Clean-cut siblings Richard and Karen Carpenter hit upon a wholesome boy-and-girl-next-door image to counter the wave of heavy rock of the late 60s.
Karen’s pin-sharp contralto voice was the ideal instrument for the duo’s run of chart hits, beginning with their 1970 US #1 (They Long To Be) Close To You. The single topped the American chart for four weeks and went on to become a huge international success.
While frequently critically vilified for their middle-of-the-road soft pop, Karen Carpenter’s ethereal, often wounded tone was always immaculate.
Despite Karen’s much-publicised anorexia and Richard’s prescription drug addiction, The Carpenters seemed as American as apple pie in the 70s.
Even Richard Nixon approved of their twee image and gentle MOR pop, inviting them to play at the White House in 1973.
Three years later, their Japanese tour became the largest grossing the country had seen up to that point.
On 4 February 1983 – less than a month before she would have reached her 33rd birthday – Karen Carpenter was found unconscious at her parents home in Downey, California. She was rushed to hospital but never regained consciousness.
The coroner in Los Angeles who conducted the post-mortem gave the cause of death as ‘heartbeat irregularities brought on by chemical imbalances associated with anorexia’.