February 3, 1959 was immortalized by singer Don McLean as “the day the music died”, because of the tragic, untimely deaths of rock and roll artists Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson in a plane crash.
I was born in July, 1959, so obviously, their deaths didn’t really impact me, tragic as they were.
For me, February 4, 1983 is The Day The Music Died.
Karen Carpenter lost her life, at the age of 32, to anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder most of us had never even heard of before. It was a tremendous shock, and a heartbreaking loss to me and my wife (my girlfriend at the time).
Carpenters, featuring Karen and her brother, Richard, were a big part of the soundtrack of my life in the 1970’s. Tunes like “(They Long to Be) Close to You”, “We’ve Only Just Begun”, “Yesterday Once More”, “Superstar”, “Top of the World”, “I Won’t Last a Day Without You” and so many more made Karen my favorite female vocalist, which she remains to this day.
Karen wasn’t a “power balladeer” like Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey. She didn’t have to be. She had an easy, unforced style of singing that could express love, joy, longing, sadness…all in that warm and lovely alto voice, with the kind of intimacy that made you feel she was singing only to you.
Her voice, and Richard’s brilliant arrangements, combined to make unforgettable music. However, due to their squeaky clean image, they and their music didn’t get the respect due them until years later. Back then, their music was more of a guilty pleasure; there was a stigma attached to being a Carpenters fan.
Thankfully, that’s changed. Now, many peers cite the Carpenters’ influence on their own music, and they are one of the top-selling artists of all time.
It’s a crying shame that Karen isn’t here to bask in the adulation, and to give us even more wonderful music. I miss her every time I hear her, but I’m so glad that beautiful voice, and that beautiful music, will go on forever.
Much love, Karen and Richard. Whenever I hear you, it’s Yesterday Once More.