Carpenters (absolutely not "The Carpenters") were a brother and sister pop duo consisting of Richard (born October 15, 1946) and Karen (March 2, 1950 February 4, 1983) Carpenter. Karen started out as the drummer but was gradually phased off the instrument once it became clear she had a superlative singing voice; Richard wrote the material, played piano, and provided backing vocals.
They were active from 1969 until Karen's death in 1983. During this time, they were very prolific and scored numerous hits, only a few of which are commonly known to people who weren't there in The '70s. Their biggest hit, and probably their best-remembered song, is "(They Long to Be) Close to You"; others include "We've Only Just Begun", "For All We Know", "Rainy Days and Mondays", "Superstar", "Hurting Each Other", "Sing", "Yesterday Once More", "Top of the World", and "Only Yesterday".
Nowadays, the band are as well known for their behind the scenes tragedy, specifically Karen's, as they are for their music. Karen developed anorexia nervosa in her mid-twenties after years on a restrictive diet, and as a result her health rapidly deteriorated, culminating in her death from heart failure at the age of 32. Anorexia was a little-known condition at the time, with Karen's death being the primary catalyst in it becoming more widely publicized; as a result, she tends to be viewed as the public's unofficial patient zero for anorexia, though the disorder was already known and documented in the medical community.
May or may not be related to Sabrina Carpenter of Girl Meets World and her older sister Sarah, despite the fact that both sets of Carpenters have the same roles in music. (Karen and Sabrina sing while Richard and Sarah do the behind-the-scenes work; in Sarah's case, she plays with her sister when Sabrina performs live on instruments.)
- All Drummers Are Animals: Erm... Karen Carpenter? A trope can't get more averted than this.
- Basement-Dweller: Karen lived at home until 1976, several years into her fame.
- Christmas Songs: Their 1970 single "Merry Christmas Darling" is still an annual radio staple. There are also two full albums of Christmas music, one released in Karen's lifetime (Christmas Portrait, 1978) and the other following her death (An Old-Fashioned Christmas, 1984).
- Cover Version: Several, including "Ticket to Ride" (The Beatles), "Please Mr. Postman" (The Marvelettes), "There's a Kind of Hush" (Herman's Hermits), "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" (Klaatu), and "Sing" (Sesame Street).
- They also did a cover of "The Rainbow Connection" (another Muppet song), but it was kept unreleased, as Karen reportedly didn't care for the song or their performance of it. It wasn't even given a full recording, just a demo. It eventually was released, but not until long after the world lost Karen.
- Downer Ending: Karen's death at 32, of complications stemming from her severe anorexia nervosa. On the bright sidenote , it actually did a lot to open up awareness of the disease.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Their first album 'Offering', which was later renamed 'Ticket to Ride', while possessing the same Carpenters sound (albeit more baroque-pop inspired) lacks the polish later albums had. It was also more self-contained than other albums, with Karen playing drums on all tracks.
- From their first 3 albums, 'Crescent Noon', 'Your Wonderful Parade', 'Mr Guder', and 'Druscilla Penny', which focus on serious undertones that range from depression to political undertones.
- Fading into the Next Song: Many of their albums feature this throughout the entire album.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out:
- In the song "I Believe You." The first time you hear what appears to be the final verse that slows down and stops a bit, you think it's over but then, BAM! A repeat of the bridge and the final verse again, this time once more.
- Same with "(They Long to Be) Close to You:" After they say "Close to You" one last time, the song plays out slowly to end and you think it's over, until BAM! The last few lines of the chorus play again until fade. Notorious for catching disc jockeys off guard when the song started back up a few seconds into whatever was coming after it.
- Game Music: Apparently, Hideo Kojima was a huge fan of "Sing", because it's what the AI's sing out during the battles of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, it plays during a few cutscenes involving Dr. Strangelove, and Peace Walker sings this when she drowns herself to stop herself from transmitting the launch sequence to the US military. It also plays during the end credits.
- Hating on Monday: "Rainy Days and Mondays" is a pretty bleak example of this.
- Radio Song: "Yesterday Once More" is a famous example. On its parent album Now & Then, the song segues directly into an "Oldies Medley" of old radio classics like "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Fun Fun Fun," and it ends with a reprise of "Yesterday Once More."
- Real Life Writes the Plot: After Karen broke up with him, songwriter Tom Bahler wrote what would eventually become a Michael Jackson hit, "She's Out of My Life."
- Self-Backing Vocalist: A major component of their fame. Most of their singles involve Richard and Karen overdubbed numerous times on backing vocals, often using chords most rock bands have never even heard of. Richard cites Les Paul and Mary Ford (early innovators in this technique) as a major influence on him.
- Self-Titled Album: Their third release.
- "Sesame Street" Cred: And without appearing on the show, no less. As mentioned above, they recorded a cover version of "Sing", which was originally written for Sesame Street.
- Shave and a Haircut: At the end of "Piano Picker."
- Silly Love Songs: Another major selling point.
- Studio Chatter: On the box set From The Top, there's a demo version of "Let Me Be The One" where you can hear Karen warming up a bit before the song counts in. And then she forgets the words at the end, and makes up new, silly lyrics just for a laugh.
- Take That!: "Mr. Guder" was written by Richard and John Bettis (who were both previously in the band Spectrum) as a jab at their old boss at Disneyland. The story goes that he and John were hired to play old-timey music on piano and banjo, but patrons kept requesting more contemporary tunes, and when they obliged them too many times, their boss, Vic Guder, eventually fired them. The song more or less paints him out to be too stuffy and old-fashioned.
- The "The" Title Confusion: Karen and Richard as individuals are (some of) the Carpenters in the same way that you and your immediate family are (some of) the <Your Last Name>s, but the name of the duo is specifically and deliberately "Carpenters", without a definite article, because Richard thought it was cooler that way.
- Top Ten Jingle: "We've Only Just Begun" was originally written as a TV commercial jingle for what is now Wells Fargo bank.
- Weight Woe: Karen, to the point where it tragically killed her.