Carpenters

  • Soft rock/pop brother and sister duo Karen and Richard Carpenter, formed in 1969 in Los Angeles California.
  • Both showed a knack for music as children. As a teenager, Richard developed skills as a piano player, and Karen became adept at the drums. In late 1965, along with tuba/stand-up bass player Wes Jacobs, they formed a jazz trio, the Richard Carpenter Trio. They entered a Battle of the Bands competition in 1966 and won, playing an instrumental version of The Girl from Ipanema and a piece they wrote called Iced Tea.
  • They were signed by a record label, but after recording a few songs, the company chose not to produce them, and the trio was released from the deal. Later in 1966, Karen began to sing for a LA session musician, who thought she had good vocal talent. By 1967, Karen and Richard joined 4 other musicians to form a band called Spectrum. They performed at clubs in Los Angeles, but broke up after a year.
  • In June 1968, they performed on the TV show Your All American College Show, a talent show featuring college students. A demo tape that they had produced fell into the hands of A&M Records co-owner Herb Alpert, who liked Karen’s voice. He signed them to a record contract in 1969, as Carpenters (without the “The”).
  • Their debut album, Offering, was released in October 1969. A year later (after the success of their second album), it was repackaged and reissued under the name Ticket To Ride. It had one minor single – a cover of the Beatles song Ticket To Ride. Karen’s singing of Ticket To Ride is fabulous, and the album shows Richard’s early skill at arranging and producing songs with rich harmonies and a mellow rock sound that would soon become the signature sound of the Carpenters.
  • Their second album, Close To You, was released in 1970. This was the first record that I ever purchased, and it remains today one of my favorite records. It has sold over 2 million copies, and the 2 singles from the album – Close To You and We’ve Only Just Begun – reached #1 and #2 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song We’ve Only Just Begun originally was a jingle for a local bank. The song Close To You earned a Grammy Award for the Carpenters. They also won the Grammy for Best New Artist that year.
  • Their third album, the self titled Carpenters, was released in 1971. The 3 hit singles were For All We Know, Rainy Days and Mondays, and Superstar – they peaked at #3, #2 and #2. The album was their biggest selling studio album, with over 4 million copies sold. It also won a third Grammy award for the duo.
  • They also have had several very successful compilation albums – their 1973 Greatest Hits album sold over 7 million copies and a 1990 Greatest Hits album sold another 5 million copies.
  • Between 1970 and 1975, the hits just kept coming. They had 12 top 10 songs during this time, with Close To You, Top of the World and Please Mr. Postman reaching the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
  • The Carpenters were popular on television. They had 5 TV specials and a short lived TV series called Make Your Own Kind of Music. 
  • By the mid to late 70s, popular music was changing, and the sound of the Carpenters was not so appealing to disco loving radio listeners. As such, their later albums did not sell well.
  • In 1983, Karen Carpenter died of heart failure due to anorexia, at the age of 32.
  • The Carpenters released 14 studio albums and 30 singles. They’ve sold an estimate 100 million records worldwide. They are particularly popular in Japan – for international acts, only The Beatles and Mariah Carey have sold more records in Japan.
  • Many in the music world believe Karen Carpenter to be one of the best female vocalists of all time. I agree – her voice is amazing. In 2004, Paul McCartney called her the best female vocalist ever. Enjoy her stunning voice, along with Richard’s classic arrangement and harmonies, in one of their TV appearances, performing We’ve Only Just Begun. The clip is typical 60s variety show campy, complete with lip syncing. OK by me – it sounds just like the studio version of the song.

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