Thursday, August 8, 2013


As we continue to reflect back on our common experience at Vanderbilt back during the late 1960s and early '70s (especially the music of that era), no one single group may have created its own unique sound style better (and certainly sold more records in 1970s) than Carpenters.

Notice I said Carpenters without using a "The." That's the way Richard and Karen decided to do it when the group started. They reportedly thought it was "hipper" that way and it followed some other rock groups of the period such as Buffalo Springfield and Jefferson Airplane.

Carpenters created 30 singles during their career. Of that number, ten were certified gold and twenty-two peaked in the top ten on the Adult Contemporary rankings of the time. The duo had three number one hit singles and five number two hits on the rock charts, i.e., the Billboard Top 100. They won three Grammys and their overall album and single sales totaled more than 100 million units by 2005.

But it wasn't easy getting to the top and it took the legendary Herb Alpert of A&M Records (and of Tiaquana Brass) fame to see their talents and launch their career. Carpenters had their greatest run of success while we were at Vanderbilt beginning with their first #1 hit, "(They Long to Be) Close to You" in the summer of 1970 followed by their signature song "We've Only Just Begun". Here are both songs.....

"Close to You"....

"We've Only Just Begun"....

You might wonder why "We've Only Just Begun" became Carpenters signature song since it was never #1 on the charts (losing out to the Jackson Five and then the Patridge Family). It's probably because the song (which Richard Carpenter first heard in a local TV bank commercial) became an athemn for young couples to use as a part of their wedding vows back in the 1970s. Karen Carpenter had such a distinctive, unmistakable voice. Along with Richard Carpenter's arrangements created a special musical group whose success was cut tragically short by Karen's early death from an eating disorder at the age of 32 in 1983.

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