• The new Carpenters recording with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is now available. Use this link to order, and help us out at the same time. Thank you!

Battle of the Biographies

Which Carpenters biography is best ?

  • "The Carpenters: The Untold Story" - Ray Coleman

    Votes: 9 26.5%
  • "Little Girl Blue: The Life Of Karen Carpenter" - Randy L. Schmidt

    Votes: 25 73.5%

  • Total voters
    34

Simon KC1950

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Many books have been, and will be, written about the Carpenters. I feel the best are Ray Coleman's "The Untold Story" and Randy L. Schmidt's "Little Girl Blue".
These are both greatly detailed and span the entire life of Karen and Richard from their births, childhoods, stardom, illnesses and their modern day legacy. But which one is better ?
Here's some points to help you...
"The Untold Story" has the official authorized stamp from Richard and was written with his participation. As well as interviews and input with Herb Alpert, John Bettis, Paul Williams, Paul McCartney,Olivia Newton John, friends, family, people who worked with them and medical professionals.
it is 354 pages long, contains photos and a discography of singles and albums.
"Little Girl Blue" with help from Dionne Warwick, Olivia Newton John, Paul Williams, Evelyn Wallace, friends, family and people who worked with them. It has 351 pages, photos, a selected discography, a list with dates of selected television appearances, suggested reading and a bibliography with the sources of all interviews e.c.t

which one do you prefer and why?
 

CraigGA

Well-Known Member
I think Randy's book is complimentary to Ray Colemans's book. They are both great reads and I don't think Randy would have had his without the other already in place. I am sure there is still more to write about, but Randy chose to be honorable and only supply what he did. It was enough to give us the realistic picture on how a disease or addiction can strip a person's greatest values and assets in disguise. In Coleman's book, it gave the family perspective. I feel a fan would want to read both. One is a family's anguish and the other are circle of friend's anguish. Both are heartbreaking and Randy's left me emotionally numb for its realization. I remember a friend from years past telling me things over the phone he learned from visiting A&M and Randy's book gave those stories the missing perspective needed.
 

Geographer

Well-Known Member
I think Randy's book is complimentary to Ray Colemans's book. They are both great reads and I don't think Randy would have had his without the other already in place. I am sure there is still more to write about, but Randy chose to be honorable and only supply what he did. It was enough to give us the realistic picture on how a disease or addiction can strip a person's greatest values and assets in disguise. In Coleman's book, it gave the family perspective. I feel a fan would want to read both. One is a family's anguish and the other are circle of friend's anguish. Both are heartbreaking and Randy's left me emotionally numb for its realization. I remember a friend from years past telling me things over the phone he learned from visiting A&M and Randy's book gave those stories the missing perspective needed.
I couldn't agree more. I think one needs both to get the complete picture.
 

Song4uman

Well-Known Member
I like both, but I like Randy's best. Coleman was all we had for a long time, and while I think everyone always felt it told the story because Richard was involved (in control), I think that is the very thing that makes it not the best. Randy talked to friends and people who were willing to not let Richard be in control of what they said. "Blue" tells the true story.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
The Coleman Book--I felt, and still feel--is poorly written (considering Coleman as an established journalist).
And, we read the Author's Notes (Pages 335-339):
"She (Karen) was certainly not merely "singing the notes."
"The beauty of its texture...reached everyone who spoke to me...But, none more so than
Richard and his mother Agnes, who knew the special nature of Karen's gift but were rendered
powerless as they witnessed her decline."

The Schmidt Biography--to its credit--has a decent (10 page) Bibliography plus Further Reading List.
12 page Index for Schmidt (351 total pagination).
9 page Index for Coleman (354 pagination total).
In that the Coleman Biography is primarily a "Carpenters" biography,
whereas Schmidt focuses primarily on Karen Carpenter, they are , thus, complementary.
Be that as it may....Little Girl Blue is much better written.
Coupled with its more thorough Bibliography and Index, it gets my vote in this 'battle.'
 

Murray

Well-Known Member
The Coleman Book--I felt, and still feel--is poorly written (considering Coleman as an established journalist).
It couldn't have been an easy task for Mr. Coleman to put this book together, with Richard having editorial control. I can imagine Richard looking over the latest manuscript, with pen in hand... "You can't say this Ray, it makes me/Karen/mother look bad" (scratches out text), "this is none of the public's business" (scratches out text), "make sure you put this in the book, it makes me/Karen/mother look good" (writes text in margin). He can't have had much freedom to tell the story, anymore than the scriptwriter of the TV movie had.

