Why Karen Carpenter's Death Still Haunts Us

By Rebeka Knott
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.

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