last a Day Without You). Regardless, they released "Top of the World" as a single in May 1973 in response to the heavy public demand, and it became Carpenters' second Billboard #1 hit, in December 1973.
Now & Then (1973)
Their Now & Then album from 1973 was named by mother Agnes Carpenter. It contained the Sesame Street tune "Sing" and the reminiscent "Yesterday Once More".
Their first compilation album was entitled The Singles: 1969-1973 and it topped the charts in the U.S. for one week, on 5 January 1974, and it also topped the United Kingdom chart and became one of the best-selling albums of the decade, ultimately selling more than 7 million copies in the U.S. alone. According to Ray Coleman, The Singles: 1969-1973 went to number one on February 9, 1974 and exited #1 sixteen weeks later, on June 1, 1974, because of Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
The First World Tour (1974)
Carpenters did not release a new album in 1974. In Richard's words, "there was simply no time to make one. Nor was I in the mood." The duo also had no Hot 100 top 10 hit in 1974. "Top Of The World" was at #11 and dropping on 5 January 1974, while "Please Mr. Postman" was at #11 and rising on 28 December 1974. In between these two singles, the pair released just one Hot 100 single, a Paul Williams/Roger Nichols composition called "I Won't Last a Day Without You". Originally recorded as an album track for their 1972 LP, A Song For You, the Carpenters finally decided to release their original two years after its original LP release and some months after Maureen McGovern's 1973 cover. In March 1974, the single version became the fifth and final selection from that album project to chart in the Top 20, reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1974.
In place of the new album for 1974, their first Greatest Hits package "The Singles: 1969-1973" was released, featuring new remixes of their prior hit singles, some with a newly-recorded lead, and including newly recorded bridges and transition material so that each side of the album would play through with no breaks, giving the album a little bit of a live-concert feel. Some complete songs were recorded in addition to the aforementioned singles, however, as would happen with their non-Christmas songs recorded in 1978, most of these did not see the light of day until after Karen's passing. These songs were included on "Voice of the Heart", "Lovelines", the Carpenters box set "From the Top", and their two outtake albums "As Time Goes By" and "Interpretations".
Also in 1974, Carpenters achieved a massive international hit with an up-tempo remake of Hank Williams's "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)". While the song was not released as a single in the US, it reached the top 30 in Japan, sold well in the United Kingdom, and became their biggest hit of all time in the Netherlands. In late 1974, a Christmas single followed, a jazz-influenced rendition of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town".
In 1975, Carpenters gained another hit with a remake of The Marvelettes' chart-topping Motown classic from 1961, "Please Mr. Postman". Released in late 1974, the song soared to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1975, becoming the duo's third and final #1 pop single. It also earned Karen and Richard their record-setting twelfth million-selling gold single in America.
Richard Carpenter's and John Bettis's song "Only Yesterday" followed "Please Mr. Postman", and peaked at #4. Carpenter and Bettis did not believe that "Only Yesterday" would become a hit single, and bet against Roger Young that it would not enter the top 5. They each lost a thousand dollars to Young.
Both singles appeared on their 1975 LP Horizon, which also included covers of The Eagles' "Desperado" and Neil Sedaka's "Solitaire", which became a moderate hit for the duo that year. Horizon was certified platinum, but owing to the disc's late release (after the second single was already dropping off the charts) it was their first album to fall short of multi-platinum status. Rolling Stone reviewer Stephen Holden acclaimed Horizon, calling it "the Carpenters' most musically sophisticated album to date."
Carpenters were among the first American recording acts to produce music videos to promote their records. In early 1975, they filmed a performance of "Please Mr. Postman" at Disneyland as well as "Only Yesterday" at the Huntington Gardens.
