Why Karen Carpenter's Death Still Haunts Us

By | January 28, 2019

test article image
American singer and musician Karen Carpenter (1950 - 1983) of the soft rock duo The Carpenters, plays the drums while singing. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Karen Carpenter had an unmistakable voice -- with that angelic intonation you could practically hear her smiling at the world through the speakers. Karen Carpenter's death from anorexia, a condition that was not well understood when she passed in 1983, will forever seem at odds with the joy and vitality of her work. Chart-topping singles like "(They Long To Be) Close To You," "We've Only Just Begun," "Rainy Days And Mondays," "Top Of The World," and "Superstar" will keep her memory alive for generations. She was a star who seemed to have it all. But sadly, the very public downward spiral leading to Karen Carpenter's death at just 32 years of age will also ensure that her legacy persists as a tragedy and cautionary tale.

Karen Carpenter’s natural beauty and talent exuded an aura of perfection as her career played out beginning in the late '60s and into the early '80s. She had millions mesmerized by her silky-smooth voice and infectious smile. Carpenter was one-half of The Carpenters, a hit brother-and-sister soft rock act. She and her brother, Richard, were a dynamic duo when it came to crafting catchy, affecting pop that fit the soft-rock and adult contemporary style of music that was popular in the 1970s. Sadly, Carpenter’s fame could not fill a desperate void in her seemingly charmed life, and she would soon go down the dark road of anguish.

Karen Carpenter Seemed To Live A Charmed Life As Part Of The Soft Rock Duo The Carpenters

test article image
Karen Carpenter on drums. Source: (insightsandsounds.blogspot.com)

As a teenager, singer Karen Carpenter began performing with her brother Richard. At the age of 13, she began to take an interest in music. She wasn’t especially interested in taking gym class so taking up a musical instrument was her foolproof way to avoid it. In an interview with People magazine, Carpenter was quoted as saying, “I couldn’t stand track at 8 a.m. or a cold pool, so they put me in the band and gave me a glockenspiel.” A glockenspiel is a percussion instrument that resembles a xylophone; not very exciting. She must have desperately wanted to get out of gym class to find that more exciting.

Eventually, Carpenter stepped up her game and began playing the drums. She and her brother, Richard, played with a third person in a trio. In 1966, that trio went on to compete and win a battle of the bands at the Hollywood Bowl. Following, they later formed their own duo and called themselves The Carpenters.