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Prior to starting this book I had just finished the excellent “Rise and Fall of The Third Reich” and thought that a story about the Carpenters, all ‘Mom’s Apple Pie’ and Church On Sunday, would be an interesting change of pace after 3 months in the company of Hitler, Goering, et al.
Boy, was I ever wrong…
The book paints a picture of a very dysfunctional family, presided over by a controlling, manipulative mother, Agnes Carpenter, who lives vicariously through her son Richard, and who is endlessly suspicious of all outsiders to the detriment of everyone else around, including her husband and their daughter, Karen. Agnes moves the family west from Connecticut to California in order to give Richard all the opportunities for his talent to blossom, and she talks only of Richard and how he is a musical genius. She even tells Karen, ‘Without Richard, there would be no Karen. Your brother is a genius and you must do everything to support him’
But as awful as Agnes most definitely is, equal villain of this sad story is Richard Carpenter, who allowed and often supported his mother’s bullying just so he could remain the centre of attention. And woe betide anyone who upsets that particular apple cart, as Neil Sedaka finds after he consistently brings the house down as the opening act for the duo during an engagement in Las Vegas, for which he finds himself fired by Richard. Sedaka, always the consummate professional, just sighs and quips “That’s the first time I got fired for playing well!”
The bullying and the familial manipulation continues when the band are on the road, and the book details a number of occasions where people who got in the way of the Carpenters juggernaut were simply thrown away, with no thought for who got hurt in the process. Friendships, Relationships, even Family; everything and everybody is sacrificed for the sake of Richard’s career.
But most people will buy this book to try and understand just what happened with Karen, and her losing battle with Anorexia. The erosion of her self-confidence by years of constantly being told she was second-best are undoubtedly a driving factor. And as Karen feels she has no control over her personal and professional life (and she really doesn’t, to an astounding degree), she exercises the only control she feels she still has, that being what she eats. Consequently years of dangerous dieting, strenuous touring schedules (over 150 shows a year on average), and mental bullying by the people she trusted finally came to a head, and her body just gave up. Such a tragic loss…
There’s a lovely section near the end of the book where Karen embarks on a solo recording project whilst Richard is recovering from ill-health and exhaustion. She flies to New York and teams up with producer Phil Ramone, who then introduces her to Billy Joel’s touring band, known to be one of the hardest working bands of the day. Over the ensuing weeks of recording Karen finds a whole new way of working that is exciting and fresh, as the band members and fellow artists Billy Joel and Paul Simon welcome her into their circle, enabling her to relax and have fun. She discovers a totally different approach to recording and really blossoms in the studio away from Richard’s control.
Narration by Cheryl Bentyne is first class, and keeps the listener engaged throughout
A highly recommended book, but be warned; you will never listen to the Carpenters music in the same way ever again.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
A well written Bio of a true Super Star, lives have been enriched and is sadly missed artist RIP Karen ! 10/10
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
If you love the Carpenters music, and consider Karen Carpenter's voice one of the most precious ever, you're going to enjoy learning more about her! Even those who don't care for the Carpenters music, this is a beautiful, nice, interesting, musical, but also sad and tragic story! But certainly one that will keep you interested from start to finish, and you will be longing to learn more and understand more about this life which was over way too soon! If you already know a lot about the Carpenters and what ultimately happened with Karen, you are going to learn much more, because this book tells this story in a way it's never been told before, with some of her closest friends thoroughly telling us new information for the first time! The more you read, the closer you get to her and her family! In the end, you feel like you know Karen very well, almost personally!
From a childhood in Connecticut, filled with records, sports, and dear friends, through an adolescence with a lot of music and the discovery of her great friend, the drum kit, to a youth full of gold records and awards! The personal conflicts, the struggle for true love and self control over her own life! The extensive touring and the attempt at a solo effort! The big admiration for a dear brother she looked up to and who loved her endlessly, and the unhappy, failed marriage! The depth of a beautiful, velvety, hevenly-sent voice, the disease, and the death!
Karen was a truly beautiful young woman, she was pretty! But, behind the golden voice, there were many layers of a life with which she was happy, but it was not yet close to a life she dreamed of. She could never seem to find true love, despite being the center of attention to the Carpenters audience! The author Randy Schmidt did a wonderful and extensive job of years to make interviews and fill the gaps of this story, in a very well done tribute to this amazingly talented lady who inspired and still inspires the lives of many people, from all ages and different parts of the world.
Her voice talks straight into my soul, the songs she sang talk straight into my heart, and the connection I feel with her is unaccountably natural, even though we're separated by time and space, so I wanted to get closer to her and learn about her story, and that was when this excellent book came out! And I've read it a bunch of times since then!
Now we have this amazing audiobook version of this best-seller! It was read beautifully by Cheryl Bentyne, who has this incredible voice, and she was present on the day of Karen's last public appearance in January 1983, less than a month prior to Karen's passing, in the context of a reunion of Grammy-winning artists. She adds her beautiful voice to the telling of this story, with a soft and excellent reading, a great choice! Very good job! I loved both the book and the audiobook version of Little Girl Blue, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
Listening to the story unfold of Karen Carpenter's life gives an individual a feel of what is was like for her living on this Earth. I always wondered what her Mother was really like and also sensed that Richard wasn't divulging the true nature of his mother, when in fact, he was covering up for her. I got the rare opportunity to see the Carpenters perform when I was a teenager in the seventies and was impressed by her drumming. And oh that wonderful voice! Listening to this account also makes you want to stop at times and listen to their recordings. Enjoy
2 of 2 people found this review helpful