I have long been a fan of Karen Carpenter’s singing. She has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard and I loved many of her songs. The book “Little Girl Blue” by Randy Schmidt is probably the best biography of Karen Carpenter, the lead singer of the Carpenters. The book is based on exclusive interviews with her innermost circle of girlfriends and nearly 100 others who knew her well. Karen went from modest Connecticut beginnings to become part of one of the top-selling American musical act of the 1970s. The book reveals Karen’s heartbreaking struggles with her controlling mother, brother who she adored, and unaffectionate husband who likely married her only for her money. Other than for her singing she is best known for her struggles with anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder that would take her life in 1983 at the age of 32.
The Carpenters were a sister and brother singing team. Karen had arguably one of the best, most pure singing voices in history. Richard played keyboards, multitracked their voices into an electronic choral blur and arranged with an obsessive ear for perfection. Together they sold over 100,000,000 records worldwide to date. Along the way they won three Grammy Awards, had three #1 hits, five RIAA-certified platinum albums, and thirteen RIAA-certified gold singles.
The book covers her early beginnings, rise to the top of the singing world after signing with A&M records and subsequent try at a solo career not long before her death. As expected the book deals extensively with her eating disorder and makes certain conclusions of what might have been the underlying cause of starving herself to death. However, these conclusions, while interesting, should be taken with a grain of salt, as we can never know for sure what lay behind this disease.
The Carpenters music was never considered cool, being considered too soft and vanilla by many critics. However, the public bought their music in record numbers which is the greatest testament to the quality and viability of their recordings. I highly recommend this book as a celebration of Karen Carpenter and the gift of music she gave to us.