They first came out with a cover song borrowed from the Beatles called: "Ticket to Ride." It reached #56 on Bill Boards Top 100. Then right after this, magic struck and the whole world found out who The Carpenters were. Their song: "Close to You," hit number one on the music charts and they won a Grammy competing against Simon & Garfunkel (Bridge Over Troubled Waters), and The Beatles (Let it Be). This was an amazing feat.
It's always scary thinking about the pressure of coming up with a follow-up hit, but Richard Carpenter did it. Not something he wrote, but he saw a bank commercial and he loved the background music to it so he called the music artist for the commercial and got the entire song. Of course he and Karen tweaked it a bit, but the end result was another huge hit and the title of their next album: "We've Only Just Begun."
I've mentioned this in a post before, but Karen did not want to come out from behind her drums and she pretty much did it kicking and screaming. She liked having Richard out front with the piano and she just wanted to be a wallflower behind the rest of the band. She was shy. She didn't believe she was as great of a singer as people were telling her. One of the most special moments in her life, was when she was leaving a restaurant in Los Angeles with a friend, and John Lennon walked by and then stopped when he saw her and said he loves her voice. She was in shock. A superstar from The Beatles said he loves her voice. It helped her self-image some, but she still doubted herself; her voice and her looks.
Karen was a baseball fanatic keeping up with all the statistics of the New York Yankees. Richard used to kid around that when they played ball in the neighborhood, Karen was always picked before him. She even ended up pitching at a celebrity softball game. Normally shy, she lit up when she was playing ball and playing her drums. She was old-fashioned causing a bit of a stir in Hollywood when she said a woman should cook for her husband and that if she could, she'd have ten children but that touring was making it difficult to have a good, long-term relationship. She dated celebrities including Mark Harmon, Steve Martin, and Tony Danza but they didn't work out. She finally married a real estate broker towards the end of her life and he ended up being abusive and running through her money. She finally divorced him.
As most people know, Karen's personal problems led to a variety of issues such as depression and she dieted obsessively and developed anorexia nervosa. But many people don't know that both she and Richard caused their demise. They toured constantly for four years in row including overseas. Their fifth year, before they stopped playing, they had to postpone 46 shows. Richard had developed a drug problem and not unlike Brian Wilson, he was a musical genius, so if he wasn't in good shape, there would be no more records. Karen attempted to produce an album without him, but she and the producers decided it wasn't marketable so they scrapped the idea. The album wasn't a good idea in the first place as she was attempting a disco sound which wasn't her forte.
They dabbled in performing for a few years after they quit touring, but they never truly got back into the business because they weren't healthy enough, especially Karen. She tried to hide what was happening from everyone except for her immediately family leaving other people to speculate that she had cancer because she had lost so much weight. She died of a heart attack due to complications of anorexia just four months after she divorced her husband; she was 32 years-old. Richard is currently 72 years-old and he still beats himself up over pushing their touring like he did. He thinks he's partially responsible for both of them crashing.
Of all the singers that have come and gone in my lifetime, her voice to me, is the most beautiful; it was like silk. If there's a positive that came out of it, anorexia became a topic of discussion and there's no telling how many lives were saved because of hers being lost.