But you’re not really here / It’s just the radio…
I’ve long been in awe of Karen Carpenter. I don’t remember when or where I heard her for the first time, but she has been there, somewhere, for many a year. It feels as if she’s only becoming more prominent as time moves on.
Whatever one’s opinion on the music of The Carpenters, it’s hard not to be moved by the sincerity of her utterly exquisite vocals; such purity, such simplicity, and yet, so complex… it chimes of a soul abundant with hope but ever enveloped by the shadow of melancholy and sorrow – one that has felt and lived, with all that that entails. She could be absolutely devastating when she wanted to be; indeed, it’s feels that way because she’s connecting with the listener – relating to and involving them, in a very real and special way. We often label those that manage to connect with us ‘captivating’ or ‘grabbing’, but with Karen, in my mind personally it seems more of an invitation, though still, indeed, one that’s entirely impossible to turn down. I’ve tried to capture this in my portrait.
It’s always too subtle an embrace, too mutual an exchange to be compared to anything abrupt; to me, there are few performers I can think of over the years who have been able to do that quite so powerfully, and, like all of the brightest stars, there is just nobody to mind who even comes close to replicating the wonder of her art. It’s little surprise that the success of The Carpenters in the early 70s was so fast and sharp, and likewise, such a shame that it was all over so very quickly – again, as with many of her mould – her life was blighted by personal issues and tragedy, and she left us far, far too soon, in February 1983 at the age of just thirty-two. It cuts deep to listen to her and get to thinking that she would be more than twice that age today were she still with us, and to ponder over what else she might have done. Her sound, and impact, though forever wrapped in 70s dressing, is timeless. But, as ever, we have the work left behind, and that’s a legacy to be much treasured.
I couldn’t pick a single song to embed within this post, so have placed two below. Both are mainstays for me. I find one of the most endearing beauties of her sound the fact that all of these qualities that made it special were only the greater when they performed live – it sounds just like the studio version, only better because it’s not the studio version. It’s live. Her artistic and technical smarts were off the scale.
What a voice.