Synopsis of Pop Music

“Just like me, they long to be,
Close to you…”

Compared with the daring and often controversial acts that became popular in the 70’s, the Carpenters looked positively quaint. They were a brother and sister duo with a wholesome image and they sang pleasant pop songs that never rocked out. Just the same, they managed to become a worldwide sensation during the 70’s and recorded a steady stream of hit singles that remain popular today. In the process, vocalist Karen Carpenter made her mark on pop music as one of its most unforgettable voices.

Richard and Karen Carpenter grew up immersed in music. He played keyboards, she was a drummer, and both were active in church and school music activities as well as plenty of bands of their own. They studied and played everything from standards to pop hits to jazz. They also experimented with complex vocal harmonies over time and discovered Karen had a rich vocal sound all her own. They got a record contract in 1969 and began recording under the name Carpenters (sans "The").

The Carpenters scored their first hit in 1970 with “Close To You,” a ballad with a lush musical arrangement by Richard and a warm, romantic vocal from Karen. It went to #1 on the pop charts for four weeks. It was followed by the #2 hit “We’ve Only Just Begun,” another sweet ballad that placed Karen’s lead vocal atop a bed of rich vocal harmonies. 1971 produced three smash hits for the Carpenters in "For All We Know," "Rainy Days And Mondays" and "Superstar." All three matched gorgeous arrangements with smooth harmonies and Karen’s always-compelling, often heart-wrenching lead vocals. That same year, Karen and Richard hosted an eight-episode musical variety series on NBC's summer television schedule.

By 1972, the Carpenters had become world-famous. They toured extensively throughout the U.S. and also Europe and Japan. They continued to score hits with songs like “Hurting Each Other” and “It’s Going To Take Some Time.” They also recorded one of their most innovative songs during this time in “Goodbye To Love,” a song that blurred the line between ballads and rock and roll by using a fuzz-guitar solo in the middle of a typical orchestrated pop tune. The result was a pioneering #7 hit that set the standard for all the ‘power ballads’ that would become popular in the late 70’s.

1973 saw two more hits in “Sing,” a catchy pop tune with a children’s chorus, and “Yesterday Once More,” a gorgeous and nostalgic ballad. The latter song was the centerpiece of the Now and Then album, which used the song both to introduce and to close a medley of the pop songs that had influenced Karen and Richard as children. The next year, they won in the Favorite Pop/Rock Band category at the first annual American Music Awards and scored another hit in “I Won’t Last A Day Without You.”

1975 saw the release of Horizon, the most critically-acclaimed of the Carpenters albums. It spawned three hit singles in “Only Yesterday,” “Solitaire” and the Motown cover “Please Mr. Postman.” The next year they scored on the charts with “There’s A Kind of Hush,” a cover of the Herman’s Hermits classic. They also did a television variety special featuring guests like John Denver. The Carpenters would continue to record successful albums and singles through 1978, including a perennial holiday favorite in their A Christmas Portrait album.

The Carpenters took a break in 1979, but reunited to record the Made In America album in 1980. When it was released in 1981, it became a hit that featured a high-charting single in “Touch Me When We’re Dancing.” However, their career came to an end when Karen Carpenter died of a heart condition that stemmed from her lengthy battle with anorexia nervosa. Fans around the globe mourned her passing, but the realization that her death stemmed from anorexia helped make the world aware of the serious nature of eating disorders. Voice Of The Heart, a collection of songs from their last recording sections, was posthumously released in 1983.

Richard Carpenter has continued to work in the music business, recording solo and also writing and producing with other artists. The music he created with Karen lives on, remaining as popular as ever and continuing to influence modern artists as diverse as Sheryl Crow and Sonic Youth. Both of these artists contributed to If I Were A Carpenter, a tribute album that proves the beauty of the Carpenters’ sound still appeals to all different kinds of listeners.

Artist Release History

1969 - Offering (a.k.a. Ticket to Ride)
1970 - Close to You
1971 - The Carpenters
1971 - Bless the Beasts and The Children (soundtrack)
1972 - A Song for You
1973 - Now & Then
1973 - The Singles (1969-1973) (compilation)
1975 - Horizon
1975 - Live in Japan
1976 - A Kind of Hush
1977 - Passage
1977 - Live at the Palladium
1978 - Christmas Portrait
1978 - Carpenter Collection
1978 - Singles (1974-1978) (compilation)
1981 - Made in America
1981 - Singles 1969-1973/1974-1978 (compilation)
1981 - Best of the Carpenters
1983 - Voice of the Heart
1984 - An Old Fashioned Christmas
1984 - Collection: The Very Best of the Carpenters
1985 - Yesterday Once More (compilation)
1985 - Lovelines
1987 - Classics, Vol. 2 (compilation)
1990 - Yesterday Once More [Highlights] (compilation)
1991 - From the Top (compilation)
1995 - Interpretations: A 25th Anniversary Celebration
1996 - Greatest Hits
1998 - Love Songs (compilation)
1998 - Reflections (compilation)
1998 - Live in London
1998 - Christmas Collection (compilation)
1998 - 30th Anniversary (compilation)
1999 - Evergreen Carpenters(compilation)
2000 - Singles (1969-1981) (compilation)

Pop Sub Categories


Essential Music Albums

Singles: 1969-1981 (A&M)

Band Members

Karen Carpenter lead vocals, drums
Richard Carpenter keyboards, vocals

Other Pop Music Links