I wonder how invested Mr. Coleman was in this book. Was he passionate about the subject matter, or was it just another paid gig - give the client (Richard) what he wants, collect the cheque, and move on to the next project? Did he ever do any promotion/interviews for the book? Would he have been allowed to? I remember seeing a TV interview with Richard promoting the book, and wondering "where is the author?".

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that we have the Coleman book, as it provides plenty of information that we might not have otherwise, but it leaves as many questions as it answers. Rather than "The Untold Story", it could have been titled "As Much of The Untold Story as Richard Carpenter is Comfortable With You Knowing". Honestly though, I really can't blame Richard for wanting to keep certain things private.

Randy's book, "Little Girl Blue", is an entirely different read. It's very evident that the subject is important to him. The book was a labour of love (he apparently researched Karen's life for 10 years or more), and his passion practically leaps off the pages. Overall, it's better written, and much more engaging. If I had to choose only one of the books, I would choose Randy's, but I'm happy that I don't have to choose.
 
Last edited:

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Here is an in-depth obituary of Mr. Coleman (d.9/10/1996):
Obituary: Ray Coleman

Excerpt:
"Ray Coleman became ill last summer and was found to have a rare form of cancer of the kidney.
He had the kidney removed and underwent intensive care and treatment. His wife, Pamela, says:
"He refused to admit defeat and carried on working. He loved to sit in our 17th-century thatched
cottage overlooking the sea near Land's End, writing and holding seven-hour phone conversations
with Richard Carpenter ...."
 

Murray

Well-Known Member
^^^
Well, that explains the absence of promotion on Mr. Coleman's part. I had no idea that he was seriously (terminally) ill while working on the book. We're very fortunate that he was able to finish it before he died.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
^^So true, Murray !
I remember when first I picked up (in 1994) a copy of Coleman's book--in an actual brick & mortar store--
I was thrilled to see something--anything--detailing Carpenters' career.
And, as with the 1988 Karen Carpenter Story TV Movie (which, at the time I was thrilled to watch),
best to appreciate that we have it at all !
Of course, only in retrospect do I find things to nitpick about....
but, overall it is nice that Coleman was able to finish the book at that time.
Besides, on no subject at all does it suffice to have only one book as representative of any topic !
The more, the merrier !
 

Rumbahbah

Well-Known Member
^^^
Well, that explains the absence of promotion on Mr. Coleman's part. I had no idea that he was seriously (terminally) ill while working on the book. We're very fortunate that he was able to finish it before he died.
I don't think he was while writing the biography, as it was originally published in mid-1994. He did do a couple of radio interviews in relation to it and I seem to recall he attended a UK fan convention after it was published (I'm sure a poster on this forum has mentioned having met him at it).
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
I remember the year the Coleman book came out I was at university and all my friends knew I was obsessed with the Carpenters. One of the UK newspapers had published a full double page spread about the book, with a truncated/serialised account of their story under the headline "Little Miss Innocent" (I think those were the words), which went on to tell how interefering and controlling Karen and her mother were in Richard's personal life. I remember a friend rushing over to me holding a copy of this article telling me I had to read it.

The picture they splashed across both pages was a shot of Karen on stage under the spotlight, looking up and beaming a smile while sitting on a stool wearing the outfit in the picture below. Thinking back now it looked like it was before/after she'd performed "From This Moment On", as it's the same sort of pose as in in other concert settings where she's sat down. I don't think I've seen it published since. It was a beautiful photo of her.

 
Last edited:

Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
I remember the year the Coleman book came out I was at university and all my friends knew I was obsessed with the Carpenters. One of the UK newspapers had published a full double page spread about the book, with a truncated/serialised account of their story under the headline "Little Miss Innocent" (I think those were the words), which went on to tell how interefering and controlling Karen and her mother were in Richard's personal life. I remember a friend rushing over to me holding a copy of this article telling me I had to read it.

The picture they splashed across both pages was a shot of Karen on stage under the spotlight, looking up and beaming a smile while sitting on a stool wearing the outfit in the picture below. Thinking back now it looked like it was before/after she'd performed "From This Moment On", as it's the same sort of pose as in in other concert settings where she's sat down. I don't think I've seen it published since. It was a beautiful photo of her.

