Feb. 4 is the 30th anniversary of singer Karen Carpenter’s death at the age of 32 in Downey, Calif., from cardiac irregularities associated with anorexia nervosa, a little-known illness at the time. As one-half of the Carpenters with brother Richard, her hits included “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “(They Long to Be) Close to You.”
The List this week looks at the best songs Karen Carpenter helped make.
- 10. “Yesterday Once More” (1973): This song, written by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis, captures the timeless quality of Carpenter’s voice. How can one forget the line “Every sha-la-la-la, every wo-wo-wo.” This was the duo’s fifth No. 2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Mr. Carpenter admitted in an interview that this was the his favorite of all the songs he had written.
- 9. “Superstar” (1971): The Carpenters, excellent purveyors of soft-rock soulfulness, turned this song, written by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell, into a No. 2 hit. Richard Carpenter, whose inspirations were the “Three B’s” — the Beatles, Beach Boys and Burt Bacharach — arranged the song and changed some of the lyrics to give it a clean-cut image. He won a Grammy for his efforts.
- 8. “Rainy Days and Mondays” (1971): This was a huge hit for the Carpenters, reaching No. 2 in the U.S., but it failed in the U.K. where it only reached No. 68. It was the first hit for the Carpenters, written by writers Roger Nichols and Paul Williams.
- 7. “For All We Know” (1971): After noticing the song in the wedding scene in the 1970 film “Lovers and Other Strangers” performed by Larry Meredith, Richard Carpenter decided that it was an ideal tune for the Carpenters to cover. The song went on to win the Academy Award For Best Original Song. Karen’s distinctive voice and Mr. Carpenter’s arrangement helped the tune reach No. 3 on the U.S. charts. In Britain, Shirley Bassey’s version competed with the Carpenters’, peaking at No. 6, 12 places ahead of the American duo.
- 6. “Sing” (1973): Written by Joe Raposo for “Sesame Street,” the Carpenters had a No. 3 hit in the U.S. Karen Carpenter played the drums on this song and many of the duo’s other recordings. She considered herself a “drummer who sings.”
- 5. “Please, Mr. Postman” (1974): Thirteen years after the Marvelettes scored a No. 1 hit with this song (and also was recorded by the Beatles), the Carpenters recorded their own No. 1 version. It was to be the duo’s last big hit in the top three and their third and final No. 1 hit. It reached No. 2 in the U.K. and No. 1 in both Australia and Canada. The video for the song was filmed at Disneyland.
- 4. “Top Of The World” (1973): Richard Carpenter and John Bettis penned another hit with this song, proving that the all-American, suburban ordinariness of the Carpenters was not wearing thin. This was the duo’s second No. 1 hit. It was also a big hit on the country music charts for Lynn Anderson, who took it to No. 2 in the U.S. and to No. 1 in Canada.
- 3. “Hurting Each Other” (1971): This melancholic, seemingly autobiographical love song, released in late 1971 reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Written by Gary Geld and Peter Udell in 1965, the tune was recorded by numerous artists — Ruby and the Romantics, Rosemary Clooney and the Walker Brothers — but was popularized by the Carpenters.
- 2. “We’ve Only Just Begun” (1970): Often considered to be the Carpenters’ signature tune, Karen’s contralto and the unique timbre is exemplified in this song, written by Roger Nichols (music) and Paul Williams (lyrics). The song appeared on the “Close To You” album and became a popular wedding song. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard chart and was listed at No. 405 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
- 1. “(They Long To Be) Close to You” (1970): This version of Burt Bacharach’s 1963 song was the Carpenters breakthrough song, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard charts and earning a Grammy Award. Tijuana Brass frontman Herb Albert was meant to record the song, but instead decided to give it to the new act he had signed to A&M Records, the Carpenters. Rolling Stone magazine ranked Karen Carpenter number 94 on its list of “The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. “
Best of the rest: “Only Yesterday,” “Ticket To Ride,” “From This Moment On,” “Let Me Be The One,” “I Need To Be In Love,” “Goodbye To Love,” “Merry Christmas, Darling” and “A Song For You.”
Compiled By John Haydon
Sources: The Daily Mail, Wikipedia
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