Monday, February 4

KAREN CARPENTER (1950-1983)

Today marks the 25th anniversary of KAREN CARPENTER's death by heart failure at the age of 32. The heart failure, of course, was the consequence of her long struggle with anorexia nervosa. Much like Rock Hudson would come to symbolize (and humanize) AIDS just a few years later, Carpenter would provide a face (and a voice) for a disease that was then little-known and little-understood by the population at large. There can be no doubt that this "fatal flaw" contributes significantly to her legacy today.

Mostly, though, it was her voice. A quarter century after her death, it remains a one-of-a-kind instrument: deep, rich, innocent, intimate. And, even when pitted against her control-freak/lodestar brother's sticky-sweet arrangements, there is a tangible sense of sadness, loneliness, and loss there that serves to both ground and elevate the material. "Soft rock"? Sure. "Easy listening"? Perhaps. But something more as well. Something deeper and more intricately tied to the human condition than, say, the average CAPTAIN & TENNILLE tune.

Perhaps more than any other, Karen Carpenter's is the voice of my childhood. Her first #1 hit ("Close to You") was released the month after I was born; she died two months before I turned 13. "Goodbye to innocence," and all that....

[For me, the Carpenters' most effective (and "affecting") songs tend to be the ballads. Even so, I couldn't resist throwing in their absurdly-titled (and absurdly "over-the-top") opus of 1977 -- "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day)." There must have been something in the air back then (so to speak) -- seeing as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" came out at almost exactly the same time.]

[Finally, any self-respecting BEATLES' fan is likely to find the Carpenters' version of "Ticket to Ride" a slow-motion abomination. It's included here merely to serve as yet another showcase for Karen's aching alto -- and as proof that that voice was already well-in-place when she recorded it at age 18.]

[
MP3] "(They Long to Be) Close to You" [1970]
[
MP3] "We've Only Just Begun" [1970]

[
MP3] "Superstar" [1971]
[
MP3] "Rainy Days and Mondays" [1971]

[
MP3] "Top of the World" [1972]
[
MP3] "I Won't Last a Day Without You" [1972]

[
MP3] "Yesterday Once More" [1973]

[
MP3] "Solitaire" [1975]

[
MP3] "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" [1977]

[
MP3] "Ticket to Ride" [1969]

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5 Comments:

Blogger Judy Pancoast said...

I'm glad to see that I am not the only one out here to recoginize this momentous date. I can't believe it's been 25 years already. Karen's is also the voice of my childhood. I had the great honor of meeting her in Portland, Maine in 1974 and it is one of the most cherished events of my life.
I can't believe that more hasn't been made of this sad anniversary.

11:27 AM  
OpenID Kentgood1 said...

Well done, I couldn't have written it better myself. I to grew up listening to the Carpenters, and you are right about the haunting quality of her voice, a sort of wisdom and sadness coming through beyond her years. I woke up this morning thinking about this being the anniversary of her death. I drove to the Saint Louis airport, through heavy fog, and narrowly missed a fifteen car pile-up en route to my home in Palm Springs! I regret that I was never able to see her and her brother in concert, but I am greatful for the music.

12:24 AM  
Blogger DEATH 2CUTTS said...

Luckily I was able to attend the memorial at Downey Methodist on the 25th anniversary. Amy Grant sang and many friends gave moving tributes to our fallen star. I was so honored to have been invited to the wake and funeral in 1983. A time in my life that I will never forget. I made a promise to Karen before she passed that I would honor her legacy daily.
I am keeping my promise. She was a terrific friend and I miss her terribly. She will forever be loved in my heart.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous #1KACFAN said...

(DEATH2CUTTS) was the name assigned to my comment. I am RLPERRINH and apologize for my mistake.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3 August 2009..
I have travelled from Australia to finally visit her grave.

Karen's music formed my teenage life and supported me through a very brutal upbringing... Her voice seemed to understand my pain and seemed to hold my hand....

Her death feels like the loss of a very dear friend then and still does today...

Today I stood before her grave, fluffy koala in hand... and I went numb... she should not be there.. she should be with us...

Miss you so KC....

I will remember and listen to you until I die and join the audience that is cheering you today...

Bernie from Aus

12:31 AM  

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