Posts tagged ‘the carpenters’

Little Girl Blue

These days, I make no secret of my affinity for the Carpenters’ music. However, I have never really spoken to anyone of my fascination with Karen Carpenter herself, and the precious few things I knew of her brief life.

There are several TV retrospectives and biographies– and of course, the 1989 biopic which started this whole thing for me. I’ve seen them all now (thanks to the magic of the internet) and at the end of each one, I always felt that there was something vital missing, like we weren’t getting the whole story. Things like that don’t just happen. There had to be a reason for her illness and struggle besides her being unhappy with her body, as many women are.

I would sit and listen to the songs, and prompted by the sadness in her voice, the curiosity would set in and I’d ask myself, why? Why was Karen Carpenter dead? Why did her marriage fail after such a short time? Above all, why was she so damn sad? I’d watch those biographies over again, hoping maybe I’d notice something I hadn’t before. There were hints of it in the TV movie, but they were only hints hidden under a lot of television gloss, and still I was left with far more questions than answers.

Until today.

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, after having listened to Karen sing all day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to Amazon.com, intent on purchasing Carpenters: The Untold Story, the official biography written by Ray Coleman in 1994. Maybe there would be some answers hidden in its pages.

I read the reviews, as I always do before buying something, and I started to change my mind. One reviewer stated, “…unfortunately, Coleman fails to deliver the intimate personal details that help one to understand the tragic and bittersweet story that is the Carpenters.” This wouldn’t do at all. I knew it was just going to say the same stuff I’d already heard in all those other biographies and TV specials. This was whitewashed– not necessarily the fault of the author, but an inevitable result of collaborating with the Carpenter family, whom I’d long suspected of being a little too secretive on the whole matter. What were they trying to hide?

Then over in one of the side panels of the Amazon page, I spotted Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter. I had never seen or heard of this book before– that’s because it just came out a month ago today. This is an all-new, “unauthorized” biography of Karen Carpenter, created with the help of many of her trusted friends.

Again, I went to the reviews. “Finally, the truth,” they declared. Still skeptical, I looked at the preview of the book, and read the foreword by Dionne Warwick, and the author’s note, and the prologue, which told of the struggle of the writer hired to pen the TV movie, and how he was forced by the family to edit and edit until he gave up and quit the project. I said to myself, aha! This is the one.

So I ordered it, shelled out for the one-day shipping, and spent a good bit of today reading the thing from cover-to-cover. After I finished reading it, I felt like I had lost a dear friend. I laughed a couple of times, but mostly cried. This story is possibly the saddest thing I’ve ever read. My suspicions and those of many other fans were correct– in many of their songs, Karen had been singing her life. She had suffered so many hardships: being forced out from behind her beloved drum kit into the harsh spotlight, her practically non-existent personal life, her failed attempts at independence from her family, her shelved solo album, her utterly disastrous marriage. She really, truly was Little Girl Blue.

What really broke my heart was finally learning the details of her marriage and why it fell apart so quickly. The book also lays bare some of the hurtful, cruel things that her husband said to her, and I almost couldn’t believe it. How could a person bear so much pain with a smile? The answer is, they can’t. And that’s why she’s not with us today.

In spite of all these sad details, the book is lovingly told, not sensationalized, not slanderous. It’s a respectful account of her story, and I’m very, very glad for it. We, her fans, can now begin to understand and come to terms with her death instead of being left wondering why. Hopefully, all of those who read it can learn something from it, can learn that what we all need more than money, talent, fame, or anything else is love, acceptance, and support. And of course, I hope that it would also help shed some more light on anorexia nervosa and similar afflictions.

I Am Officially Obsessed.

I’ve only talked about it here once before, but I’m a huge, huge Carpenters fan. And I just took it to a higher level of fandom by ordering Twenty-Two Hits of the Carpenters 10th Anniversary Edition: a 2-disc compilation of Carpenters songs straight from Japan. At $50 (including shipping, gah), it is the most I’ve ever paid for a CD in my life.

Why plunk down 50 bucks for a compilation album full of songs I already have? Well, it’s not just any compilation album– the second disc consists entirely of karaoke tracks made from the original freaking masters. In other words, these are no pale imitation karaoke tracks like you usually get. These are the original recordings, only sans Karen’s lead vocal. I have been looking for this for ages and I’m glad to finally get my hands on it, even if it did cost me.

Here’s an example of what the songs will sound like:

I don’t have much of an outlet anymore, but I grew up singing. I still love to sing, even though I’m no Karen Carpenter (I wish). So I wanted to have these tracks around just to sing along to.

These instrumental versions have been released on CD before, only to go out of print after a short time. Needless to say, I wanted to snap up this re-issue while it’s still available. Who knows; this might turn out to be an investment purchase if it eventually goes out of print too. 😛

“A Star on Earth, A Star in Heaven”

They say the brightest stars burn out the fastest. 25 years ago today, one of the brightest stars the world has ever known went dark.

I usually don’t do the whole heartfelt tribute bit, but I think for someone as brilliant as Karen Carpenter was, I can make an exception.

And, in the process, I’ll try not to be further saddened by the fact that her memorial was held the day before I was born.

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