When I asked my local bookseller for a biography on Karen Carpenter, this is not exactly what I had in mind. You see, this book is a mixture of memoir and biography. I would rather have one or the other, but hesitant to say I gave it a try.
Karen Carpenter died of complications from anorexia nervosa (eating disorder) on Feb 4th 1983, at the young age of 32.
(They Long To Be) Close to You was the Carpenters first number one single, which was released in 1970. Karen’s voice dominated the airwaves.
In 1971, The legendary Rolling Stone critic, Lester Bangs, wrote a review of their sold out concert in San Diego 1971. One of his many complaints was that the bands stage presence lacked a focal point because in his words, Karen was behind a massive drum set. He went on to say “she just doesn’t give you much to look at.” Karen wanted to stay behind the drums, but eventually she relented.
There was a photo of Karen on tour with the Carpenters in 1975, wearing a custom -made iron-on tee, with the words Lead Sister in block letters across the front. As Richard (Karen’s brother) explained in an online chat with fan’s, a Japanese magazine had mistakenly translated the word singer as sister. Karen thought it was hilarious and had the t-shirt made.
The Carpenters music is best described as soft rock with a mixture of easy listening. It was very popular and the Carpenters eventually came to dominate the format in the early to mid 1970’s.
We will never truly know the causes of Karen’s anorexia, although, as the book states, nearly every Carpenter’s biography, documentary, magazines and so on, has insinuated a derth on affection and love from her mother, Agnes, may have triggered Karen’s anorexia nervosa. Karen’s boyfriend with whom she lived with for a brief time in 1975, speculated that Karen bowed to the maternal pressure that had always put Richard at the centre of the Carpenter’s cosmology. Karen was told her job was to support Richard, this along with Karen’s distorted physical self-image may have been a number of contributing factors.
The Henson’s recording studio, in Hollywood, California. Houses studio B, dubbed the Karen Carpenter room, the site of many of their recordings. There are many tales of ghostly visitations to studio B (erm, maybe a ploy to entice visitors).
The inscription on the mausoleum she shares with her parents reads, A Star On Earth A Star In Heaven.
Karen Tongson credits Karen with having a profound significance for her as well as for other people of colour, LGBT and anyone outside the mainstream culture, usually associated with Karen’s legacy.
This book surprised me and I really enjoyed it, but if your looking for a more in depth book on the Carpenters, I suggest buying a full biography.