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"Her drumming was not given more attention - the attention it deserved"

no1kandrfan

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Sheila E., Cindy Blackman Santana on the late Karen Carpenter's oft-forgotten legacy: 'Her drumming was not given more attention — the attention it deserved' (yahoo.com)

Forty years ago, on Feb. 4, 1983, Karen Carpenter, the dulcet-voiced singer of soft-rock sibling duo the Carpenters, died at the tragically young age of 32 from heart failure, a complication of the anorexia that she battled for most of her adult life and career. While the Carpenters were one of pop music's most successful recording artists, with more than 100 million records sold and 20 top 10 singles (including three No. 1’s), and Karen has long been hailed as one of the greatest vocalists of all time, only true music geeks have recognized her skills as drummer and percussionist — although that is changing, thanks to the internet.

“I don't know how that slipped by a lot of people. I mean, I always say it when people ask me about who was my first influence was, or about other women who played drums: The first person I always think of is Karen Carpenter,” legendary percussionist Sheila E. tells Yahoo Entertainment. Sheila enthusiastically recommends that the unaware, uninitiated, or unconvinced watch the many YouTube videos from the Carpenters’ NBC variety series and other TV appearances to witness Karen in action.


“She was the first woman that I saw playing drums. I was pretty young; I don't even think I was a teenager. I first saw her playing drums on television, and I told my dad, ‘Daddy, Daddy, look! There's a girl playing drums just like me, and she has a brother! How come we don't have a TV show?’” Sheila, who grew up in the famous Escovedo musical family, recalls with a chuckle. “She did this one scene in that show where she had the drums, percussion instruments, vibes, and she just kept going from instrument to instrument. This one piece that she put together, it was incredible. … She also played percussion-like vibes and Latin percussion. Every time I saw her perform on her show, she would do something a little bit special, so that people could see that she could play. She played as if she learned how to play in a drum corps. I mean, she did play drums on almost every episode of that show. Like, how could you not know that Karen Carpenter was an incredible drummer?”

Jazz-trained drumming phenomenon Cindy Blackman Santana — who has worked with Lenny Kravitz, Joss Stone, Pharoah Sanders, Cassandra Wilson, Buckethead, Bill Laswell, her husband Carlos, and many others — admits to Yahoo Entertainment that she was not aware of Karen’s skills until recently. “I'm just feeling remorseful for her that her drumming was not given more attention — the attention it deserved,” she says. “But I did happen to see a couple of years ago a video of her playing, and I was like, ‘Whoa, girl has some chops!’ She obviously put some time in on the drums, and I respect that. I found out that she liked [Dave Brubeck’s drummer] Joe Morello, and I checked out a video of her playing a sock cymbal, which she proudly got from Joe Morello, although it came from Papa Jo [Count Basie Orchestra pioneer Jo Jones]. But whether she realized that that came from Papa Jo or not, she was checking out the great history and lineage of the drums — which I completely respect. I could see that she obviously learned rudiments and put in the time in to be able to play them.”

The drums were in fact Karen Carpenter’s first passion, and not unlike Sheila and Cindy, she always considered herself a “drummer who sang.” She got her first drum kit, a present from her supportive parents, at age 14: a Ludwig, the same kit played her idols, Ringo Starr and Morello. She began studying the drums while attending Downey High School, joining the marching band and taking lessons from Benny Goodman/Art Tatum drummer Bill Douglass. Within a year, during which she practiced every day, she had learned traditional drumming techniques and complex jazz pieces like Brubeck’s “Take Five.”

Karen’s musical career began in her older brother’s jazz group the Richard Carpenter Trio, then alongside Richard in the pop sextet Spectrum, in which she also played drums. When the Carpenters duo formed, she was that band’s drummer as well, singing all of her vocals from behind her kit. But after playing almost all of the drums on the Carpenters’ 1969 debut album for A&M Records, there was a push to make her the group’s lead singer. (Both her brother and manager reasoned that it was difficult to see her petite frame behind her drums, and that she needed to be the focal point of the Carpenters’ live performances.) She took on that role hesitantly, and her drumming participation subsequently became greatly reduced. Then, as the Carpenters’ fame exploded, the constant scrutiny of Karen’s appearance contributed to the insecure, reluctant frontwoman developing the eating disorder that eventually resulted in her shocking death.

“When you get in the industry and you're singing and playing, you kind of get away from your drums. It becomes about pop, the popular music — what is a hit, what radio is playing. The focus is on the song, and it's not really on your instrument sometimes. I felt the same way. Like, at some point I felt like I was getting away from my drums, because I had to sing more in front — and sometimes even without my drums. I just thought it felt strange not always having my drums. And maybe Karen was put in that position as well,” muses Sheila. “It’s unfortunate that her low self-esteem, how she saw herself and the pressure of being out in the front and maybe not wanting to do that, took a toll on her. Some people aren't built to do that. I understand the pressure of it, for sure.”

“I think that for her to come out front and sing must have felt awkward,” Santana adds. “I know from me singing, I like to be behind the drums; it's my safe space. So, I can only imagine that it was probably like that for her too, because she obviously really dug the drums. I do think that stepping away from the drums and coming up front was a product of the commercialism of presenting a band and presenting songs, and just kind of the nature of the business in a way. And in terms of her being a drummer, that's unfortunate, because I think a lot of people have sorely missed the fact that she was proficient at her instrument. And I think that's important for people to know that.”

Over the years, many naysayers actually doubted Karen’s skills on the occasions when they saw her behind the kit. “A lot of people thought that she wasn't really playing. Sometimes they had two drummers, because [renowned session musician] Hal Blaine was in their band. So, some people might have been saying, ‘Well, that's really Hal — it's not her!’” says Santana. But while Karen did not drum on every Carpenters recording and Blaine played on most of the duo’s studio sessions when Karen did not play drums herself, Santana stresses, “She was playing, and there are clips with just her that are amazing. … I really hope the clips out there continue to bring more light to her as a drummer.”

But Santana continues: “However, some of the videos that I saw with her, they looked to me to be — and how can I word this, because I'm not putting her down — but in terms of the business, they looked as though they were done in the fashion that would make her as a woman playing drums ‘acceptable.’ Like, kind of commercial, or almost cheesy. If you look past that, if you look at her hands, you see that the woman could play, but definitely historically, there's been this thing about women playing drums, and it's not always been very positive. … There is that element of gimmick or cheese or novelty when it comes to women. I feel has been waning, which is a good thing. And I'm hoping that an article like this will inspire young women to play because they love it too.”

Unlike Santana, Sheila was obviously aware of Karen’s drumming talents when she herself was a young woman — but unfortunately, Sheila never got the chance to cross paths with her childhood role model, because Karen passed away one year before Sheila’s own star started to rise with the release of her 1984 debut album, The Glamorous Life.

“Oh, that was heartbreaking,” Sheila says of Karen’s death. “Especially because as a woman, being a percussionist/drummer/singer, the pressure of playing a so-called man's instrument can be very challenging as a woman. I don't know if she ever got that type of energy, because I would've loved to ask her that question. My question to her would be, did she have to feel that she needed to prove herself as a drummer, a ‘woman who could play drums,’ or just as a great musician? You know: ‘Were you in a position where men would say certain things to you? Did you get scrutinized being a woman, because people usually didn't see a lot of women playing drums?’ That would be something that I would've asked her.

“She just happened to be a woman, but she was an incredible musician. She was an incredible drummer. And her chops, the things that she played on drums and percussion… to be able to play vibes as well, musically, and playing jumps — I mean, she was not faking what she was doing. That was real,” Sheila continues emphatically. “Those rudiments and different rhythms and things that she had played, I can't play, not to this day. I cannot play the things that she played. Absolutely not.”

There was a time, especially after the ‘70s ended, when the Carpenters didn’t get respect in general and were dismissed as lite-AM-radio shlock — which probably partially stemmed from the above-mentioned misogynistic attitude towards Karen in general. But the critical tide started to turn in the ‘90s — especially when alternative rock artists like Sheryl Crow, Sonic Youth, the Cranberries, Shonen Knife, 4 Non Blondes, Cracker, Matthew Sweet, and Redd Kross contributed covers to 1994's acclaimed Carpenters tribute album If I Were a Carpenter — and continued with the soft-rock revival of the 2000s.

“When you hear the production and what they were able to do with these harmonies and vocals and just musically, it was incredible. I think it's amazing now that people are listening to their music more and bringing that forth,” says Sheila. “A good song is a good song, and you can definitely resurface these songs in a way that you'll be going, ‘Oh my God, I totally forgot about that song! It's an incredible song!’” Santana adds: “Their songs were very simplistic, but I don't mean that in a dumbing-down kind of way. I mean in a very wholesome way. … You listen to those songs and they're telling stories, life stories, heartfelt stories. So, if there's revival, I think that's cool.”

And that revival has led many a new fan down a YouTube rabbit hole, bringing new attention to Karen’s sometimes-forgotten legacy as a skilled drummer — which is possibly the way Karen herself would most want to be remembered.

“Just go on YouTube and do the research, and you're going to be shocked,” says Sheila. “If anyone wants to know more about Karen as a drummer, there are so many clips of her from the variety show, especially that one clip of her playing all the instruments. She went from one jump to another in a circle, and she just played everything so well. And that's a lot of work, the arrangements, for her to play all that. It was beautiful to see. She was an incredible drummer — and I'm not saying a ‘woman drummer.’ She was an incredible drummer, musician, artist, singer, producer, arranger. She just happened to be a beautiful woman doing what she loved to do.”
 
Karen was a well-schooled rudimentary, jazz drummer! (that is to say, tons of technique) And that makes sense; look who her teacher and influences were!! Bill Douglas, Joe Morello and arguably the greatest rudimentary jazz drummer ever, Buddy Rich! She was influenced and learning from the best of the best! And you could easily hear it in her drumming.

If I may, I'd like to relay a cute story I read, that happened during the early days of Spectrum, that I’m sure many of you have read. Apparently, the group was setting up to record at the United Audio Recording Studio when a sound engineer saw this very young girl setting up a drum set and said, “Your boyfriend has you trained well, huh.” “What”, she asked? “Are you setting up your boyfriend’s drums?” To which she replied, “No, I’m the drummer.”

I love that story!
 
Sheila E., Cindy Blackman Santana on the late Karen Carpenter's oft-forgotten legacy: 'Her drumming was not given more attention — the attention it deserved' (yahoo.com)

“She just happened to be a woman, but she was an incredible musician. She was an incredible drummer. And her chops, the things that she played on drums and percussion… to be able to play vibes as well, musically, and playing jumps — I mean, she was not faking what she was doing. That was real,” Sheila continues emphatically. “Those rudiments and different rhythms and things that she had played, I can't play, not to this day. I cannot play the things that she played. Absolutely not.”
For someone like Sheila E. to make this observation is really remarkable. One of the things I regret about their career is that Karen was not allowed to keep on drumming. They make several astute observations about this in the article, including the speculation that, when she lost her safe place behind her beloved drums, she lost her sense of what it meant to be herself. And, that may have marked the beginning of the end for her.
 
Kudos to Sheila E and Cindy Blackman Santana for this interview. Karen Carpenter was a tremendously gifted drummer who, like most drummers had her own style. Karen’s style was a result of a studying rudiments, great jazz influence choices and great time keeping. I believe three things. I obviously didn’t know KC and I have no training about the human psyche. What I do know is that when Karen was simultaneously drumming and singing, she was doing 5 things at the same time. This is extremely hard to do and one of those things she was doing better than anyone else in the entire world. I mean, just absorb that for a minute. Another thought I had was, take a look at her drumming/singing performances. She was happiest when she was drumming. It seemed to calm her very essence. I also believe that her talent with time keeping had to have positively contributed in some part to her legato and impeccable phrasing with singing as well. Lastly, I was eight (8) years behind Karen Carpenter in age and I began drumming at age 14. When I began drumming, no one made me feel like it was not a girl thing. Karen Carpenter for sure paved the way for us. For all of these reasons, yes. I 100% agree that we should give her even more attention for her drumming.
 
For someone like Sheila E. to make this observation is really remarkable. One of the things I regret about their career is that Karen was not allowed to keep on drumming. They make several astute observations about this in the article, including the speculation that, when she lost her safe place behind her beloved drums, she lost her sense of what it meant to be herself. And, that may have marked the beginning of the end for her.
The only thing I'd point out with your observation is the line "was not allowed" to keep drumming. I'm puzzled by this even up to today given she recorded an entire solo album + outakes and didn't drum on it. If the solo album was supposed to be self-titled and give her a platform to be herself, why doesn't she drum on it assuming she loved drumming more than singing? Not trying turn this into yet another solo album discussion, but the "was not allowed" line struck me odd as at any point I'm sure she could have asserted herself more in this area but at some level chose not to.
 
I agree completely here, Geographer. I don’t believe that Karen did anything she wasn’t ultimately in concert with.
 
I agree Geograher and didn’t they even portray that in the KCS on tv?

It always seemed odd that someone who loved drumming completely abandoned the drums even on her solo album of which she had full control.
 
This may be for any number of reasons, however wasn’t she getting pretty tired in the late 70s …didn’t they say she was resting a lot. If she wasn’t actively keeping her chops up l, perhaps her public drumming wouldn’t have met her high standards. Idk just makes sense to me as one possibility.
 
The only thing I'd point out with your observation is the line "was not allowed" to keep drumming. I'm puzzled by this even up to today given she recorded an entire solo album + outakes and didn't drum on it. If the solo album was supposed to be self-titled and give her a platform to be herself, why doesn't she drum on it assuming she loved drumming more than singing? Not trying turn this into yet another solo album discussion, but the "was not allowed" line struck me odd as at any point I'm sure she could have asserted herself more in this area but at some level chose not to.
I have always believed (and the women quoted in the article touch on this) that the powers that be felt Karen's greatest strength was her voice, and also being seen by the audience as a star. And not just a star, but a feminine one. They insisted that couldn't happen with her behind the drums. This is well documented. I think Karen, like Richard, was driven to succeed. So she reluctantly gave up her spot behind the drums to do whatever it took to succeed. But I don't believe for one moment that she was happy about it. And I think she lost an essential part of herself when she traded in her drumsticks for the front-stage microphone. I don't expect everyone to agree with my opinion, and I know I may not be right. But it is what I have believed for a long time now. After all, Karen saw herself as a drummer who sang. I think one of the reasons she was such a good singer is because she was such a good drummer. But that's often overlooked because of her unique singing talent.
 
In the 60s my brother & I were big jazz buffs and bought and spent hours & hours listening to the albums of the Dave Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond on sax and Joe Morello on drums. We were always fascinated by the unusual and difficult rhythms they used in their pieces - little did we know that a supertalented young lady in California was not only listening also, but had figured them out on her own, and was playing along with her idol like a seasoned pro...life is good!
 
This may be for any number of reasons, however wasn’t she getting pretty tired in the late 70s …didn’t they say she was resting a lot. If she wasn’t actively keeping her chops up l, perhaps her public drumming wouldn’t have met her high standards. Idk just makes sense to me as one possibility.
Karen's eating disorders and subsequent exhaustion developed after she made the decision to move to the front of the stage. So they didn't cause that decision. But you are correct that later on, they certainly would have played a role in preventing her from taking up the drums again. She's quoted in the 1977 Billboard article, "Surprise" by the Carpenters (Ed Harrison):
Karen, since the last two albums, has ceased playing drums to allow her to concentrate on singing. "Richard wanted a stronger sound," she says, "and I no longer have the strength."​
 
... What I do know is that when Karen was simultaneously drumming and singing, she was doing 5 things at the same time. This is extremely hard to do and one of those things she was doing better than anyone else in the entire world. I mean, just absorb that for a minute.

Beautifully stated @Nemily...been trying to fully absorb that for 50+ years...

Another thought I had was, take a look at her drumming/singing performances. She was happiest when she was drumming.

Not just happy - ecstatic! She was, as the old saying has it, in 7th heaven!
 
I have always believed (and the women quoted in the article touch on this) that the powers that be felt Karen's greatest strength was her voice, and also being seen by the audience as a star. And not just a star, but a feminine one. They insisted that couldn't happen with her behind the drums. This is well documented. I think Karen, like Richard, was driven to succeed. So she reluctantly gave up her spot behind the drums to do whatever it took to succeed. But I don't believe for one moment that she was happy about it. And I think she lost an essential part of herself when she traded in her drumsticks for the front-stage microphone. I don't expect everyone to agree with my opinion, and I know I may not be right. But it is what I have believed for a long time now. After all, Karen saw herself as a drummer who sang. I think one of the reasons she was such a good singer is because she was such a good drummer. But that's often overlooked because of her unique singing talent.

I actually had posted a similar (though shorter) comment that made your same points, a few days ago, but opted to delete it almost right away. Thanks for your post - I agree with everything you say here.

I think it's important to emphasize that there's nothing in your post that cannot be backed up by the words of the artists themselves, along with many others, so there's no real "speculation" here; it's what happened.
 
I actually had posted a similar (though shorter) comment that made your same points, a few days ago, but opted to delete it almost right away. Thanks for your post - I agree with everything you say here.

I think it's important to emphasize that there's nothing in your post that cannot be backed up by the words of the artists themselves, along with many others, so there's no real "speculation" here; it's what happened.
Thanks for saying this. I'm sorry you deleted your post. I would have loved to have read it!
 
To the issue of why Karen reduced the amount of drumming she did during her music career, I think we have to acknowledge the fact that very talented singers are much more valuable and marketable than very talented drummers.

You can listen to a song and think, "That's Stevie Nicks," or "That's Elton John," or "That's Karen Carpenter."

But you can listen to a song and not have any idea who the drummer is because hundreds, even thousands, of drummers could have conceivably generated the drumming sound in the song.

My favorite rock group is Jethro Tull, fronted by singer and songwriter and flute player Ian Anderson. Ian Anderson once mentioned that every bass player who has ever played on Jethro Tull records has used a Fender bass, implying that you can't really tell who is playing bass on Jethro Tull records without looking up the musician credits unless you know the history of the band and know when Glen Cornick left and was replaced by Jeffrey Hammond and when Jeffrey Hammond was replaced by John Glascock and on and on.

Don Henley, of the Eagles, was like Karen Carpenter, a drummer who sang. But the Eagles also had Glen Frey, a singer, and latter had Joe Walsh, who sang "In the City" and also had Timothy B. Schmit, who sang "I Can't Tell You Why."

Phil Collins played drums and sang for the group Genesis. But when I saw Genesis on tour in 1983, Phil Collins was out front and didn't do any drumming. The drums were performed by someone who's name I can't remember.

I hate to say it but very good drummers are a dime a dozen. Great singers like Karen Carpenter are very rare. That's why Karen Carpenter's singing didn't get the attention it deserved, I think.
 
To the issue of why Karen reduced the amount of drumming she did during her music career, I think we have to acknowledge the fact that very talented singers are much more valuable and marketable than very talented drummers.

You can listen to a song and think, "That's Stevie Nicks," or "That's Elton John," or "That's Karen Carpenter."

But you can listen to a song and not have any idea who the drummer is because hundreds, even thousands, of drummers could have conceivably generated the drumming sound in the song.

My favorite rock group is Jethro Tull, fronted by singer and songwriter and flute player Ian Anderson. Ian Anderson once mentioned that every bass player who has ever played on Jethro Tull records has used a Fender bass, implying that you can't really tell who is playing bass on Jethro Tull records without looking up the musician credits unless you know the history of the band and know when Glen Cornick left and was replaced by Jeffrey Hammond and when Jeffrey Hammond was replaced by John Glascock and on and on.

Don Henley, of the Eagles, was like Karen Carpenter, a drummer who sang. But the Eagles also had Glen Frey, a singer, and latter had Joe Walsh, who sang "In the City" and also had Timothy B. Schmit, who sang "I Can't Tell You Why."

Phil Collins played drums and sang for the group Genesis. But when I saw Genesis on tour in 1983, Phil Collins was out front and didn't do any drumming. The drums were performed by someone who's name I can't remember.

I hate to say it but very good drummers are a dime a dozen. Great singers like Karen Carpenter are very rare. That's why Karen Carpenter's singing didn't get the attention it deserved, I think.
Typo.
That's why Karen Carpenter's drumming didn't the get the attention it deserved, is what I meant, of course.
 
Sing,

All interesting and very good points that went well with my French roast coffee this morning. “Karen’s drumming was beautiful… But Karen’s voice was arguably her gift to the world.” (The same thing for singer Nat King Cole who also played very fine piano)

But singing is so special. One can’t go to a voice teacher and say, “I want you to teach me to sound like Karen Carpenter or Nat King Cole, or any other vocalist, because the voice is such an individual and special gift that can’t be taught.

It only makes sense that, sooner or later, Karen would have to come to grips with where her enormous talent was. Early on, she must have thought it was more in her drumming then her voice, until her voice matured. (Ironically, people bought 100 million records, not to hear what got her started in the music business, but rather to hear her voice)

I know it’s been discussed ad nauseum but it's hard to imagine how difficult it must have been for this young artist to be directed to stop playing drums and just stand center-stage holding nothing but a microphone. It pains me to think how awkward and unfulfilling that must have felt. It was a good compromise though (for Karen and the audience), to “feature” her on drums, rolled on and off stage by the stage-crew.

BTW, I saw Jethro Tull (who opened for another band ??) in early 1970s. A great experience.
 
Concert on BBC in 1971 - soon after Karen & Richard had come to an agreement that she would only need to come out from behind her treasured drum kit to sing the slow songs - on this show she did that to perform SUPERSTAR, RAINY DAYS AND MONDAYS and FOR ALL WE KNOW - at some point for some reason she stopped doing this and started spending all her time out front - I'm not sure if there's ever been an explanation - maybe because she was getting too weak to do both, or because they were paying another drummer to fill in and wanted to get their money's worth, or ???

During the BBC show she sounded great and looked as healthy and happy as we may have ever seen her - check her out on this simple, delightful song, especially between about 1:25 & 1:40 or so, surrounded by 3 musician band members - pause this scene - I personally would have loved to see scenes like this never end - she never had to stop doing this - all she would have had to say to all those urging her to get out front was "screw you, I'm staying put!
Her audience would have had to understand and accept it - if not, too bad, but it was Karen's comfort & happiness that mattered, not that of the faceless fans in the audience...


 
Concert on BBC in 1971 - soon after Karen & Richard had come to an agreement that she would only need to come out from behind her treasured drum kit to sing the slow songs - on this show she did that to perform SUPERSTAR, RAINY DAYS AND MONDAYS and FOR ALL WE KNOW - at some point for some reason she stopped doing this and started spending all her time out front - I'm not sure if there's ever been an explanation - maybe because she was getting too weak to do both, or because they were paying another drummer to fill in and wanted to get their money's worth, or ???
I think it's been pretty well documented that Richard and the powers that be felt Karen wasn't a powerful enough drummer and, since she was the star of the show, people wanted to see her out front and not behind her drums. So she had been pressured for a long time to go out front ... and not just for the ballads. Her largely giving up the drums predated her eating disorders, and so she would have been strong enough to play. It's just that the pressure was on for her to move to the front of the stage. Later on, I'm sure that her eating disorders took a toll on her strength. She even admitted in a 1977 interview that she was not strong enough to play powerfully.

