Look to your dreams

Karen Carpenter would have been sixty-three today, and almost certainly she’d still be musically active. (Keith Richards, after all, is still working at — what, 118?) And I’ve always believed that her eating disorder was an inevitable consequence of having been the square peg being forced into other people’s round holes: she had at least a three-octave vocal range, but everyone said she was better off as a contralto; she was a kickass drummer, but everyone said Hal Blaine ought to play on the records. (Before you sneer: how many Byrds were actually on “Mr. Tambourine Man”?) Finding pictures in which she smiles, but in which the smile doesn’t look forced, was therefore more of a chore than it should have been, and I finally ended up with this:

Karen Carpenter sports that down-home look

It occurs to me that I probably should have looked for stills of Karen behind a drum kit, where she always seemed happier:

(“Look To Your Dreams” was the last track on Voice of the Heart, the first Carpenters album released after Karen’s death in 1983; written in 1974 — by Richard with longtime collaborator John Bettis — and recorded in 1978, everyone said it was too uncommercial for release. No other title would have fit here.)



  1. Jeffro »

    2 March 2013 · 9:34 pm

    I read somewhere that The Duke wanted her to play Mattie in True Grit. Wonder if that would have changed the arc of her life.

  2. XRay »

    2 March 2013 · 9:52 pm

    That was great, Charles. I had no idea. Thank you.

  3. Roger Green »

    3 March 2013 · 5:24 am

    She just want to bang on the drums all day… I always felt badly for her; successful, yet not happy.

  4. McGehee »

    3 March 2013 · 9:47 am

    (Keith Richards, after all, is still working at — what, 118?)

    Only if you measure his age in parsecs. Jut for fun I once reckoned his age in dog years using hexadecimal notation. It spelled a word that’s NSFW.

  5. nightfly »

    5 March 2013 · 12:45 pm

    Karen Carpenter’s story always broke my heart, even when I was a boy. Same thing with Natalie Wood. Their deaths were tragic, but of a special class to my young mind – just carelessly, extravagantly wasteful of talent and life. It always stuck with me in a particular way.

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