Karen Carpenter Part One
Karen Anne Carpenter (March 2, 1950— February 4, 1983) was an American singer and drummer who was part of the duo the Carpenters alongside her brother Richard. She was praised for her contralto vocals, and her drumming abilities were viewed positively by other musicians and critics. Her struggles with eating disorders would later raise awareness of anorexia and body dysmorphia.
Carpenter at the White House in August 1972
Karen Anne Carpenter
March 2, 1950
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
February 4, 1983( aged 32).
Downey, California, U.S.
( m. 1980; div. 1981).
Carpenter was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and moved to Downey, California, in 1963 with her family. She began to study the drums in high school and joined the Long Beach State choir after graduating. After several years of touring and recording, the Carpenters were signed to A&M Records in 1969, achieving commercial and critical success throughout the 1970s. Initially, Carpenter was the band‘s full-time drummer, but gradually took the role of front woman as drumming was reduced to a handful of live showcases or tracks on albums. While the Carpenters were on hiatus in the late 1970s, she recorded a solo album, which was released years after her death.
Carpenter had the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, which was little-known at the time, and was briefly married in the early 1980s. She died at age 32 from heartfailure caused by complications related to her illness. Her death led to increased visibility and awareness of eating disorders. Her work continues to attract praise, including being listed among Rolling Stone‘s 100 greatest singers of all time.
Karen Anne Carpenter was born on March 2, 1950, in New Haven, Connecticut, the daughter of Agnes Reuwer (née Tatum, March 5, 1915— November 10, 1996) and Harold Bertram Carpenter (November 8, 1908— October 15, 1988). Harold was born in Wuzhou, China, where his parents were missionaries. He was educated at boarding schools in England before finding work in the printing business.
Carpenter‘s only sibling, Richard, the elder by three years, developed an interestin music at an early age, becoming a piano prodigy. Karen‘s first words were “bye-bye“ and “stop it“, the latter spoken in response to Richard. She enjoyed dancing and by age four was enrolled in tap dancing and ballet classes.
The family moved in June 1963 to the Los Angeles suburb of Downey after Harold was offered a job there by a former business associate. Carpenter entered Downey High School in 1964 at age 14 and was a year younger than her classmates. She joined the school band, initially to avoid gym classes. Bruce Gifford, the conductor (who had previously taught her older brother), gave her the glockenspiel, an instrument she disliked, and after admiring the performance of her friend and classmate, drummer Frankie Chavez (who had been playing from an early age and idolized jazz drummer Buddy Rich), she asked if she could play those instead. Carpenter wanted a Ludwig drum set because it was used by her favorite drummers, Joe Morello and Ringo Starr. Chavez persuaded her family to buy her a $300 (the equivalent of $2,400 in 2018) Ludwig kit, and he began to teach her how to play. Her enthusiasm for drumming led to teaching herself how to play complicated lines, and studying the difference between traditional and matched grip. Within a year, she could play in complex time signatures, such as the 5.
4 in Dave Brubeck‘s “Take Five“.
Carpenter was initially nervous about performing in public, but said she “was too involved in the music to worry about it“. She graduated from Downey High School in the spring of 1967, receiving the John Philip Sousa Band Award, and enrolled as a music major at Long Beach State where she performed in the college choir with Richard. The choir‘s director, Frank Pooler, said that Karen had a good voice that was particularly suited to pop, and gave her lessons in order for her to develop a three-octave range.