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 T H E    C A R P E N T E R S 
 


Richard Carpenter - born Oct. 15, 1946, New Haven, Conn. -  vocals, keyboards.
Karen Carpenter - born Mar. 2, 1950, New Haven, Conn.  died Feb. 4, 1983, Los Angeles, Calif. -  vocals, drums.

 

A popular brother-and-sister team formed in 1968, the Carpenters sold millions of hit records in the early Seventies. Richard started piano lessons at age 12 and studied classical piano at Yale before the family relocated to Downey, California, in 1963. Richard studied at USC and Cal State at Long Beach. He formed his first group in 1965, a jazz-pop instrumental trio that included younger sister Karen on drums and their friend Wes Jacobs (who later abandoned pop for a seat in the Detroit Symphony) on bass and tuba. The group won a battle of the bands at the Hollywood Bowl and subsequently signed with RCA. Four sides were recorded, but after label executives deemed them not commercially viable, they were never released.

In late 1966 the trio broke up. Richard and Karen recruited four Cal State students into the vocal harmony-oriented band Spectrum. They played various Southern California venues to less than ecstatic response and disbanded.

The Carpenter siblings’ densely layered, pop-oriented demo tapes eventually caught the attention of Herb Alpert, who signed them to A&M in 1969. They released their first album that November. Originally titled Offering it was ignored until repackaged as Ticket to Ride, on the strength of the moderate success of their Beatles cover single. Close to You’s title track, a Burt Bacharach tune, sold more than a million copies and went to #1 in the U.S. and several other countries. Their hits continued: "We’ve Only Just Begun" (#2, 1970), "For All We Know" (#3, 1971; it won an Oscar as Best Song of the Year in 1970), "Rainy Days and Mondays" (#2, 1971), "Superstar" (#2, 1971, written by Leon Russell), "It’s Going to Take Some Time" (#12, 1972), "Hurting Each Other" (#2, 1972), "Goodbye to Love" (#7, 1972), "Sing" (#3, 1973), "Yesterday Once More" (#2, 1973), "Top of the World" (#1, 1973), "I Won’t Last a Day Without You" (#11, 1974), "Please Mr. Postman" (#1, 1975), and "Only Yesterday" (#4,1975).

The 1973 LP The Singles 1969-1973 was a best seller, and the Carpenters were three-time Grammy winners. They hosted a short-lived variety series on NBC, Make Your Own Kind of Music, in 1971. At the request of President Nixon, they performed at a White House state dinner honoring West German chancellor Willy Brandt, May 1,1973. They toured internationally through the mid-Seventies. Their 1976 tour of Japan was, at the time, the biggest-grassing concert ever in that country. From 1976 to 1980 the pair hosted five ABC television specials. Through the late Seventies the Carpenters were noticeably absent from the charts, but returned to the Top Twenty in 1981 with "Touch Me When We’re Dancing."

On February 4,1983, Karen Carpenter died in her parents’ home of cardiac arrest, resulting from her long struggle with anorexia nervosa. Her story was presented in the highly rated made-for-television movie The Karen Carpenter Story in 1988. During the writing of that film, on which Richard was an advisor, he admitted to the producers that in the late Seventies he had been addicted to Quaaludes. The posthumous LP Lovelines drew critical notice for its inclusion of four tracks Karen had recorded for an unreleased 1980 solo album. Richard’s solo effort, Time, featured duets with Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield yet failed to chart. With time, the duo’s saccharine image has receded somewhat, and Karen Carpenter is acknowledged by women rock musicians, including Chrissie Hynde and Madonna, as a pioneer. Sonic Youth, Sheryl Crow, Matthew Sweet, Cracker, and the Cranberries were among the 14 acts that contributed to the 1994 Carpenters tribute album If I Were a Carpenter. Around the same time that fall, the Karen and Richard Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State University in Long Beach opened.


THE ALBUMS:

1969 -- Ticket to Ride (A&M)
1970 -- Close to You
1971 -- Carpenters
1972 -- A Song for You
1973 -- Now and Then; The Singles 1969-1973
1975 -- Horizon
1976 -- A Kind of Hush
1977 -- Passage
1978 -- Christmas Portrait
1981 -- Made in America
1983 -- Voice of the Heart
1985 -- Yesterday Once More
1989 -- Lovelines
1991 -- Once from the Top

Richard Carpenter solo:
1987 -- Time (A&M)

 

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