The story of the Carpenters is not the happiest one. But prior to Karen’s death in 1983, the brother-sister duo gained worldwide recognition for their music. Richard was the songwriting wiz of the team (though Karen wrote as well). Karen stood out for many reasons. She was proficient in drumming and was the band’s primary drummer for many years. I remember being in awe seeing her on the television playing the drums while singing. Karen is also, to this day, known throughout the music world as one of the best singers of all time. No doubt due to both her impressive three-octave range and her uncanny ability to make you feel like she was singing directly to you.
Karen’s death at the young age of 32 brought awareness to eating disorders that was previously not well-known. Her own illness and death from heart failure, were due to her own struggle with anorexia nervosa. It was also not well-known that Karen suffered from stagefright but Karen said that, once on stage, she was too into the music to pay attention to the crowd. And her connection to the music is what made the listener connect to her, through the music.
A perfect example of this is one of the Carpenters’ most-loved holiday songs: “Merry Christmas, Darling”. Richard once said in an interview that the siblings felt they were born to perform Christmas music, and that this classic was destiny at work. But the duo didn’t write this one. It was written by Frank Pooler, the choral director at CSU Long Beach, the university Karen and Richard attended. Pooler wrote the song when he was 18, for his then girlfriend as a Christmas present. Unfortunately, the relationship went sour and the song was forgotten about for 22 years until Pooler revived it for the Carpenters. Richard worked his magic on the then-outdated melody, and the song went to gold status for the duo.
And the girl who was the subject of the song, never knew it was written for her, until Pooler tracked her down years later. See what happened:
And check out the new book about the Carpenters that was just released: