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Battle of the Biographies'

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Simon KC1950, May 6, 2017.

Which Carpenters biography is best ?

  1. "The Carpenters: The Untold Story" - Ray Coleman

    5 vote(s)
  2. "Little Girl Blue: The Life Of Karen Carpenter" - Randy L. Schmidt

    13 vote(s)
  1. Simon KC1950

    Simon KC1950 Active 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?
  2. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    By far Randy's book. It told a much truer story and didn't have that stifled, censored feel of the Coleman book.
  3. CraigGA

    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.
    Brian, song4u, Jeff and 1 other person like this.
  4. I couldn't agree more. I think one needs both to get the complete picture.
    song4u and Simon KC1950 like this.
  5. Song4uman

    Song4uman Active 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.
    Murray, Simon KC1950 and Jeff like this.
  6. GaryAlan

    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.'
  7. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    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: May 8, 2017
    Simon KC1950 likes this.
  8. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

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

    "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 ...."
    Simon KC1950 likes this.
  9. Murray

    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.
    song4u and Simon KC1950 like this.
  10. GaryAlan

    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 !
    Simon KC1950 likes this.
  11. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Active 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).
    Simon KC1950 likes this.
  12. newvillefan

    newvillefan 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.

    Last edited: May 8, 2017
  13. Ray Coleman also wrote the liner notes to the 1995/1996 compilation called REFLECTIONS.
    Simon KC1950 likes this.
  14. Carpe diem

    Carpe diem 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!
    Simon KC1950 likes this.
  15. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    I wish that was the photo on Live at the Palladiom.
    Simon KC1950 likes this.
  16. GaryAlan

    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).
    Simon KC1950 likes this.
  17. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    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.
  18. GaryAlan

    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 !
  19. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

  20. I think this might be the article you are referring to. It appeared in the Daily Mail Weekend supplement in April, 1994

  21. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    That's the one! Thanks for posting, so great to see it again after all these years :)

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