~~February 5, 2015~~
We lost Karen Carpenter on February 4, 1983 …. 32 years ago.
A huge loss for me …. I still love her unique voice, her music, her style and her incredible talent!
Karen Anne Carpenter (March 2, 1950 – February 4, 1983) was an American singer and drummer. She and her brother, Richard, formed the 1970’s duo The Carpenters. Although her skills as a drummer earned admiration from drumming luminaries and peers, she is best known to the layman for her vocal performances. She had a contralto vocal range.
Carpenter suffered from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder which was little known at the time. She died at age 32 from heart failure caused by complications related to her illness.
Carpenter’s death led to increased visibility and awareness of eating disorders.
Carpenter was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the daughter of Agnes Reuwer (née Tatum) and Harold Bertram Carpenter. When she was young, she enjoyed playing baseball with other children on the street. On the TV program This Is Your Life, she stated that she liked pitching. Later, in the early 1970’s, she would become the pitcher on the Carpenters’ official softball team. Her brother Richard developed an interest in music at an early age, becoming a piano prodigy. The family moved in June 1963 to the Los Angeles suburb of Downey.
When Carpenter entered Downey High School, she joined the school band. Bruce Gifford, the conductor (who had previously taught her older brother) gave her the glockenspiel, an instrument she disliked. After admiring the performance of her friend, Frankie Chavez, she asked if she could play the drums instead. She and her brother made their first recordings in 1965 and 1966.
The following year she began dieting. Under a doctor’s guidance she went on the Stillman Diet. She rigorously ate lean foods, drank eight glasses of water a day, and avoided fatty foods. She was 5′ 4″ (163 cm) in height and before dieting weighed 145 pounds (66 kg; 10 st 5 lb) and afterwards weighed 120 pounds (54 kg; 8 st 8 lb) until 1973, when the Carpenters’ career reached its peak.
By September 1975, her weight was 91 pounds (41 kg; 6 st 7 lb).
“Now“, recorded in April 1982, was the last song 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. During her illness, in order to lose weight, she had taken thyroid replacement medication (to speed up her metabolism) and laxatives.
Despite her participation in therapy, her condition continued to deteriorate and she only lost more weight, leading Carpenter to call her psychotherapist to tell him she felt dizzy and that her heart was beating irregularly. Finally in September 1982, she was admitted to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and hooked up to an intravenous drip, which caused her to gain a considerable amount of weight (30 pounds) in just eight weeks. The sudden weight gain further strained her heart, which was already weak from years of dietary restriction.
Carpenter returned to California in November 1982, determined to reinvigorate her career, finalize her divorce, and begin a new album with Richard. On December 17, 1982, Karen gave her last singing performance in the multi-purpose room of the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California, singing Christmas carols for her godchildren, their classmates who attended the school, and other friends. On January 11, 1983, Karen made her last public appearance at a photo-call of past Grammy Award winners to celebrate the award’s 25th anniversary.
Karen appeared somewhat frail and worn out but according to Dionne Warwick, she was vibrant and outgoing, exclaiming to everyone, “Look at me! I’ve got an ass!”
On February 4, 1983, less than a month before her 33rd birthday, Carpenter suffered heart failure at her parents’ home in Downey, California. She was taken to Downey Community Hospital, where she was pronounced dead 20 minutes later. The Los Angeles coroner gave the cause of death as “heartbeat irregularities brought on by chemical imbalances associated with anorexia nervosa.” Under the anatomical summary, the first item was heart failure, with anorexia as second. The third finding was cachexia, which is extremely low weight and weakness and general body decline associated with chronic disease. Her divorce was scheduled to have been finalized that day.
The autopsy stated that Carpenter’s death was the result of emetine cardiotoxicity due to anorexia nervosa, revealing that she had poisoned herself with ipecac syrup, an emetic often used to induce vomiting in cases of overdosing or poisoning. Carpenter’s use of ipecac syrup was later disputed by Agnes and Richard, who both stated that they never found empty vials of ipecac in her apartment and have denied that there was any concrete evidence that she had been vomiting. Richard has also expressed that he believes Karen was not willing to ingest ipecac syrup because of the potential damage that both the syrup and excessive vomiting would do to her vocal cords and that she relied on laxatives alone to maintain her low body weight.
Carpenter’s funeral service took place on February 8, 1983, at the Downey United Methodist Church. Dressed in a rose-colored suit, Carpenter lay in an open white casket. Over 1,000 mourners passed through to say goodbye, among them her friends Dorothy Hamill, Olivia Newton-John, Petula Clark, and Dionne Warwick.
Carpenter’s estranged husband Tom attended her funeral, where he took off his wedding ring and placed it inside the casket. She was entombed at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Cypress, California.
In 2003, Richard Carpenter had Karen re-interred, along with their parents, in the Carpenter family mausoleum at the Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, California, which is closer to his Southern California home.
Carpenter’s star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Carpenter’s death brought lasting media attention to anorexia nervosa and also to bulimia. In the years after her death, a number of celebrities decided to go public about their eating disorders, among them actress Tracey Gold and Diana, Princess of Wales. Medical centers and hospitals began receiving increased contact from people with these, and similar disorders. The general public had little knowledge of anorexia nervosa and bulimia prior to Carpenter’s death, making the condition difficult to identify and treat. Her family started the Karen A. Carpenter Memorial Foundation, which raised money for research on anorexia nervosa and eating disorders. Today the name of the organization has been changed to the Carpenter Family Foundation. In addition to eating disorders, the foundation now funds the arts, entertainment and education.
On October 12, 1983, the Carpenters received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is located at 6931 Hollywood Blvd., a few yards from the Dolby Theater. Richard, Harold and Agnes Carpenter attended the inauguration, as did many fans.
In 1987, movie director Todd Haynes used songs by Richard and Karen in his movie Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. In the movie Haynes portrayed the Carpenters with Barbie dolls, rather than live actors. The movie was later pulled from distribution after Richard Carpenter won a court case involving song royalties; Haynes had not obtained legal permission to use the Carpenters’ recordings.
On January 1, 1989, the similarly titled made-for-TV movie The Karen Carpenter Story aired on CBS with Cynthia Gibb in the title role. Gibb lip-synced the songs to Carpenter’s recorded voice, with the exception of “The End of the World.” Both films use the song “This Masquerade” in the background while showing Carpenter’s marriage to Burris.
“As it appears in …. full read”
~~Uploaded on Sep 28, 2010~~
Music video by Carpenters performing Superstar.
(C) 1985 A&M Records
WhiteLibraTexas & JFB
~~Published on Mar 12, 2012~~
Music & Lyrics by Leon Russell
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