A Kind of Hush and Passage (1976-1977)
Their subsequent album A Kind Of Hush, released on June 11, 1976, achieved gold status, but again owing to its late release, became the first Carpenters album not to become a platinum certified record since Ticket to Ride from seven years earlier. Their singles releases in 1976 were successful, but at this time, contemporary hit radio was moving forward with changing musical styles, which ultimately made the careers of most "soft" groups like the Carpenters suffer. The duo's biggest pop single that year was a cover of Herman's Hermits' "There's a Kind of Hush (All Over the World)", which peaked at #12 on Billboard's Hot 100. "I Need to Be in Love" (allegedly Karen's favorite song by Carpenters) charted at only #25 on Billboard's Hot 100. However, it followed "There's a Kind of Hush" to the top spot on the Adult Contemporary charts and became the duo's 14th #1 Adult Contemporary hit, far and away more than any other act in the history of the chart.
The disco craze was in full swing by 1977, and adult-appeal "easy listening" artists like Carpenters were getting less airplay. Their experimental album, Passage, released in 1977, marked an attempt to broaden their appeal by venturing into other musical genres. The album featured an unlikely mix of Jazz-fusion ("B'wana She No Home"), calypso ("Man Smart, Woman Smarter"), and orchestrated balladry ("I Just Fall in Love Again", "Two Sides"), and included the hits, "All You Get from Love Is a Love Song", "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" and "Sweet, Sweet Smile" . The most notable tracks included cover versions of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" (from the rock opera Evita) and Klaatu's "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (the Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day)", both complete with choral and orchestral accompaniment. Although the single release of "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" became a major hit in the United Kingdom, it only peaked at number 32 on the U.S. pop charts, and for the first time a Carpenters album did not reach the gold threshold of 500,000 copies sold in the United States. The Carpenters' music videos of "All You Get from Love is a Love Song" and "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" for the Passage album can be seen on the DVD Gold: Greatest Hits.
In early 1978, they scored a surprise Top 10 country hit with the up-tempo, fiddle-sweetened "Sweet, Sweet Smile", written by country-pop singer Juice Newton and her longtime musical partner Otha Young. A second compilation, "The Singles: 1974-1978", was released in the UK. Meanwhile, in the United States, their first holiday album, Christmas Portrait, proved to be an exception to their faltering career at home and became a seasonal favorite, returning Karen and Richard to platinum status.
Brief Hiatus and the End of Carpenters (19791983)
Richard sought treatment for his addiction to quaaludes at a Topeka, Kansas facility for six weeks starting in January 1979. He then decided to take the rest of the year off for relaxation and rehabilitation. Karen, on the other hand, neither wanting to take a break from singing nor seek help for her anorexia, decided to pursue a solo album project with renowned producer Phil Ramone in New York. The choice of more adult-oriented and disco/dance-tempo material represented an effort to retool her image. The resulting product met a tepid response from Richard and A&M executives in early 1980, and Karen eventually wavered in her dedication to the project. Unfortunately, the debt for its production (more than half a million dollars) was charged against Carpenters' royalties after the decision was made not to release it.
Angry, but for the most part undismayed by the decision, Karen decided to launch a new LP with her brother, who had now recovered from his addiction. The solo LP, Karen Carpenter, remained unreleased until October 1996, although Karen's fans got a taste of the album in 1989 when four of its tracks, "Lovelines", "If We Try", "Remember When Lovin' Took All Night" and "If I Had You", turned up, albeit remixed, on their second posthumous album Lovelines. "If I Had You" was released as a single and reached the Top 20 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
The Carpenters produced a final television special in 1980 called Music, Music, Music!, with guest stars Ella Fitzgerald, Suzanne Somers, and John Davidson. This event was filmed the same year Karen married Tom Burris, and she had temporarily returned to a healthier weight. However, ABC was not at all happy with their special, as it was just music from start to finish, unlike the previous specials which included sketch-based comedy. ABC felt it was too much like a PBS program.
