“It's kinda nice to be remembered by your peers and your fans, because you can achieve a lot of success and be a creep too! But we try to be nice, just normal people.”
This brother and sister duo started out back in the 1960s. They have come out with some of the most well known songs that have stayed popular for generations. The Carpenters are an award winning duo that were considered ‘goody two shoes’ by fellow musicians and greatly respected by listeners around the world.
Richard Carpenter was born in October of 1946, his sister, Karen was born four years later in March. In 1963, the family moved to California. Richard enrolled in Long Beach State, which is now known as California State University. It was there that he befriended John Bettis. The two later got together with Wesley Jacobs who played bass. It was then that they formed The Richard Carpenter Trio.
That very same year that the Trio was formed, Karen enrolled in Downey High School and discovered her talent and love of the drums. In 1965, the new Trio included Karen, she played drums, Richard was on the piano and Wesley Jacobs played the tuba as well as the bass. Karen was also attending the same college as her brother. Together, they won the annual Hollywood Battle of the Bands in 1966. RCA Records then signed them.
Their time with RCA was short lived. The eleven tracks that they recorded were rejected. They gave them a few hundred dollars to end their contract which they accepted. It was at this time that Wesley left the group to start his own career. The two made several demo tapes at this time. Herb Alpert heard one of these demo tapes and quickly signed the siblings to A&M Records. It was then that The Carpenters were formed.
Their first album, Offerings did not do very well. Their single off of the track, a ballad version of The Beatles Ticket to Ride didn’t catch much attention either. Luckily, they found success with their second album. Close To You became the career defining album for them. With the two hit singles Close To You and We’ve Only Just Begun earned them two Grammy awards and made them superstars.
Their third album, Carpenters was another success with a slew of hit songs. Their fourth album continued to help their star power grow. A Song for You along with their fifth album Now & Then brought them huge hit singles. Their most popular and most free mp3 downloaded song. The song is from their fifth album and entitled Yesterday Once More.
It was through all of this success that their popularity continued to grow. They began to tour around the world and appear on television often. They even had their own musical variety shows for ABC. Through all of this success, Karen was not happy. She was very sensitive about her weight and when music critics called her fat, she took it to heart. She began to diet, lightly at first, but then it slowly got to the point where she would stop eating all together. In addition to not eating she also used laxatives heavily. In 1975 she fainted on stage during one of their tours. After this, she was bedridden for nearly two months, her weight was 77 pounds.
Their next two albums, Horizon and A Kind of Hush released in 1975 and 1976 did not do as well as their previous albums. They instead found success in their variety shows. Finally, it seemed they had found their musical stride again with their eighth album, Christmas Portrait. It was at this time that they were always on the go, when they weren’t on television, they were touring. It was beginning to wear the siblings out. Karen continued to get thinner and thinner to the point where audience members would gasp when they saw her walk out on stage.
In 1979, Richard checked himself into a chemical dependency unit in Oklahoma. He was addicted to sleeping pills. With him in the hospital, The Carpenters were on hiatus. Karen begged him give her his blessing to go solo. Eventually he gave in and she made a solo album with producer Phil Ramone. Karen’s album consisted of edgier and more adult themed music. When Richard was released, he and Herb Alpert listened to her album. They hated it so much that they shelved it.
In 1980, Karen got married to Thomas Burris. After the marriage, they decided that they were ready to make music again. Their last album that they made together was entitled Made in America. This album did much better than most expected.
In 1982, Karen and Tom got a divorce. Karen still had trouble with anorexia nervosa and it was only getting worse. Finally, she and Richard decided that it was time to send her to get professional help. She found herself in a hospital where she was fed intravenously and her weight went up to 100 pounds. She left the hospital where the disease was waiting on her. She still suffered with it and in February of 1983 she was found unconscious in her parents’ home and rushed to the hospital. She was pronounced dead, the cause was a heart attack. She was just shy of turning 33 years old.
Without his sister, Richard still wanted to make music. Following her death, he made the album, Voice of the Heart. He used some of her old recordings, even songs from her shelved solo album. This album did neither good nor bad. From there, he released three more albums under The Carpenters and two solo albums. None of them showed the success that he had once seen with his sister.
In the 1990s, Richard began a family that has grown to six children. In the late 1990s, he helped to produce several box sets and compilation albums. He also helped to produce The Karen Carpenter Story in 1989. The movie was a huge success and their albums quickly began to sell again.
Richard participated in a charity event in 2003 called Top of the World. The following year he participated in the second part of the charity event of the same name.
Did you know...
- ...Karen was due to sign her divorce papers the day she died
- ...Burt Bacharach was a fan of them and had them tour along with him, this helped them to become a hug success
- ...Karen did not die from anorexia but from the toll that it had taken on her body