Edited by Gerald Boerner
I have fond memories of a young musical duo from my home town of Downey, California, who made a major “splash” upon the musical scene in the 1970s — The Carpenters. After surviving the British rock star invasion, lead by The Beatles, and the acid rock groups of the Woodstock generation, The Carpenters were a breath of fresh air. Their music was termed as “Soft Rock” in contrast to the hard rock of the late 1960s. The Carpenters were made of a brother and sister team, Richard and Karen Carpenter, who had learned their vocal lessons initially at the First Baptist Church in Downey.
Their music was melodic with comfortable lyrics that helped us recover from the stress of the office or classroom. They were uplifting and helped gird us up to be the parents that our children needed and the workers that could navigate through the maze of the daily work life. Besides these calming effects, the music of The Carpenters was just fun to listen to at home or in the car. It was not heavy, it didn’t necessarily challenge our minds, and it didn’t move us to action. It relaxes and soothed us. We could do well to find groups today that could fulfill this function.
But this success story had a downside. At the pinnacle of their success, Karen Carpenter succumbed to her years long struggle with the eating disorder, Anorexia nervosa. She had been under treatment for years and her weight had dropped below 100 pounds, which on even a person of her small stature was way too little. She had been in treatment, but left the hospital. No long afterwards, Karen lost her battle with this terrible disease. At the you age of 32.
R.I.P., Karen; we will miss you. We now will proceed to examine this talented vocalist and her career, but we will also take a brief look at the disease of Anorexia briefly. A fuller look at that dreaded affliction of many teenaged girls will have to await another posting for a more detailed investigation... GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
[ 2736 Words ]
Quotations Related to Karen Carpenter:
“Not enough people in this world are happy.”
— Karen Carpenter
“I feel like the health industry is getting nothing but stronger every day.”
— Karen Carpenter
“I’m just afraid I’m gonna miss it all… being married… being a mother.”
— Karen Carpenter
“I’m determined to be contented, and having plenty of money from working makes it easier for me.”
— Karen Carpenter
“The image we have would be impossible for Mickey Mouse to maintain. We’re just… normal people.”
— Karen Carpenter
“I enjoy money. Not enough people in this world are happy. I’m determined to be contented, and having plenty of money from working makes it easier for me.”
— Karen Carpenter
“It’s kinda nice to be remembered by your peers and your fans, because you can achieve a lot of success and be a creep too! But we try to be nice, just normal people.”
— Karen Carpenter
“She had the voice of an angel, kind of a cross between Barbara Streisand and Karen Carpenter. She could play any song she heard.”
— Barbara Christian
In Memoriam: Karen Carpenter, Dead at 32 of Anorexia Nervosa…
Karen Anne Carpenter (March 2, 1950 – February 4, 1983) was an American singer and drummer. She and her brother, Richard, formed the 1970s duo The Carpenters. She was a drummer of exceptional skill, but she is best remembered for her vocal performances of idealistic romantic ballads of true love. The Carpenters signature song is "We’ve Only Just Begun" which remains a popular wedding ballad. She suffered from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder of extreme weight loss dieting, which was a little-known illness at the time. Although she had begun recovery with a doctor supervised program and regained 30 lbs, permanent damage to her body had been sustained from the years of extreme weight loss dieting and she died at the age of 32. Her death was attributed to heart failure, from complications related to her illness, which caused her to believe mistakenly that she needed to lose weight.
Carpenters were an American vocal and instrumental duo, consisting of sister Karen and brother Richard Carpenter. The Carpenters were the #1 selling American music act of the 1970s. Though often referred to by the public as "The Carpenters", the duo’s official name on authorized recordings and press materials is simply Carpenters, without the definite article. During a period in the 1970s when louder and wilder rock was in great demand, Richard and Karen produced a distinctively soft musical style that made them among the best-selling music artists of all time.
Carpenters’ melodic pop produced a record-breaking run of hit recordings on the American Top 40 and Adult Contemporary charts, and they became leading sellers in the soft rock, easy listening and adult contemporary genres. Carpenters had three #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and fifteen #1 hits on the Adult Contemporary Chart. In addition, they had twelve top 10 singles (including their #1 hits). To date, Carpenters’ album and single sales total more than 100 million units.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive fear of gaining weight. The terms anorexia nervosa and anorexia are often used interchangeably, however anorexia is simply a medical term for lack of appetite. Anorexia nervosa has many complicated implications and may be thought of as a lifelong illness that may never be truly cured, but only managed over time.
