The Carpenters were brother and sister Richard Carpenter and Karen Carpenter. Both grew up in Downey, California and were very musical at an early age. Richard Carpenter started his own instrumental band with his sister Karen called "The Richard Carpenter Trio." Richard played the piano and organized the music, and Karen played the drums. The Richard Carpenter Trio won a 1966 "Battle of the Bands" contest. Richard helped Karen develop her singing voice and started to make demo tapes with her after the Richard Carpenter Trio split up. One of those demo tapes was sent to Herb Alpert at A&M Records and he immediately signed on Richard and Karen as "Carpenters," after he liked what he heard.
In 1969 the Carpenters made their first album called "Offerings." It was a flop, and so was their first single "Ticket To Ride," which was a ballad version of the Beatles song. In 1970 the Carpenters made their second album called "Close To You." The album was a hit, and the two singles "Close To You" and "We've Only Just Begun" made the Carpenters superstars. This earned them 2 Grammy Awards and made them millionaires. The Carpenters were ridiculed, because they didn't fit into the rock-and-roll, drug scene during the early 70s. They were considered "goody two shoes" and "square" by most, but their music was very much loved by people of all ages.
During the Carpenters performance for President Richard Nixon at the White House in 1973, President Nixon called them "Young America At Its Best," a title that made them stand out even more during the 70s. But nevertheless, the Carpenters continued to make hits songs and albums. In 1971 their third album, simply called "Carpenters" was successful with songs like, "Rainy Days and Mondays" "For All We Know" and "Superstar." In 1972 the Carpenters had another hit record with their fourth album called "A Song For You," which had hit songs like "Top Of The World" and "Goodbye To Love" and "Hurting Each Other." The Carpenters had another hit album in 1973 with their fifth album called "Now & Then." The song "Yesterday Once More" became the Carpenters signature song and it is their most recognized song around the world. It was also their most successful song.
The Carpenters popularity climaxed and they started to tour around the world, extensively. They had numerous television guest appearances on talk shows, and they were starting to make their own musical variety shows for ABC. It was also at this time, that Karen Carpenter started to become more sensitive about her weight. Music critics called her fat, and this upset her. She started to diet lightly, by only eating green salads and drinking iced tea. Then she didn't eat at all, and started to abuse laxatives. Karen became thinner and thinner. Around 1975 she collapsed on stage during one of the tours, and was bedridden for 6 weeks. Her weight had lowered to 77 pounds. In 1975 the Carpenters had made their sixth album called "Horizon." The album wasn't as successful as the previous 4 had been, but it did moderately well. In 1976 the Carpenters started to have more success on television, when they started making their own variety shows. These shows were very successful for ABC and the Carpenters, and their popularity was still growing. In 1976 the Carpenters made their seventh album called "A Kind of Hush." This album only did moderately well also, and their record sales were getting lower.
In 1977 they made their eighth album called "Christmas Portrait," and this album did very well. The Carpenters were still doing the TV shows and Variety Specials. By this time they were touring excessively and it was wearing Karen and Richard out. Karen had become even thinner, and people were starting to notice. Sometimes when she would walk out on stage the audience would gasp when they saw her, because of her excessively thin looks. Around 1979, Richard Carpenter checked into a chemical dependency unit in Oklahoma, to help himself get off of sleeping pills. Since Richard was in the hospital the Carpenters music and TV shows were on hiatus. Karen was becoming weary and restless, and wanted to make music. So she decided to make a solo album. She wanted Richard's blessing, but he said no at first. Later Richard told Karen it was okay, but asked her not to make a disco music. So Karen flew from Los Angeles to New York to make her solo album with famous music producer Phil Ramone.
Phil and Karen didn't want to make more of the Carpenters trademark music, so they both decided to do more adult and edgier music. Karen sang more sexually themed songs like "Making Love on a Saturday afternoon" and "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" and "Make Believe It's Your First Time." Karen and Phil both loved the album, and during the end of 1979, when Richard was cured and Karen's solo album was finished, everyone met at A&M Studios to listen to Karen's solo album. On their first listen, everyone but Karen and Phil hated the album. Richard Carpenter and Herb Alpert hated it so much, that they decided to shelve the album. Phil Ramone and Karen were hurt. During 1980 Karen started to date Thomas Burris. A wealthy real-estate businessman. Karen was looking for two things in a man she would marry. That we was rich, so that he wouldn't financially depend on her, and that he would be important, so that he wouldn't be intimidated by her superstar. Karen found those things in Tom Burris and married him in 1980 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. A newly and happily married Karen was wanting to make more music again. So she and Richard went back to the studio and made their last album together, "Made In America." The album did better then expected.
Karen and Tom's marriage was falling apart, and after a long fight at the Carpenter's house, Tom came down the stairs and told Richard "You Can Have Her!". Karen was preparing divorce papers at the time of her death but they were never signed or filed. During the early 80s, Karen's long battle with anorexia nervosa, was getting worse. Karen still picked at her food, and rarely ate. So she and Richard agreed to send her off to New York again. Karen met with a psychotherapist everyday, but she didn't really make progress. She went into hospital and was fed intravenously and went from 80 lbs, to 100 lbs.
She had obviously gained too much weight. She checked out of the hospital, and went back to Los Angeles, but was still weight-obsessed and the disorder returned to her again. On February 4, 1983 Karen died of a heart attack from her long battle with anorexia nervosa. The autopsy had also shown that she had died from overdosing on ipecac, a drug used to make her vomit, and when taken in large quantities, it becomes fatal.
After her death, during 1983, Richard made a tenth Carpenters album called "Voice of the Heart." He used old Karen recordings and some music from her shelved solo album for "Voice of the Heart." The album wasn't a failure but it wasn't a hit either. In 1984, Richard got married and produced the eleventh Carpenters album called "An Old Fashioned Christmas." In 1985 Richard helped produce "Yesterday Once More," a Carpenters compilation album that was the first of many compilation albums to be produced. The songs on "Yesterday Once More" were all remixed for better and cleaner sounding songs. In 1987, Richard made his first solo album called "Time." Richard sang and had guest singers like Dionne Warwick contribute to the album. The album turned out to be a flop.
In 1989, he made a twelfth Carpenters album called "Lovelines." More songs from Karen's shelved solo album were used here, and later that year, Richard help to direct and produce "The Karen Carpenter Story" TV movie, which was a success.
During the early 90s Richard started a family that has grown to 5 or 6 children. In 1996 his mother Agnes died and Richard wrote brief liner notes to accompany Karen Carpenter's finally released solo album, and in 1997 Richard made his second solo album called "Richard Carpenter: Pianist, Arranger, Composer, Conductor." It was an instrumental album that flopped again. During the late 90s Richard helped produced more Carpenters compilation albums and box sets, and started touring by himself around the USA and Japan. He also does concerts with artists such as Petula Clark. In 2001 Richard produced the thirteenth Carpenters album called "As Time Goes By.", a combination of unreleased Carpenters songs and outtakes of songs. In 2003 Richard Carpenter participated in a charity event called "Top Of the World" and in December 2003, he wrote the liner notes to a new Carpenters compilation CD released by A&M Records, called "Gold: 35th Anniversary Edition." In 2004 he released "As Time Goes By" to the USA for the first time and in March 2004, he participated in "Top of the World II" charity event.