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"Herbie is the musical half of A&M, he didn't sign us because he thought we would be a good earner, he really dug the music..." Karen Carpenter, 1971

Harold and Agnes Carpenter did not know what was to become of their son, Richard, when hew was born in 1946.  The Carpenter family lived in a small house in New Haven, Connecticut.  Richard was just three years old when his baby sister, Karen, was born in 1950.  Years would pass and the two Carpenter siblings would lock themselves into the basement and “wear out” Harold’s immense collection of 78rpm records.  In fact, Richard and Karen loved listening to their father’s collection so much that Harold hung two swings from the basement ceiling.  That way Richard and Karen could “swing” to the music.  Richard showed an almost prodigious talent for the piano and studied hard to learn how to play.  Eventually Richard would regale the family with piano arrangements of his favourite hit songs.  Karen, however, showed no interest in learning music.


Some time in the early 60’s the Carpenter family packed up and left the east coast and headed for the west coast.  They settled in a small community on the outskirts of Los Angeles, California.  Downey was your typical 1950’s cliché.  Cars on the drive, lines of trees and children playing on street corners.


When the Carpenter kids started school, Richard met someone who would become his life-long friend and writing partner, John Bettis.  He also became friends with Bass and Tuba player, Wesley Jacobs.  Karen, in order not to take gym, decided to join the school band and was given the Glockenspiel.  The instrument was heavy and unyielding.  She asked a friend to swap instruments and thus began a life-long affiliation with the drums.


Karen begged both Harold and Agnes and, despite their reservations of a teenage girl playing drums, they eventually relented and bought her a set of drums.  In fact the drums they bought her would serve her throughout her entire career.


Karen practiced for hours on her drums and was eventually playing along with all her favourite songs.  She even taught herself to sing along while playing.


With Richard piano, Karen’s new-found talent for the drums and Richard’s friend, Wes on the bass, he formed the “Richard Carpenter Trio” in 1964.  The trio would go on to win the 1965 “Hollywood Bowl: Battle of the Bands” contest.


While working as the trio, Richard also met with bass player and friend, Joe Osborn.  Joe and a partner had formed “Magic Lamp”.  “Magic Lamp” was small record label with a small garage studio to match.  In this studio, Richard and Karen recorded a single “Looking for Love/I’ll Be Yours”.  However, “Magic Lamp” had neither the budget nor the facility to promote the single and, as a result, the label folded not long after.  By this time, the trio had also disbanded and Richard had formed a new, six strong group, “Spectrum”.


Spectrum featured Karen on vocals and recorded many demo tapes to be sent out to various labels.  By 1967, nothing had come to fruit.  Richard and John Bettis had been playing at (and subsequently fired from) “Coke Corner” in Disneyland and Karen was maturing at a lightning pace.  Richard formed another group “Summerchimes”.  This group was five strong and they recorded and released another single “You’ll Love Me/The Parting of Our Ways”.  However, this went the same way as the first single.


In 1968, Richard and Karen mailed out some more demos.  This time they landed on the desk of Herb Alpert, the ‘A’ in A&M Records.  Herb was so enthralled with Karen’s voice that he had to meet the duo.  Richard and Karen travelled to the A&M lot in LA and met with Alpert and his partner Jerry Moss.  Alpert and Moss signed Richard and Karen, now calling themselves simply “Carpenters”, in a contract for one album.  “Offering” was released in mid 1969 but the album failed to chart.  The only single from that album, “Ticket to Ride” only peaked at around No.43.  Despite requests to drop them, Herb gave them the benefit of the doubt.  Also at the end of ’69, Burt Bacharach had approached Richard to arrange a medley of his songs for a benefit dinner he was hosting and the Carpenters would play there.  He asked Richard to look at a song, They Long to Be Close to You.  Richard didn’t feel it was right for the medley but decided it would make a nice album cut.


(They Long to Be) Close to You came out first quarter of 1970.  Within 6 weeks the song was No.1.  Within 12 weeks it had gone PLATINUM.  The album “Close to You” came out shortly after and soared to the No.1 spot.  As, also, did the second single “We’ve Only Just Begun”.  “Begun” was so popular; it became the Carpenter signature tune.


The Carpenters had become millionaires practically over night.  What kid hasn’t dreamed of this moment!


1971 saw the release of a third album the self-titled “Carpenters” album.  This album also smashed the No.1 spot.  Several more singles were released; “Superstar”, “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “For All We Know”


With the exception of 1974, 1979, 1980 and 1982, every year saw a new Carpenters album release.


Tragically, by 1976, Karen was starting to show the effects of Anorexia Nervosa, an eating disorder that affects many young women.  Richard was also feeling the effects of stardom and had become addicted to sleeping pills.


In order to recover, Richard had decided to take 1979 off to look at new material while getting treatment for his own illness.  Karen, not wanting to remain idle, wanted to record a solo album.  So Karen jetted of to New York for a meeting with record producer Phil Ramone.