Anorexia nervosa is often coupled with a distorted self image which may be maintained by various cognitive biases that alter how the affected individual evaluates and thinks about her or his body, food and eating. Persons with anorexia nervosa continue to feel hunger, but deny themselves all but very small quantities of food. The average caloric intake of a person with anorexia nervosa is 600–800 calories per day, but extreme cases of complete self-starvation are known. It is a serious mental illness with a high incidence of comorbidity and the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.
Her Life and Work
From 1965 to 1968, Karen, her brother Richard, and his college friend Wes Jacobs, a bassist and tuba player, formed The Richard Carpenter Trio. The band played jazz at numerous nightclubs and also appeared on a TV talent show called Your All-American College Show. Karen, Richard, and other musicians, including Gary Sims and John Bettis, also performed as an ensemble known as Spectrum. Spectrum focused on a harmonious and vocal sound, and recorded many demo tapes in the garage studio of friend and bassist Joe Osborn. Many of those tapes were rejected. According to former Carpenters member John Bettis, those rejections “took their toll.”
In April 1969, A&M Records signed the Carpenters to a recording contract. Karen Carpenter sang most of the songs on the band’s first album, Offering (later retitled Ticket to Ride). The issued single (later the title track), which was a cover of a Beatles song, became their first single; it reached #54 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. Their next album, 1970′s Close to You, featured two massive hit singles: "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and "We’ve Only Just Begun." They peaked at #1 and #2, respectively, on the Hot 100.
Karen Carpenter started out as both the group’s drummer and lead singer, and she originally sang all her vocals from behind the drum set. Eventually, she was persuaded to stand at the microphone to sing the band’s hits while another musician played the drums, although she still did some drumming. (Former Disney Mouseketeer Cubby O’Brien served as the band’s other drummer for many years.) After the release of Now & Then in 1973, the albums tended to have Karen singing more and drumming less. Karen rarely selected the songs she would sing and often felt she had very little control over her life. She dieted obsessively and developed anorexia nervosa. At the same time, her brother Richard developed an addiction to Quaaludes. The Carpenters frequently canceled tour dates, and they stopped touring altogether after their September 4, 1978, concert at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In 1981, after the release of the Made in America album (which turned out to be their last), the Carpenters returned to the stage and did some tour dates, including their final live performance in Brazil.
During their 14-year career, the Carpenters recorded 11 albums, five of which contained top 10 singles (Close to You, Carpenters, A Song for You, Now & Then and Horizon), thirty-one singles, five television specials, and one short-lived television series. They toured in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands and Belgium. Their recording career ended with Karen’s death in 1983 from cardiac arrest following complications of anorexia nervosa. Extensive news coverage of the circumstances surrounding her death increased public awareness of the consequences of eating disorders.
Karen lived with her parents until she was 26 years old. After the Carpenters became successful in the early 1970s, she and her brother bought two apartment buildings in Downey as a financial investment. Formerly named the "Geneva," the two complexes were renamed "Close To You" and "Only Just Begun" in honor of the duo’s first smash hits. Both apartment buildings can still be found at 8356 and 8353 (respectively) 5th Street, Downey, California. In 1976, Karen bought two Century City apartments, gutted them, and turned them into one condominium. Located at 2222 Avenue of the Stars, the doorbell chimed the first six notes of "We’ve Only Just Begun." As a housewarming gift, her mother gave her a collection of leather-bound classic works of literature. Karen collected Disney memorabilia, loved to play softball and baseball, and listed Petula Clark, Olivia Newton-John and Dionne Warwick among her closest friends.
Karen dated a number of well-known men, including Mike Curb, Tony Danza, Mark Harmon, Steve Martin and Alan Osmond. After a whirlwind romance, Karen married real estate developer Thomas James Burris on August 31, 1980, in the Crystal Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Burris, divorced with an 18-year-old son, was nine years her senior. A new song performed by Karen at the ceremony, "Because We Are In Love," was released in 1981.