On June 16, 1981 the Carpenters released what would become their final LP as a duo, Made in America. The album sold only around 200,000 copies before Karen's death in early 1983, however, it did spawn a final top 20 pop single, the romantic "Touch Me When We're Dancing", which reached #16 on the Hot 100. It also became their fifteenth number one Adult Contemporary hit.
Personal troubles dimmed the prospects of this modest return to the charts. After a whirlwind romance, Karen married real estate developer Thomas James Burris in a lavish wedding held in the Crystal Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel on August 31, 1980. A new song performed by Karen at the ceremony, "Because We Are In Love", surfaced in 1981 on Made in America (as well as the B-side of "Touch Me When We're Dancing"). By 1981, though, Karen's physical appearance had changed drastically. The music videos produced to promote the Made In America album were ample evidence that Karen was now seriously ill. The marriage turned out to be a disaster, and the couple separated at the end of 1981. In 1982, Karen sought therapy with noted psychotherapist Steven Levenkron in New York City for her disorder and returned to California in November that year, determined to revive her professional career and finalize her divorce. Karen, who had a normal thyroid, was found to be taking ten times the normal daily dose of thyroid medication in order to speed up her metabolism. This, combined with large amounts of laxatives (between 90 to 100 a day), weakened her heart.
Karen's sudden death
After spending Christmas at home, gaining a significant amount of weight and talking about going back into the studio, Karen and Richard had a major row in late January, 1983. Richard told his sister she simply did not look well and needed to go back into treatment. Karen was furious at the accusation and harbored a depression for the remainder of the week. On Thursday, February 3, 1983 Karen came down to her parents' house in Downey to be near her mother, who after a prolonged conversation Thursday night called Richard the following morning of Friday, February 4, telling him that Karen was upstairs and depressed and he needed to come down as well. By the time Richard had arrived in Downey, tears coursing down his face, Karen had already been loaded in the ambulance.
Richard is quoted as saying that his hope at the time was that this was merely a scare, that she'd just passed out or something, enough to teach her a lesson that she was NOT well and needed to go back into treatment, just as he'd told her ten days earlier, but it was not to be. Banner headlines the following morning screamed the tragedy "POP SINGER DEAD AT 32".
Karen Carpenter did not die from anorexia itself, but from its effects, as said by her brother on many an occasion. Her heart could not take the strain of not eating properly and then eating a great deal. On the morning of Friday, February 4, 1983, at the age of 32, Karen suffered cardiac arrest at her parents' home in Downey and was taken to Downey Community Hospital, where she was pronounced dead 20 minutes later. She was scheduled to sign her divorce papers on the day she died.
The autopsy stated that Karen's death was due to emetine cardiotoxicity resulting from anorexia nervosa. Under the anatomical summary, the first item was heart failure, with anorexia as second. The third finding was cachexia, which is extremely low weight and weakness and general body decline associated with chronic disease. Emetine cardiotoxicity suggests that Karen abused Syrup of Ipecac, or Ipecacuana Wine, used medically to induce vomiting in patients who have ingested poison. Ipecac was easily obtained at the time, but there is no definite evidence that Karen abused it.
Her funeral service took place on Tuesday, February 8, 1983, at the Downey United Methodist Church. Karen Carpenter lay in an open white casket, dressed in pink, as a thousand mourners paid their last respects, among them her friends Dorothy Hamill, Olivia Newton-John, Petula Clark, and Dionne Warwick. Karen's estranged husband appeared at her funeral, and took off his wedding band and threw it in the casket (according to the Ray Coleman Book The Carpenters: the Untold Story).
On October 12, 1983, the Carpenters received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a few yards from the Kodak Theater. Richard, Harold, and Agnes Carpenter attended the inauguration, as did many fans.
Karen's death brought lasting media attention to anorexia nervosa and also to bulimia. Karen's death encouraged celebrities to go public about their eating disorders, among them Tracey Gold and, later, Diana, Princess of Wales. Medical centres and hospitals began receiving increased contacts from people with these disorders. The general public had little knowledge of anorexia and bulimia prior to her death, making the conditions difficult to identify and treat.