Randy Schmidt's book, Yesterday Once More, contains lots of interviews of Karen and Richard over the years, in which Karen talked about this. But she never went into a lot of detail about what giving up drums meant to her. She did address it in a 1975 interview in Melody Maker, "Carpenters – Good, Clean, All-American Aggro" by Ray Coleman:

People will ask me, "Is it hard to play and sing at the same time?" No, because it was something that just came naturally, and for the first year and a half to two years we were on the road, I played the whole show and I never thought twice about it.​
I didn't need anyone to do my playing, just like I didn't need anybody to do my singing. But as we got bigger and Richard started to realize that there had to be somebody fronting the group, I happened to be the only girl in the group who was doing the lead singing, everybody was looking at me.​
And I said to Richard: "Oh, no you don't," because it hurt me that I had to get up and be up front. I didn't want to give up my playing. So singing was an accident. Singing seriously came long after the drums.​
 
The first Carpenters show I saw had Karen on the drums for what I'd call the first act. Then, as I recall from 50 years ago, Richard "invited" her to leave the drums and come out front and sing. This brought a big applause from the audience who naturally had a hard time seeing this lead singer while she was placed behind the drum kit. I believe she stayed out there for most of the rest of the show - may have gone back to the drums for a song or two toward the end.

Don't shoot me for a fading memory.
 
I think it's been pretty well documented that Richard and the powers that be felt Karen wasn't a powerful enough drummer...It's just that the pressure was on for her to move to the front of the stage
Maybe she wasn't as "powerful" as the male drummers who filled in for her, but the key question is: just how powerful did she have to be, given the soft pop/rock nature of most of their songs - she had all of the required "chops" to play jazz or rock or pop - I would have loved to see what she could have done with even the so-called "power ballads" like GOODBYE TO LOVE or I JUST FALL IN LOVE AGAIN or WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE...I think she could have handled anything they ever played/recorded...I believe "the powers that be" may have had ulterior motives...

As far as the "pressure" she could have cut that off real quick, and permanently - she was the Superstar and had tremendous power in her own hands - all she had to do was assert herself and say "no" - what the hell was anybody going to do?


Randy Schmidt's book, Yesterday Once More, contains lots of interviews of Karen and Richard over the years, in which Karen talked about this. But she never went into a lot of detail about what giving up drums meant to her. She did address it in a 1975 interview in Melody Maker, "Carpenters – Good, Clean, All-American Aggro" by Ray Coleman:

People will ask me, "Is it hard to play and sing at the same time?" No, because it was something that just came naturally, and for the first year and a half to two years we were on the road, I played the whole show and I never thought twice about it.​
I didn't need anyone to do my playing, just like I didn't need anybody to do my singing. But as we got bigger and Richard started to realize that there had to be somebody fronting the group, I happened to be the only girl in the group who was doing the lead singing, everybody was looking at me.​
And I said to Richard: "Oh, no you don't," because it hurt me that I had to get up and be up front. I didn't want to give up my playing. So singing was an accident. Singing seriously came long after the drums.​
Thanks for quoting that - I had read that before and it's good to see it all again. God, how I wish I had been her manager - there would have been hell to pay at A & M...
 
The first Carpenters show I saw had Karen on the drums for what I'd call the first act. Then, as I recall from 50 years ago, Richard "invited" her to leave the drums and come out front and sing. This brought a big applause from the audience who naturally had a hard time seeing this lead singer while she was placed behind the drum kit. I believe she stayed out there for most of the rest of the show - may have gone back to the drums for a song or two toward the end.

Don't shoot me for a fading memory.
Lucky you - I never saw them in person - can't remember what the hell else I was doing that was more important - must have been "wasting away in Margueriteaville"... :)
 
Yes, I saw them twice at Philadelphia's Academy Of Music, then twice at Valley Forge Music Fair, and a final time at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.
 
The first two were similar - just shows with their popular songs of the day and a little demonstration of how they stacked their harmonies on "Ticket To Ride". They added some non-album stuff like "Cinderella Rockefeller" and "Sacre Bleu, I Fell In Love With You"

The Valley Forge shows featured the oldies medley a good bit, and they brought in Pete Henderson from the opening act to help out. You can hear pretty much the first of these concerts on the LIVE IN JAPAN album. The second one souped up the oldies by adding the Grease stuff.

By the time of the Mann concerts, they had revamped the show (Ken & Mitzi Welch) to start out like the LIVE AT THE PALLADIUM show with Richard's intro first followed by Karen's, and then the Warsaw Concerto by Richard and the drumming exhibition by Karen.
 
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