Carpenters’ Approved Biography, ‘Musical Legacy,’ Published

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The definitive biography of one of the most enduring musical groups from the ’70s— the Carpenters—is being told for the first time from the perspective of Richard Carpenter, in a new book, Carpenters: The Musical Legacy. The title arrived on November 16, 2021, via Princeton Architectural Press. Carpenter sat for more than 100 hours of exclusive interviews and provided some 200 photographs from his personal archive, many never published. The book was written by Chris May and Mike Cidoni Lennox.

From the announcement: After becoming multimillion-selling, Grammy-winning superstars with their 1970 breakthrough hit “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” pianist/composer/arranger/vocalist Richard Carpenter and vocalist/drummer Karen Carpenter would win over millions of fans worldwide with a record-breaking string of hits including “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Top of the World,” and “Yesterday Once More.”

By 1975, success was taking its toll. Years of jam-packed work schedules, including hundreds of concert engagements, proved to be just too much for the Carpenters to keep the hits coming—and, ultimately, to keep the music playing at all.

In the 344-page Carpenters: The Musical Legacy, Richard Carpenter tells his story for the first time. With candor, heart, and humor, he sheds new light on the Carpenters’ trials and triumphs—work that remains the gold standard for melodic pop. The duo scored three #1 singles and five #2 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and a dozen Top 10 singles overall, plus 15 #1s on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Watch the Carpenters perform “We’ve Only Just Begun” on The Ed Sullivan Show on Oct. 18, 1970

“With some trepidation, I ventured into the rarely visited Carpenters archives and discovered, among the large number of career-related things, items that I’d forgotten had existed but were nevertheless extant,” notes Richard Carpenter in the book.

Richard Carpenter turned 75 on Oct. 15. His sister, Karen, died on Feb. 4, 1983, at age 32.

Author May is a longtime Carpenters expert and historian, and a consultant, freelance music director, and arranger. Mike Cidoni Lennox has been a nationally syndicated journalist for nearly 40 years and currently serves as a senior entertainment reporter for the Associated Press.

Related: The #1 singles of 1971

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6 Comments so far

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  1. 122intheshade
    #1 122intheshade 12 September, 2021, 01:51

    Who didn’t LOVE Karen Carpenter? I know I did. Wanted to marry her with “For All We Know”. Felt the desolation of “Goodbye to Love” with that awesome guitar. Used “Sweet Sweet Smile” on my demo tape coming out of broadcast school. Was heartbroken to see pictures of her in the 80s . . . and when she died. You know a Carpenters song the instant Karen starts to sing.

    Besides the book, maybe Richard would like to re-release the Carpenters’ Lps/Cds with the original mixes. Really Richard. Your playing was fine. You didn’t need to go George Lucas on us and update the classic originals.

    Reply this comment
    • MikeCidoniLennox
      MikeCidoniLennox 12 September, 2021, 21:47

      Richard did reissue every studio LP with original mixes in 1998-1999 in the “Remastered Classics” series, and that’s how all of the original albums have been sold ever since (with the exception of the tune “Those Good Old Dreams” … It’s explained in the book).
      Hope you enjoy what Chris and I did — took a few years off our lives, but it was worth it.

      Reply this comment
  2. Di S
    #2 Di S 13 September, 2021, 13:51

    Richard is an oft underrated musical genius, and Karen had the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard.

    Reply this comment
    • EJ
      EJ 4 December, 2021, 21:33

      RC is absolutely wrong in saying their music was underrated, that Karen voice wasn’t appreciated (Paul McCartney says it’s the best female voice) or that some say they were not successful. All artists have detractors the same way all artists will have loyal die-hard fans. No one can ever please everyone and that’s ok. What most fans cannot comprehend, however, is why was Karen not helped sooner when it was so obvious from her physical stature change that something was not right about her?

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  3. Mike Cidoni Lennox
    #3 Mike Cidoni Lennox 14 September, 2021, 14:28

    You betcha! Two of the many reasons we wrote the book, Di.
    What’s amazing is how funny and CANDID Richard is throughout the book, good times and bad.
    No shock we celebrate the music. But you’ll be very surprised at the candid portraits of select characters in the Carpenters’ story.
    I’ll be eager to hear what you think.

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  4. baybluesman
    #4 baybluesman 15 September, 2021, 01:00

    The following is a comment I posted about Cass Elliot, and edited here, as it applies to Karen Carpenter equally:

    This article is a homage to a beautiful singer, along with Richard’s musicianship and production, regardless of personal preferences to genre, format, style, etc.
    Karen Carpenter had a voice that was truly in a class of its own, and distinguishable the moment you heard it, along the same lines as a Cass Elliot, Rod Stewart, Cat Stevens, Steve Perry, etc. , as a few examples.
    Once you heard a few opening lyrics, you know immediately who the singer is.
    Karen Carpenter – a truly unique and melodic voice, who’s life and career was sadly cut short.

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