There are more than a few photos of Karen that I would describe as "strikingly beautiful", this would have to be definitely one of them. What a radiant beauty!
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Page 56, of Coleman:
Lee Vail says, of Karen..."Her voice was real loud when she sang solos from the choir,
but it was true and right on."
Page 61, Coleman:
John Bettis says, of Richard..."His sense of humor, his wit,his image, is the farthest thing
from the way people perceive Richard."
Page 78, Coleman:
Henri Mancini...had been outnumbered when he voted for Karen as she played drums
and sang solo on
'For Once In My Life,' (Your All-American College Show,September 1969).
 

ullalume

Well-Known Member
I don't think he was while writing the biography, as it was originally published in mid-1994. He did do a couple of radio interviews in relation to it and I seem to recall he attended a UK fan convention after it was published (I'm sure a poster on this forum has mentioned having met him at it).
Hey Rumbahbah,

Yeah, that was me who met Coleman. . .and another chap on these boards was there as well. Coleman was a very nice guy.

I have to say I prefer his biography. There's a lot of information on their musical career, plus I actually think the man had the edge on Randy as a writer, what with his journalistic background and all.

Also, no disrespect intended to Randy, but he follows Coleman's chronological structure pretty closely, down to some of the moments he chose to end chapters/sections. I don't think there's anyway he could have really avoided this. He presumably devoured the book back in '93 and the chronology stuck. But Coleman came into this totally blind and crafted a brilliantly structured biography. Ostensibly Little Girl Blue takes this structure and wraps 2 extensive interviews with Itchie and Frenda around it.

I love 'em both, of course, and probably got to know Karen a little better in Randy's, but I prefer Ray's.

FYI, I think I got to know the real Karen the most by watching the hour of outtakes from MMM that was floating around the internet a decade or so ago.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
As an aside, I point out, I very much enjoy each Melody Maker Article authored by Coleman.
Those articles are exceptionally well written, and I often contrast those pieces with the later Biographic
Book. Thus, I have no doubt that Ray Coleman was passionate about Carpenters' career and has written
beautiful pieces about the duo....but, the book does not evidence the same.
I must concede that there is probably more to that book than ever made it into print,
coupled with some sloppy editing of certain paragraphs, which detract from the whole.
Otherwise, I can't really complain !
 

Mr. Guder

Member
I remember the year the Coleman book came out I was at university and all my friends knew I was obsessed with the Carpenters. One of the UK newspapers had published a full double page spread about the book, with a truncated/serialised account of their story under the headline "Little Miss Innocent" (I think those were the words), which went on to tell how interefering and controlling Karen and her mother were in Richard's personal life. I remember a friend rushing over to me holding a copy of this article telling me I had to read it.

The picture they splashed across both pages was a shot of Karen on stage under the spotlight, looking up and beaming a smile while sitting on a stool wearing the outfit in the picture below. Thinking back now it looked like it was before/after she'd performed "From This Moment On", as it's the same sort of pose as in in other concert settings where she's sat down. I don't think I've seen it published since. It was a beautiful photo of her.
I think this might be the article you are referring to. It appeared in the Daily Mail Weekend supplement in April, 1994

pg1
 

Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
I was going to start a new thread concerning Coleman's book but I did a "search" and got back to this one. This past Christmas, two of my daughters ponied-up and gave me a copy of Ray Coleman's book as a present. Usually I take an eternity to finish a book, but anything concerning the Carpenters in the written media gets quickly devoured. Much like Randy's book, I couldn't put it down until completed.

I am going against the grain here, but I thought Coleman's book was better, just based on how many more times I refer to it for information. I would say Ray's book is better researched. Very date specific, and the detail on individual events is amazing. The fact that Richard was a major contributor to the project and gave his "blessing" makes me believe that events described were more accurately reported due to his excellent memory and recall. That being said, I was shocked that the book was so candid concerning Richard and others - Especially delving into Richard's drug abuse/rehab. Also Karen's last years in therapy in New York is frightfully detailed. Just how close she was to death at Lennox Hill Hospital was a revelation to me.

I enjoy Randy's book as well and is written in a very compassionate point of view to our dear Karen, which I appreciate. And Randy's book expanded on the whole solo album fiasco in detail which I found compelling but is just glanced-over in Ray's book. Speaking of which, It seemed to me, kind of a drive-by trashing of Karen's solo work by Ray towards the conclusion of the book that was completely unnecessary.
 

Martin Medrano

Active Member
Hi
I wish Richard would publish a Illustrated detailed book on their Careerr.A kind of coffee styled table book which could include/Concert dates,Behind the scenes stories,Photos,People they met,Chart facts,etc.
This sounds like a great idea it would be nice to have something like this.
 

goodjeans

Well-Known Member
There are more than a few photos of Karen that I would describe as "strikingly beautiful", this would have to be definitely one of them. What a radiant beauty!
I have a strikingly beautiful pic to post that I had never seen before. If someone can tell me how I am happy to post.
 
Top Bottom