Richard and his sister Karen
(born on Mar 2, 1950), the younger sister of Richard, together with
her brother formed the famous vocal and instrumental duo. She was
a drummer, a associate producer and the lead singer of the group.
"Karen was just as talented as her brother Richard, however, her
interest for music was dormant until she was introduced into her
school band by her brother that she "fell in love" with the drums.
Karen was playing so well that she still considered herself primarily
a drummer who sang, but Richard sensed there was a lot more potential
in her vocals."
(born on Oct 15, 1946), is a talented pianist, arranger, composer,
singer, and producer. He arranged, played piano, and sang backup vocals
along with his sister Karen, who drummed and sang lead vocals.
"Richard began studying classical piano at the age of nine and continued
while attending Yale. The Carpenter family moved to Downey, CA, in
1963, and Richard continued his studies at the University of Southern
California and California State College at Long Beach."
Wonder Years ....
Carpenter learned to play piano at age 11 while growing up in New
Haven, Connecticut, while his younger sister Karen took up the drums.
By the time he was 17, Richard was performing with an instrumental
trio in various clubs. After the Carpenter family moved to California,
Karen was signed to a recording contract with a small local label,
Magic Lamp, in 1965. She recorded the single "I'll Be Yours" for the
label, with her brother on piano, Wes Jacobs on bass and tuba, and
Joe Osborn as session bassist. After this record and a subsequent
single went nowhere, the Carpenters formed a jazz instrumental group
with Jacobs called the Richard Carpenter Trio. The group's talent
earned them a victory in a "Battle of the Bands" competition at the
Hollywood Bowl in 1966, with first prize a recording contract with
RCA Records. However, the two RCA albums they cut never made it to
record stores; at the time, the group's sound was considered "too
left the group to study music after the connection with RCA
was severed, and the Carpenters formed a new band called Spectrum
with four students from California State University. Featuring
John Bettis on bass and Danny Woodhams as guitarist, the group
was short-lived and broke up after a few gigs at Disneyland
and Los Angeles clubs such as the Troubadour and the Whisky
A-Go-Go. At this point the Carpenters began focusing on vocal
harmonies and over dubbing effects, and Richard continued developing
what would become his formidable skills as an arranger.
Golden Years ....
Karen's pleasing contralto in both a solo setting and combined
with Richard's baritone, they recorded a series of demo tapes
in bassist Osborn's garage and began hawking them to record
companies. One of the tapes made its way to Herb Albert, the
trumpet player and founder of A&M Records. Albert signed the
Carpenters to a contract, and by 1969 the group had recorded
Offering, their debut album. A cover of the Beatles' "Ticket
to Ride" on the album reached Number 54 on the U.S. charts.
unparalleled combination eventually worked out when their tape
caught the attention of Herb Alpert (A&M Record), who had to
go through hundreds of tapes every week which landed on his
desk of hopeful artist. And Karen's voice undoubtedly struck
a emotional chord in him.
by Dionne Warwick some seven years earlier, "(They Long to Be)
Close to You," by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, was transformed
in the studio by the Carpenters in 1970. The duo's version became
one of pop music's seminal demonstrations of boy/girl harmony
and the "easy listening" sound. It featured an understated piano
arrangement by Richard, as well as first-rate production by
Jack Daugherty. Listener approval for "Close to You" was overwhelming,
and the song soared to Number One. It was soon followed by the
hit "We've Only Just Begun," which, according to the Guinness
Encyclopedia of Popular Music, "highlighted Karen's crystal-clear
diction, overladen with intricate harmonies and a faultless
production." Thus began the Carpenters' incredible hit parade,
which landed 20 of their songs in the Top 40 during the next
From 1970 to 1972 alone, the Carpenters generated six Top Five
hits- -"Close to You," "We've Only Just Begun," "For All We
Know," "Rainy Days and Mondays," "Superstar," and "Hurting Each
Other." Along with Richard's arranging and musical direction,
much of this success was due to the high quality of material
the Carpenters were getting from songwriters such as Bacharach,
Paul Williams, and Roger Nichols. They also employed the services
of top sidemen like virtuoso guitarist Tony Peluso. Richard
also wrote some hits for the group in partnership with former
Spectrum bassist Bettis. As a result of this output, the group's
compilation album, The Singles 1969-73, became one of the best-selling
albums of all time and was on the LP charts for an amazing 115
One success after another kept the Carpenters working relentlessly
in the early 1970s, both in the studio and on the concert circuit.
Their fame also won them their own brief television series,
Make Your Own Kind of Music, in 1971. The show featured trumpet
player Al Hirt and Mark Lindsay, former lead singer with Paul
Revere and the Raiders. The Carpenters were also asked to perform
at the White House in 1974 during a state dinner. While Richard
continued to play the piano on their recordings, Karen's drum
work became restricted to their stage act.
Later Years ....
the performance grind began to take its toll: in 1975 a major tour
of Europe was canceled as Karen was reported to be suffering from
nervous and physical exhaustion. Reports of her weight having dropped
to 90 pounds raised suspicions about crash diets; it was later revealed
that she was afflicted with anorexia nervosa. In 1993 Richard Carpenter
told Entertainment Weekly, "I still have no idea why this disorder
review of 1991's From the Top, a retrospective CD package of Carpenter
songs, Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote in the New Yorker that the collection
"documents one of the most undistinguished successful music careers
ever." The Carpenters would be remembered "not really as musicians
but as cultural icons," she added. Despite this sort of criticism,
standards such as "Close to You" and "We've Only Just Begun" have
etched a permanent place for the Carpenters in the pop music pantheon.
Many critics have changed their originally negative views of the group
to more favorable ones over the years. As was pointed out in The Harmony
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, "Although often critically berated
for blandness and [their] wholesome, clean-cut image, the Carpenters
were praised by musicians and industry insiders for musicianship,
excellent choice of sidemen ... and professionalism."
That opinion was confirmed in 1994 with the release of an all-star
tribute album, If I Were a Carpenter. Leading alternative rock acts
including Sonic Youth, Cracker, and the Cranberries recorded the homage
to the pop duo whose 1970s hits had influenced so many of the artists
of the 1990s. Jeff McDonald of Redd Kross summed up the collective
sentiment of the participants: "I'd always been a huge fan of the
Carpenters, and an admirer of their songs. The quality of their songs
was so wonderful, they were lyrically very sophisticated, not this
teenybop fare. ... Most bands just want to write perfect pop songs.
And these are perfect pop songs."