Karen Carpenter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter, early 1970s
Background information
Birth nameKaren Anne Carpenter
Born(1950-03-02)March 2, 1950
New Haven, Connecticut, United States
OriginLos Angeles, California, United States
DiedFebruary 4, 1983(1983-02-04) (aged 32)
Downey, California, United States
GenresPop, soft rock
OccupationsMusician, singer
InstrumentsVocals, drums, percussion
Years active1965–1983
LabelsA&M
Associated actsThe Carpenters, Richard Carpenter
WebsiteRichard and Karen Carpenter
Notable instruments
Ludwig Drums
 
Jump to: navigation, search
Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter, early 1970s
Background information
Birth nameKaren Anne Carpenter
Born(1950-03-02)March 2, 1950
New Haven, Connecticut, United States
OriginLos Angeles, California, United States
DiedFebruary 4, 1983(1983-02-04) (aged 32)
Downey, California, United States
GenresPop, soft rock
OccupationsMusician, singer
InstrumentsVocals, drums, percussion
Years active1965–1983
LabelsA&M
Associated actsThe Carpenters, Richard Carpenter
WebsiteRichard and Karen Carpenter
Notable instruments
Ludwig Drums

Karen Anne Carpenter (March 2, 1950 – February 4, 1983) was an American singer and drummer. She and her brother, Richard, formed the 1970s duo Carpenters, commonly called The Carpenters. She had a contralto vocal range,[1] and was a drummer whose skills earned her admiration from her peers, although she is most well known for her vocal performances of romantic ballads.

Karen suffered from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder of extreme weight loss dieting, which was a little-known illness at the time. She died at the age of 32 from heart failure, caused by complications related to her illness which caused her to believe mistakenly that she needed to lose weight.[2] Karen's death led to increased visibility and awareness of eating disorders.[3]

Contents

Early life

Karen Carpenter was born in New Haven, Connecticut, to Agnes Reuwer Tatum and Harold Bertram Carpenter.[4] When she was young, she enjoyed playing baseball with other children on the street. On the TV program This Is Your Life, she stated that she liked pitching.[5] In the early 1970s, she went on to play as the pitcher on the Carpenters' official softball team.[6] Karen's brother, Richard, had developed an interest in music at an early age, becoming a piano prodigy. Karen showed less interest in music as a young child. The family moved in June 1963 to the Los Angeles suburb of Downey.

When Karen entered Downey High School, she joined the school band. The conductor (who had previously taught her older brother) gave her the glockenspiel, an instrument she disliked. After admiring the performance of a friend named Frankie Chavez, she asked the conductor if she could play the drums instead. She and her brother made their first recordings in 1965 and 1966. The following year Karen began dieting. Under a doctor's guidance she went on the Stillman Diet. She rigorously ate lean foods, drank 8 glasses of water a day, and avoided fatty foods. Karen was 5'4" (163 cm) in height and before dieting weighed 145 pounds (66 kg). By September 1975, her weight was 91 pounds (41 kg).[7]

Music career

From 1965 to 1968, Karen, her brother Richard, and his college friend Wes Jacobs, a bassist and tuba player, formed The Richard Carpenter Trio. The band played jazz at numerous nightclubs and also appeared on a TV talent show called Your All-American College Show. Karen, Richard, and other musicians, including Gary Sims and John Bettis, also performed as an ensemble known as Spectrum. Spectrum focused on a harmonious and vocal sound, and recorded many demo tapes in the garage studio of friend and bassist Joe Osborn. Many of those tapes were rejected. According to former Carpenters member John Bettis, those rejections "took their toll."[8] The tapes of the original sessions were lost in a fire at Joe Osborn's house, and the surviving versions of those early songs exist as acetate pressings.[9] Finally, in April 1969, A&M Records signed the Carpenters to a recording contract. Karen Carpenter sang most of the songs on the band's first album, Offering (later retitled Ticket to Ride). The issued single (later the title track), which was a cover of a Beatles song, became their first single; it reached #54 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their next album, 1970's Close to You, featured two massive hit singles: "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and "We've Only Just Begun". They peaked at #1 and #2, respectively, on the Hot 100.

Karen and Richard Carpenter, at the White House on August 1, 1972.

Karen started out as both the group's drummer and lead singer, and she originally sang all her vocals from behind the drum set. Eventually, she was persuaded to stand at the microphone to sing the band's hits while another musician played the drums, although she still did some drumming. The reason why Karen was persuaded to stand up and sing instead of playing the drums was because at 5 feet 4 inches tall, it was very difficult for people in the audience to see the lead singer behind her drum kit when the Carpenters went on tour. (Former Disney Mouseketeer Cubby O'Brien served as the band's other drummer for many years.) After the release of Now & Then in 1973, the albums tended to have Karen singing more and drumming less. At this time her brother Richard developed an addiction to Quaaludes. The Carpenters frequently cancelled tour dates, and they stopped touring altogether after their September 4, 1978, concert at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In 1981, after the release of the Made in America album (which turned out to be their last), the Carpenters returned to the stage and did some tour dates, including their final live performance in Brazil.