The song "Now," recorded in April 1982, was the last song Karen Carpenter recorded. She recorded it after a two-week intermission in her therapy with psychotherapist Steven Levenkron in New York City for her anorexia, during which she had lost a considerable amount of weight. In September 1982, her treatment took a sinister turn of events when Carpenter called her psychotherapist to tell him she felt dizzy and that her heart was beating irregularly. She was admitted to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and hooked up to an intravenous drip, which was the cause of her much debated 30-pound weight gain in eight weeks.
Carpenter returned to California in November 1982, determined to reinvigorate her career, finalize her divorce, and begin a new album with Richard. She had gained 30 pounds over a two-month stay in New York, and the sudden weight gain (much of which was the result of intravenous feeding) further strained her heart, which was already weak from years of crash dieting. During her illness, she also took thyroid replacement medication (in order to speed up her metabolism) and laxatives. On December 17, 1982, she made her final public appearance in the "multi-purpose" room of the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California, singing for her godchildren and their classmates who attended the school. She sang Christmas carols for friends.
Anorexia most often has its onset in adolescence and is most prevalent among adolescent girls. However, more recent studies show that the onset age of anorexia decreased from an average of 13 to 17 years of age to 9 to 12. While it can affect men and women of any age, race, and socioeconomic and cultural background, Anorexia nervosa occurs in females 10 times more than in males.
The term anorexia nervosa was established in 1873 by Sir William Gull, one of Queen Victoria’s personal physicians. The term is of Greek origin: an- (ἀν-, prefix denoting negation) and orexis (ὄρεξις, "appetite"), thus meaning a lack of desire to eat.
Sociocultural studies have highlighted the role of cultural factors, such as the promotion of thinness as the ideal female form in Western industrialized nations, particularly through the media. A recent epidemiological study of 989,871 Swedish residents indicated that gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status were large influences on the chance of developing anorexia, with those with non-European parents among the least likely to be diagnosed with the condition, and those in wealthy, white families being most at risk. People in professions where there is a particular social pressure to be thin (such as models and dancers) were much more likely to develop anorexia during the course of their career, and further research has suggested that those with anorexia have much higher contact with cultural sources that promote weight-loss.
Anorexia nervosa is more likely to occur in a person’s pubertal years, especially for girls. Female students are 10 times more likely to suffer from anorexia nervosa than male students. According to a survey of 1799 Japanese female high school students, “85% who were a normal weight wanted to be thinner and 45% who were 10–20% underweight wanted to be thinner.” Teenage girls concerned about their weight and who believe that slimness is more attractive among peers trend to weight-control behaviors. Teen girls are learning from each other to consume low-caloric, low-fat foods and diet pills. This results in lack of nutrition and a greater chance of developing anorexia nervosa.
It has also been noted that anorexia nervosa is more likely to occur in populations in which obesity is more prevalent. It has been suggested that anorexia nervosa results from a sexually selected evolutionary drive to appear youthful in populations in which size becomes the primary indicator of age.
There is also evidence to suggest that patients who have anorexia nervosa can be characterized by alexithymia and also a deficit in certain emotional functions. A research study showed that this was the case in both adult and adolescent anorexia nervosa patients.
There is a high rate of reported child sexual abuse experiences in clinical groups of who have been diagnosed with anorexia. The connection between eating disorders and abuse has been convincingly evidenced by a number of studies, including one published in Epidemiology (and strengthened by blind hypothesis survey), which showed in a comparison of women with no history of eating disorders, women with a history of eating disorders were twice as likely to have reported childhood sexual abuse. While the joint effect of both physical and sexual abuse resulted in a nearly 4-fold risk of eating disorders that met DSM-IV criteria. It is thought that links between childhood abuse and sexual abuse are complex, such as by influencing psychological processes that increase a woman’s susceptibility to the development of an eating disorder, or perhaps by producing changes in psychobiologic process and neurotransmitting function, associated with eating behavior.
Recent efforts have been made to dispel some of the myths around anorexia nervosa and eating disorders, such as the misconception that families, in particular mothers, are responsible for their daughter developing an eating disorder.
Karen Carpenter (1950-1983)… (8:07)
Please take time to further explore more about Karen Carpenter, The Carpenters, Richard Carpenter, and Anorexia Nervosa by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below…
Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: Karen Carpenter…
Wikipedia: The Carpenters…
Wikipedia: Anorexia Nervosa…
Carpenter Web Site: Karen and Richard Carpenter…
Brainy Quote: Karen Carpenter Quotes…
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