In December 2003, the remains of Karen and her parents were exhumed from Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Cypress, California and reinterred in Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, California.
Following Karen's death, Richard Carpenter has continued to produce recordings of the duo's music, including several albums of previously unreleased material and numerous compilation albums. Voice of the Heart, an album that included some finished tracks left out of Made In America and earlier LPs, was released in late 1983. It peaked at #46 and was certified Gold. Two singles were released. "Make Believe It's Your First Time", a second version of a song Karen had recorded for her solo album (and a song which had been a minor hit in 1979 for Bobby Vinton), reached #7 Adult Contemporary but only reached #101 on the pop side. "Your Baby Doesn't Love You Anymore" got to #12 Adult Contemporary. Richard Carpenter married his adopted first cousin, Mary Rudolph, on May 19, 1984. Kristi was born on August 17, 1987, Traci on July 25, 1989, Mindi Karen (named after her late aunt) on July 7, 1992, followed by Colin and Taylor.
In 1984, using outtake material from the duo's first Christmas album (A Christmas Portrait) and recording new material around it, Richard constructed a "new" Carpenters Christmas album, An Old-Fashioned Christmas. In 1987, Richard released his first solo album, Time, which generated one hit single, "Something in Your Eyes", sung by Dusty Springfield.
His dedication to protecting the Carpenters image and recording legacy has sparked criticism, as Richard has insisted on substantial project oversight in any documentary or drama about them. In 1987, he intervened to limit the distribution of the Todd Haynes short film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (which used Barbie dolls to relate a perspective on Karen's untimely death). Although critics found Karen's portrayal sympathetic, the film depicted the Carpenter family in an unflattering light, and Richard prevailed in pulling the film from distribution on the basis that Carpenters tracks were used without permission. A 1989 TV movie, The Karen Carpenter Story, (with Cynthia Gibb), produced with Richard's cooperation, gained favorable notices and reached a wide audience. In the first few weeks after the movie's airdate, many record stores sold out of their Carpenters stock.
Karen Carpenter, Karen's solo album, was released in October 1996, with an explanation in the CD's liner notes from Richard addressing the decision by A&M records to shelve the album in 1980. The collection of songs on the CD covers a wide range of musical styles, from rock ("Making Love in the Afternoon" with guest vocalist Peter Cetera) to blues ("Last One Singing the Blues") to lite jazz ("Guess I Just Lost My Head", "If We Try") and disco ("Remember When Lovin' Took All Night", "Lovelines"). The album's producer, Phil Ramone, produced several tracks for Cetera's former band, Chicago.
'Bootleg' copies of nine additional solo songs Karen Carpenter recorded between 1979 and 1980 are in the possession of many Carpenters fans but there seems to be no possibility of the recordings getting an official release. Richard says all the time: "Outtakes are outtakes for a reason."
In 1997, Richard recorded and released an album that displayed his talents as a pianist, arranger, and composer, aptly titled Pianist Arranger Composer Conductor. At about the same time, the entertainer Ms Jackie Clune was developing a Karen Carpenter tribute act, which was partly credited with increasing British record sales of genuine Carpenters albums.
Richard Carpenter lives with his wife, Mary Rudolf-Carpenter, and their four daughters and one son in Thousand Oaks, California, where the couple are supporters of the arts. In 2004, Carpenter and his wife pledged a $3 million gift to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza Foundation in memory of Karen Carpenter. The first annual "Richard Carpenter Scholarship Competition Award Show" was held at the Civic Arts Plaza on September 20, 2006. Richard and daughters Traci and Mindi performed after the show. Richard and his wife won the Philanthropists of the Year Award of Ventura County in 2007.