Recognition of drumming skills

Karen's drumming was praised by fellow drummers Hal Blaine, Cubby O'Brien, Buddy Rich[10] and by Modern Drummer magazine.[11] According to Richard Carpenter in an interview, Karen always considered herself a "drummer who sang". Carpenter started playing the drums in 1964. She was always enthusiastic about the drums and taught herself how to play complicated drum lines with "exotic time signatures", according to Richard Carpenter.[8] Despite this, she was not often featured as a drummer on the Carpenters' albums. However, she was the only drummer on the album Ticket to Ride and on the songs "Mr. Guder" and "Please Mr. Postman". The role of drummer in the Carpenters entourage was mainly taken over by Hal Blaine as she transitioned from behind the drum set to in front of the stage.[12]

Solo album

In 1979, Richard Carpenter took a year off to cure a dependency on Quaaludes,[13] and Karen decided to make a solo album with producer Phil Ramone. Her solo work was markedly different from usual Carpenters fare, consisting of adult-oriented and disco/dance-tempo material with more sexual lyrics and the use of Karen's higher vocal register. The project met a tepid response from Richard and A&M executives in early 1980. The album was shelved by A&M CEO Herb Alpert, in spite of Quincy Jones' attempts to talk Alpert into releasing the record after some tracks had been remixed.[3] A&M made the Carpenters pay $400,000 to cover the cost of recording Karen's unreleased solo album, an amount which was to be charged against the duo's future royalties.[14][15] Carpenters fans got a taste of the album in 1989 when some of its tracks (as remixed by Richard) were mixed onto the album Lovelines, the final album of Carpenters' new unreleased material. Seven years later, in 1996, the entire album, featuring mixes approved by Karen before her death and one unmixed bonus track, was finally released.

Personal life

Karen lived with her parents until she was 26. After the Carpenters became successful in the early 1970s, she and her brother bought two apartment buildings in Downey as a financial investment. Formerly named the "Geneva", the two complexes were renamed "Close to You" and "Only Just Begun" in honor of the duo's first smash hits. Both apartment buildings can still be found at 8356 and 8353 (respectively) 5th Street, Downey, California.[16] In 1976, Karen bought two Century City apartments, gutted them, and turned them into one condominium. Located at 2222 Avenue of the Stars, the doorbell chimed the first six notes of "We've Only Just Begun". As a housewarming gift, her mother gave her a collection of leather-bound classic works of literature. Karen collected Disney memorabilia, loved to play softball and baseball, and listed Petula Clark, Olivia Newton-John and Dionne Warwick among her closest friends.[citation needed]

Karen dated a number of well-known men, including Mike Curb, Tony Danza, Mark Harmon, Steve Martin and Alan Osmond.[3] After a whirlwind romance, Karen married real-estate developer Thomas James Burris on August 31, 1980, in the Crystal Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Burris, divorced with an 18-year-old son, was nine years her senior. A new song performed by Karen at the ceremony, "Because We Are in Love", was released in 1981.

Final months

The song "Now", recorded in April 1982, was the last song Karen Carpenter recorded. She recorded it after a two-week intermission in her therapy with psychotherapist Steven Levenkron in New York City for her anorexia, during which she had lost a considerable amount of weight. Despite her participation in therapy, in September 1982 her condition deteriorated, and Carpenter called her psychotherapist to tell him she felt dizzy and that her heart was beating irregularly. She was admitted to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and hooked up to an intravenous drip, which was the cause of her much debated[by whom?] 30-pound weight gain in eight weeks.

Carpenter returned to California in November 1982, determined to reinvigorate her career, finalize her divorce, and begin a new album with Richard. She had gained 30 pounds over a two-month stay in New York, and the sudden weight gain (much of which was the result of intravenous feeding) further strained her heart, which was already weak from years of crash dieting. During her illness, in order to lose weight, she had taken thyroid replacement medication (to speed up her metabolism)[17] and laxatives.[18] On December 17, 1982, she made her final public appearance in the "multi-purpose" room of the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California, singing for her godchildren and their classmates who attended the school. She sang Christmas carols for friends.[2]

Death

On February 4, 1983, less than a month before her 33rd birthday, Karen suffered heart failure at her parents' home in Downey, California. She was taken to Downey Community Hospital, where she was pronounced dead twenty minutes later. The Los Angeles coroner gave the cause of death as "heartbeat irregularities brought on by chemical imbalances associated with anorexia nervosa."[19] Under the anatomical summary, the first item was heart failure, with anorexia as second. The third finding was cachexia, which is extremely low weight and weakness and general body decline associated with chronic disease. Her divorce was scheduled to have been finalized that day. The autopsy stated that Carpenter's death was the result of emetine cardiotoxicity due to anorexia nervosa, revealing that Carpenter had poisoned herself with ipecac syrup, an emetic often used to induce vomiting in cases of overdosing or poisoning.[19] Carpenter's use of ipecac syrup was later disputed by Agnes and Richard, who both stated that they never found empty vials of ipecac in her apartment and have denied that there was any concrete evidence that Karen had been vomiting.[20] Richard also expressed that he believes Karen was not willing to ingest ipecac syrup because of the potential damage it presented to her vocal cords and that she relied on laxatives alone to maintain her low body weight.

