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Edward's Untimely Death Series: Entry #9

8-1%20RollingStone_5-22-74_4x5.jpgKaren Carpenter (1950-1983), the pop singer, who with her brother Richard formed the recording duo The Carpenters, was also well known for her drummer abilities. In high school, in an effort to get out of gym class, she joined the school marching band, playing the glockenspiel, and then moved on to the drums, which came naturally to her. In June 1965, she and her brother, along with bass player Wes Jacobs, formed the Carpenter Trio (1965-1968).

In 1969, Karen and Richard were signed by A&M Records as the Carpenters, and produced their first album, "Ticket to Ride," whose title song (a soft-rock version of the Beatle's song) hit #54 on the Billboard's 100 List. Herb Alpert, the "A" of A&M said of Karen's voice, "It felt like her voice was on the couch, like she was sitting next to me. It was full and round, and it was ... amazing...." The duo's "Close to You" album went to #1, becoming a gold record, and won them two Grammy Awards - the 1970 Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and Artist of the Year. The Carpenters had twenty Top 40 singles, and continued performing together into the early 1980s.

In the mid 1970s, both Carpenters developed health problems - Richard became addicted to Quaaludes and Karen developed the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. In the late 1960s, Karen had visited a doctor about her weight problem (she was 145 lbs. at the age of 17 on a 5'4" frame), and he prescribed a diet which helped bring her weight down to 120 lbs, which she maintained until 1973. Karen battled anorexia for many years. Adding to her stress was a one year failed marriage to real estate developer Thomas Burris, which ended in 1981, the year she moved to New York City to enter therapy with Dr. Steven Levenkron (author of the book The Best Little Girl in the World, a study of anorexia). Feeling cured a year later, she moved back to California, but within three months she was found unconscious at her parents house, and she was pronounced dead, at the age of 32, of cardiac arrest on February 4, 1983.


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