More recently, Richard has actively supported the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center at his alma mater California State University, Long Beach. He continues to make concert appearances, including fund raising efforts for the Carpenter Center. In 2001, he was a guest on the "Petula Clark: A Sign of the Times" concert in Norfolk, Virginia and portions were recorded for CD and DVD release and for a PBS special. In 2002, he introduced Clark at the Carpenter Center and appeared on her Ultimate Collection CD.
In 2007 and 2008, the current owners of the former Carpenter family home on Newville Avenue in Downey obtained permits from the city to tear down the existing buildings on the site to make room for newer and larger structures, in spite of ongoing protests from fans. In February 2008, a group of fans got their protest campaign covered in the Los Angeles Times. At that time an outbuilding which had once served as the band's headquarters had already been demolished and the main house was on the verge of being demolished as well. The original house was immortalized on the Now & Then album cover and was the place where Karen Carpenter died: in the words of Carpenters fan Jon Konjoyan, "this was our version of Graceland." 
Musical and lyrical style
One of the elements that made the music of the Carpenters distinctive was Karen's use of her low register. Though present in jazz and country music, there were few alto singers in popular music at the time. However, Karen did have a wide vocal range that spanned about three octaves. Richard's voice was said to be very complementary to that of Karen's. Although Karen had an upper range to her voice, it didn't have the same quality as her lower range (or her "basement", as Karen called it). "Both Karen and I felt the magic was in her 'chest voice' (a.k.a. 'basement'). There is no comparison in terms of richness in sound, so I wasn't about to highlight the upper voice", states Richard in the "Fans Ask" section of the Carpenters' official website.
Because Karen's magic was in the "basement", Richard always rearranged cover songs and his own songs in a key that would suit her. Many of the Carpenters' songs are located in the keys of D ("You", "There's a Kind of Hush"), E ("Yesterday Once More"), E flat ("Only Yesterday"), F ("I'll Never Fall in Love Again", "Top of the World"), and G ("And When He Smiles", "Reason to Believe", "For All We Know", "You'll Love Me").
Although he played many keyboard instruments during the band's existence, including grand piano, harpsichord, Hammond organ and synthesizer, Richard is best known as an endorsee of Wurlitzer's electric pianos, whose sound he described as "warm" and "beautiful". He would often double his acoustic piano parts with a Wurlitzer in the studio to thicken the sound, creating one of the 1970s' most distinctive keyboard sounds. From the mid-1970s Richard also used Fender Rhodes pianos, often having an acoustic grand as well as both Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos on stage for different songs.
Apart from being a singer, Karen was also an accomplished drummer, and often played the drums on their pre-1974 songs. According to Richard, she considered herself a "drummer who sang". Karen was barely visible behind the drums during live performances. Although unwilling, she and Richard eventually reached a performance compromise: during the ballads she would sing standing and through the lesser known songs she would sit. As the years progressed, demand for Karen's vocals began to overshadow her drumming time, and gradually she played the drums less. By the A Kind of Hush album in 1976, Karen did not play the drums at all.
Their music is often praised for being well-arranged. Richard often arranged the Carpenters' music, and many praise his arranging skills. Most of the arrangements are classical in style, with many strings, and sometimes brass and woodwinds ("Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" used over 160 singers and musicians). Acclaimed music critic Daniel Levitin described in Electronic Musician that "one of the most gifted arrangers to emerge in popular music is Richard Carpenter."
The Carpenters logo
In 1971, the A&M graphics department hired Craig Braun and Associates to design their third album cover for their newest album, entitled Carpenters. "I recognized it to be a great logo as soon as I saw it", says Richard. A fan asked Carpenter on his "Fans Ask" section why there was no logo on Passage, and he replied: "To keep things consistent, ... every Carpenters album from the logo's inception shows the logo; it's on the back of the Passage album, bottom center."
