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15 minutes of femme: karen carpenter

Music has always been a big part of my life. When I was growing up there were always certain albums on repeat in my household. Having a proud Irish mother, these albums included The Corrs, anything by Van Morrison, Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance soundtrack (no, I’m unfortunately not joking) and a compilation CD featuring several Irish women titled A Woman’s Heart, which I should mention is the best selling Irish album of all time. But fortunately my mother was not only mad about Irish music and another one of her frequently played albums included The Carpenters’ third studio album, Carpenters.

Richard and Karen Carpenter formed their brother and sister duo in 1969, with Richard arranging and writing many of their songs as well as singing and playing the keys. Karen (who is also an extremely talented drummer) was the lead vocalist, initially singing from behind the drum kit until her brother convinced her to take the spotlight centre stage. Although Richard was and still is a very talented musician, it was definitely Karen’s rich velvety voice that first drew me to the music of The Carpenters. There is a great deal of emotion and honesty in songs like ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ and ‘Let Me Be the One’: two powerful ballads on the Carpenters album, which Karen sings effortlessly.

Although she may have seemed like a confident young woman onstage, her life offstage was a completely different story. Like all people Karen had her fair share of personal problems which included a not so great relationship with her mother and a troubled marriage, both of which initiated and contributed to her problem with Anorexia Nervosa. Karen began dieting at the age of 17 and continued this behaviour throughout her life, eventually dropping to her lowest weight of 41kg. Although Karen’s family did seek help for her, anorexia was fairly unknown in the 70s in comparison to today’s knowledge of the disease and the disease sadly claimed Karen’s life at the young age of 32.

Even though it is sad to remember that Karen has been gone for 28 years now, she still lives on through her music. If you’ve never listened to The Carpenters, then I urge you to do so immediately. ‘Superstar’ is yet another amazing ballad and the Burt Bacharach and Hal David medley is too catchy, so get your ears around some of those tunes. And if you have heard them, then get out your old CDs and reminisce, and listen to what I consider to be the best female voice of all time.

RIP Karen Carpenter, we miss you immensely.

(Image credit: 1.)

One thought on “15 minutes of femme: karen carpenter

  1. I love Karen’s voice. Especially as we come upon the Christmas season, her version of I’ll Be Home For Christmas is one of the best. Her rich voice gives solidity to the longing the lyrics. It is so sad that she succumbed to the opinions of others and refused to see what an amazingly beautiful woman she was.

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