An intimate profile of one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century, this first full-length biography of Karen Carpenter details every aspect of her life, from her modest Connecticut upbringing and her rise to stardom in southern California to the real story of her tragic, untimely death. This illuminating depiction of a 1970s icon covers her time as lead singer of the Carpenters—the top-selling American musical act of the decade—and provides insight into their string of 16 consecutive top-20 hits, including "Close to You," "We've Only Just Begun," "Top of the World," and "Superstar," as well as a critical review of her aborted solo career. A behind-the-scenes look into the life of a superstar, from the prolific recordings and the relentless touring to the awards, fame, and fortune, this history also chronicles her struggle with anorexia nervosa and gives important new details from her autopsy that shed new light on her death at age 32. Groups such as Sonic Youth and the Corrs and artists including k. d. lang and Madonna have cited Karen Carpenter among their major influences, and this definitive biography, based on exclusive interviews with nearly 100 of her friends and associates, is a testament to her brief yet remarkable life.
From the beginning, Richard, not Karen, was the talented musician whose parents moved across the country for a better career. Karen dabbled in music and tagged along on gigs, but it would be years before her show-stopping voice commanded the spotlight. And that shift, when the forgotten little sister became star of the act, Schmidt argues, marked the beginning of Karen's deadly, lifelong struggle with weight. Schmidt tracks the anxieties that seem to have driven her eating disorder, including a controlling mother and the lack of a stable love life. After the failure of her first solo effort, Karen made a bid for happiness with the dashing Tom Burris that would prove short-lived; he was only interested in her money. This was one setback too many for the gifted singer, and by 1983 she was dead, at 32. The self-destructive pressures of celebrity make for a familiar narrative, but Schmidt treats Karen's death not as an inevitability, but a tragedy that built slowly. His sympathies for the star border on fawning, but the copious research and quick-moving narration make this a volume that die-hard Carpenters fans and casual listeners alike will find interesting.