Promotion and touring
Although the Carpenters had a rough start in 1969 with the lukewarm reviews of their first album, Offering, they tried to promote themselves by being Burt Bacharach's opening performance. In a live concert in 1974 at The Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Karen Carpenter explained:
One night, we were doing a benefit dinner after the premiere of "Hello, Dolly!", and Burt Bacharach walked up to us, and he asked us if we would like to open the show for him at another dinner that he was going to be doing later on in the year. And he asked us to do something that turned out to be very, very special for us.
Then, Richard took over, and said:
He wanted us to put together a medley of his songs; any tunes of his that we wanted to do, and it took a couple of months. We arrived at 8 tunes.
The band maintained a demanding schedule of concert tours and television appearances. Among their numerous television credits were appearances on such popular series as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Carol Burnett Show in 1971 and 1972, The Mike Douglas Show in 1971, and The Johnny Cash Show, also in 1971, where they played their hits "For All We Know" and "Rainy Days and Mondays". The duo appeared in a television special on the BBC in 1971 where they performed songs "live." They were also the featured performers in a summer replacement series, Make Your Own Kind of Music, which aired on NBC every Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. in the United States. Both Karen and Richard would later state in a 1980 radio interview that they were often taken advantage of in their dealings with television during the early Seventies and wanted more control in the production of future projects.
In May 1973, the Carpenters accepted an invitation to perform at the White House for President Richard Nixon and visiting West German chancellor Willy Brandt.
The Carpenters played numerous concerts from 19711975. They are taken straight from Richard's archived itineraries.
By the mid-1970s, extensive touring and lengthy recording sessions had begun to take their toll on the duo and contributed to their professional and personal difficulties during the latter half of the decade. Karen dieted obsessively and developed the disorder anorexia nervosa, which first manifested itself in 1975 when she collapsed during a show in Las Vegas. Exhausted, Karen was forced to cancel concert tours in the Philippines, UK and Japan. Richard has said that he regrets the six and seven day work schedules of that period, adding that had he known then what he knows now he wouldn't have agreed to it. Karen looked noticeably thin - although not sickly - in the music video produced for the "Only Yesterday" single. Richard developed an addiction to quaaludes, which began to affect his performance in the late 1970s and led to the end of the duo's live concert appearances in 1978.
The "Pepsodent image"
Carpenters' popularity often confounded critics. With their output focused on ballads and mid-tempo pop, the duo's music was often dismissed by critics as being bland and saccharine. The recording industry, however, bestowed awards on the duo, who won three Grammy Awards during their career (Best New Artist, and Best Pop Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus, for "(They Long to Be) Close to You" in 1970; and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group for the LP Carpenters in 1971. In 1973, Carpenters were voted Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo, or Group at the first annual American Music Awards.
Richard would often state in interviews, that many critics usually judged them to "drink milk, eat apple pie and take showers."
I don't even like milk. Not that we're totally opposite from that, we're not. But there is an in-between - I don't drink ... a lot. I do have wine with dinner. I voted to make marijuana legal....
In Coleman's "The Carpenters: The Untold Story", Richard stressed repeatedly how much he disliked the A&M Executives for making their image "squeaky-clean", and the critics for critiquing them for their image rather than their music.
I got upset when this whole "squeaky clean" thing was tagged on to us. I never thought about standing for anything! They (the critics) took Close to You and said: "Aha, you see that number one? THAT's for the people who believe in apple pie! THAT's for people who believe in the American flag! THAT's for the average middle-American person and his station wagon! The Carpenters stand for that, and I'm taking them to my bosom!" And boom, we got tagged with that label.
Their television specials also garnered solid ratings and kept them in the public eye during the late 1970s. They had a total of five television specials, all of which aired from 1976 to 1980. The Carpenters' Very First Television Special, which aired on December 8, 1976, was a hit, and went to #6 on the Nielsens. Their TV specials usually contained "schticks", which Richard highly disliked. However, Karen seemed to enjoy it, and her personality shone on camera. Their next one was Carpenters at Christmas which aired on December 9, 1977. The following TV special was Carpenters Space Encounters which aired May 17, 1978. Their fourth Special was The Carpenters: A Christmas Potrait which aired December 19, 1978.