Karen returned in 1980 with the finished album and played it for Richard and the other A&M execs.  The result was less than favourable, much to Karen’s disappointment.  A&M requested the album be “shelved” and the duo started work on a new Carpenters album that would eventually become “Made in America


By early 1980, Karen’s weight had dropped to a staggering 78lbs and she was admitted to hospital for emergency treatment and was fed intravenously.  Karen returned from her treatment with a renewed vigour.  In mid 1980, she met and fell in love with Tom Burris.  They married in late 1980, this delayed the completion and release of the new album..  However, it was not the fairytale marriage Karen had hoped for and they split in early 1981.  Karen’s weight began to drop again and again she was admitted for treatment.


Karen emerged better that ever and threw herself into the new album.  “Made in America” was eventually released in the autumn of 1981 and the album went double platinum.  This secured Richard and Karen’s entry into the Rock Hall of Fame as the best selling artist of the DECADE (from 1970 to 1980)


1982 was spent gathering more material for a new album, “Voice of the Heart”.  Karen had recorded the drums and had also done several work leads of a few songs “Now”, “Sailing on the Tide”, “Make Believe it’s Your First Time” and “Look to Your Dreams”.

Karen then left Richard to begin arranging the album.


Karen had decided in 1983 to begin divorce proceedings as she had finally accepted that it was over between her and Tom.  Heartbroken, Karen sent for the papers.

Karen never saw her notification of marriage annulment; it arrived on February 4th 1983… the day she died.


Karen was staying at her parents’ house, following the events of her divorce.  Agnes had gone to call Karen for breakfast and found her unconscious on her bedroom floor.  Karen later died in hospital.  Her death certificate stated that the cause of death was a chemical imbalance brought on through the effects of Anorexia Nervosa… she was 32 years old.


Anorexia had claimed its most famous victim...

Words by Kenny Ascher
Music by Paul Williams
Why are there so many songs about rainbows
and what's on the other side?
Rainbows aren't visions, they're only illusions.
But rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
Who said that wishes would be heard and answered
when wished on the morning star?
Someone thought of that and someone believed it.
Look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing
and what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
All of us under it's spell.  We know that it's probably magic!
Have you been sleeping and have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
It might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it,
There's something that I'm supposed to be!
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
(someday, someway I know we'll find it)
The lovers, the dreamers and me!
No.1 - Sailing on the Tide
No.2 - Happy
No.3 - Leave Yesterday Behind
No.4 - Hurting Each Other
No.5 - Something's Missing

Singles 1965-2005

1966 - Looking for Love/I'll Be Yours

1969 - Ticket to Ride/Your Wonderful Parade

1970 - (They Long to Be) Close to You

1970 - We've Only Just Begun/Maybe it's You

1970 - Merry Christmas Darling/Mr. Guder

1971 - For All We Know/Don't Be Afraid

1971 - Rainy Days and Mondays/Saturday

1971 - Superstar/Bless the Beasts and the Children

1971 - Hurting Each Other/All of My Life

1972 - It's Going to Take Some Time/Flat Baroque

1972 - Goodbye to Love/Crystal Lullaby

1973 - Sing/Druscilla Penny

1973 - Yesterday Once More/Road Ode

1973 - Top of the World/Heather

1974 - I Won't Last a Day Without You/One Love

1974 - Please Mr. Postman/This Masquerade

1974 - Santa Claus is Comin' to Town/Merry Christmas Darling

1975 - Only Yesterday/Happy

1975 - Solitaire/Love Me for What I Am

1976 - There's a Kind of Hush (All Over the World/(I'm Caught Between) Goodbye and I Love You

1976 - I Need to Be in Love/Sandy

1976 - Goofus/Boat to Sail

1977 - All You Get from Love is a Love Song/I Have You

1977 - Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft/Can't Smile Without You

1977 - The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)/Merry Chistmas Darling

1978 - Sweet Sweet Smile/I Have You

1978 - I Believe You/B'wana She No Home

1980 - Don't Cry for Me, Argentina/Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft

1981 - Touch Me When We're Dancing/Because We are in Love (The Wedding Song)

1981 - (Want You) Back in my Life Again/Somebody's been Lyin'

1981 - Those Good Old Dreams/When it's Gone (it's Just Gone)

1982 - Beechwood 4-5789/Two Sides

1983 - Make Believe it's Your First Time/Look to Your Dreams

1984 - Your Baby Doesn't Love You Anymore/Sailing on the Tide

1984 - Little Altar Boy/Do You Hear What I Hear?

1987 - Something in Your Eyes (Richard Carpenter/Dusty Springfield)

1988 - Honolulu City Lights/I Just Fall in Love Again

1989 - If I Had You (Karen Carpenter Solo)/The Uninvited Guest

1990 - You're the One

1994 - Trying to Get that Feeling Again/Sing

1994 - If I Were a Carpenter (Box Set of Seven Singles)

2001 - The Rainbow Connection/Leave Yesterday Behind

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