Her funeral service took place on February 8, 1983, at the Downey United Methodist Church. Dressed in a rose colored suit, Carpenter lay in an open white casket. Over 1,000 mourners passed through to say goodbye, among them her friends Dorothy Hamill, Olivia Newton-John, Petula Clark, and Dionne Warwick. Carpenter's estranged husband Tom attended her funeral, where he took off his wedding ring and threw it into the casket.[3] She was buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Cypress, California. In 2003, Richard Carpenter had Karen re-interred, along with their parents, in a Carpenter family mausoleum at the Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, California, which is closer to his Southern California home.

After death

Carpenter's star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Carpenter's death brought lasting media attention to anorexia nervosa and also to bulimia. In the years after Carpenter's death, a number of celebrities decided to go public about their eating disorders, among them actress Tracey Gold[citation needed] and Diana, Princess of Wales.[21] Medical centers and hospitals began receiving increased contacts from people with these disorders.[citation needed] The general public had little knowledge of anorexia nervosa and bulimia prior to Carpenter's death, making the condition difficult to identify and treat.[3] Her family started the Karen A. Carpenter Memorial Foundation, which raised money for research on anorexia nervosa and eating disorders. Today the name of the organization has been changed to the Carpenter Family Foundation. In addition to eating disorders, the foundation now funds the arts, entertainment and education.

On October 12, 1983, the Carpenters received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is located at 6931 Hollywood Blvd., a few yards from the Kodak Theater.[22] Richard, Harold and Agnes Carpenter attended the inauguration, as did many fans. In 1987, movie director Todd Haynes used songs by Richard and Karen in his movie Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. In the movie, Haynes portrayed the Carpenters with Barbie dolls, rather than live actors. The movie was later pulled from distribution after Richard Carpenter won a court case involving song royalties; Haynes had not obtained legal permission to use the Carpenters' recordings. On January 1, 1989, the similarly titled made-for-TV movie The Karen Carpenter Story aired on CBS with Cynthia Gibb in the title role. Gibb lip-synced the songs to Carpenter's recorded voice. Both films use the song "This Masquerade" in the background while showing Karen's marriage to Burris.

Accolades

Discography

Studio albums

Solo albums

Notes

  1. ^ Rob Hoerburger, "RECORDINGS VIEW; Revisionist Thinking On the Carpenters", New York Times, Published: 3 November 1991, Retrieved: 23 July 2011
  2. ^ a b VH1, Behind the Music: Carpenters (1998).
  3. ^ a b c d e Coleman, p.330.
  4. ^ Coleman, Ray. The Carpenters: The Untold Story (HarperCollins, 1994), pp. 29-33.
  5. ^ This Is Your Life, 1970
  6. ^ E! Channel, "True Hollywood Story - Karen Carpenter"
  7. ^ Randy L. Schmidt, Dionne Warwick Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter
  8. ^ a b Close to You: Remembering the Carpenters
  9. ^ Richard Carpenter's notes on the 'From The Top' collection
  10. ^ BBC Singing drummers
  11. ^ "Karen Carpenter site". Leadsister.com. http://www.leadsister.com/articles/drummermag2.html. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Coleman, p.242.
  14. ^ Coleman, p.274.
  15. ^ Phil Ramone, E! Channel, True Hollywood Story — Karen Carpenter.
  16. ^ Google maps has a street view of both apartments [2] [3] across the street from one another with the titles on the front of each.
  17. ^ The Carpenters The Untold Story by Ray Coleman
  18. ^ Dr. Dave Krainacker (2006-03-22). "Anorexia and Karen Carpenter". Queen City News. http://www.queencitynews.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=5133. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  19. ^ a b Randy Schmidt (24 October 2010), Karen Carpenter's tragic story, The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/oct/24/karen-carpenter-anorexia-book-extract, retrieved 24 December 2010 
  20. ^ Carpenters: The Untold Story by Ray Coleman (book).
  21. ^ Bashir, Martin. "Interview with Princess Diana". BBC1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/politics97/diana/panorama.html. Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  22. ^ "The Carpenters page - Hollywood Walk of Fame". Web.singnet.com.sg. 1997-05-10. http://web.singnet.com.sg/~tonytay/wof.htm. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  23. ^ John Bonham: The Powerhouse Behind Led Zeppelin by Mick Bonham, Southbank Publishing, 2005. ISBN-10: 1904915116 ISBN-13: 978-1904915119
  24. ^ "VH1: 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll". Rock On The Net. http://www.rockonthenet.com/archive/1999/vh1women.htm. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  25. ^ "2008 Rolling Stone Magazine's list of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time". Rollingstone.com. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-singers-of-all-time-19691231/karen-carpenter-19691231. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 

References

External links