Carpenters' final television special Music, Music, Music!, was aired in May 1980. It contained no "schticks" and only included music "from start to finish". Television host John Davidson and renowned standard singer Ella Fitzgerald guest starred, and performed various songs. Many of the songs performed on this television special were released on CD in 2004 on their album As Time Goes By. As evidenced on the Carpenters official website, five of the fifteen songs on As Time Goes By were from Music, Music, Music!. However, ABC wasn't satisfied with the Carpenters' decision to go purely musical. On their documentary, Close to You: Remembering the Carpenters, Richard quotes them, saying: "What the hell do they think this is? A PBS special?" Ironically, the documentary originally was aired on PBS until MPI Home Video released it on DVD a year later, in 1998.
A critical re-evaluation of Carpenters occurred during the 1990s and 2000s with the making of several documentaries produced in the United States, Japan, and Great Britain, like "Close to You: Remembering the Carpenters" (United States), "The Sayonara" (Japan), and "Only Yesterday: The Carpenters Story" (Great Britain). The superior technical quality of the recordings, the sorrowful undercurrents in many of their songs and the pain in Karen's voice as well as her life have attracted many fans. It's been said that her signature vocals helped spur more alto singers into pop music such as Anne Murray, Rita Coolidge, and Melissa Manchester. Even '90s R&B group Boyz II Men list Carpenters among their influences. In 1990, the alternative rock band Sonic Youth recorded "Tunic (Song for Karen)", which depicted Karen saying goodbye to relatives as she got to play the drums again and meet her new "friends", Dennis Wilson, Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin. Despite some criticism that their sound was "too soft", major campaigns and petitions exist toward inducting Carpenters in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
A tribute album, If I Were a Carpenter, by contemporary artists such as Sonic Youth, Bettie Serveert, Shonen Knife, Grant Lee Buffalo, Matthew Sweet, and The Cranberries, also appeared that year and provided an alternative rock interpretation of Carpenters hits.
Several of their songs have achieved the status of popular standards. In particular, "(They Long to Be) Close to You" is frequently sung in karaoke bars. This song is heard in the film Parenthood, and is used in two episodes of The Simpsons as well as The Simpsons Movie. The duo's "signature tune", "We've Only Just Begun", is popular at weddings and receptions, and was memorably featured in the film version of Starsky & Hutch and 1408. "Superstar" has been covered by numerous artists, with popular recordings from Luther Vandross and Ruben Studdard to Bette Midler and Sonic Youth. Clay Aiken performed "Solitaire" on American Idol and introduced the song to a new generation.
Nicolas Cage is an enthusiast for Carpenters music. He received permission to use some of their music in the Ghost Rider (film).
Both "We've Only Just Begun" and "(They Long to Be) Close to You" have been honored with Grammy Hall of Fame awards for recordings of lasting quality or historical significance.
Modern contemporaries like Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Shania Twain, Jann Arden, Anastacia, The Corrs, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Leann Rimes, Michelle Wright, K.D. Lang, Kelly Jones of Stereophonics, Johnny Borrell of Razorlight, Jo O'Meara from S Club and Madonna have listed Karen Carpenter as a huge influence on their careers.
Carpenters released 30 singles during their career. Of the thirty, thirteen were RIAA certified Gold and twenty-two peaked in the top 10 on the Adult Contemporary Charts. In addition, Carpenters also had ten albums from 1969-1983. Six of the albums contained two or more top 20 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (Close to You, Carpenters, A Song for You, Now & Then, and Horizon).
Grammy Awards and nominations
Throughout the 1970s, Richard and Karen were nominated numerous times for Grammy Awards. Richard Carpenter was also nominated for a Grammy Award for their instrumental song, "Flat Baroque". They won three Grammy Awards, and had two songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Notes and references