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Karen....a "Torch Singer"

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Hi everyone,
Can someone please clear up for me what a "torch singer" is. Apparently Bette Midler was a torch singer. Karen didn't like Bette's version of "Superstar" because it was done in torch style.
Is it because she was singing alto in pop music?

Thanks everyone!

<3 KC :goodie: :tongue:ig:


New Member
A torch singer is a blues/jazz/soul/pop singer (usually a woman) who specializes in ballads about how her lover done her wrong. Comes from the expression "to carry a torch for" someone.

Saying Bette's version was done in more of a torch style simply means that it was slower and more angst-ridden - picture a singer with a glass of whiskey and a cigarette in a smoky club at 2:00am.

I haven't ever heard that Karen didn't like Bette's version of Superstar. On the contrary, the story I always heared was that Richard heard Bette perform it on Johnny Carson, and was so impressed that he wanted to do a Carpenters version.

The problem was more the other way around - Bette was miffed that the Carpenters took the song and had such a big hit with it. For a period she made a lot of jokes about Karen's squeaky-clean image, though later she regretted that.

In particular, I remember Bette did an interview for Redbook magazine where she said she was young and foolish when she said those things about Karen, and that at the time she thought she was saying profound stuff, only to realize later on that saying things like that just adds to the unhappiness in the world.

mr J.

Active Member
I think "TORCH SINGER" could be loosely defined as a singer(male or female) of slow,smoky,melancholy ballads.Generally,it also refers to music that is heavily orchestrated and/or has elements of jazz and blues.As for Karen Carpenter,well,I think "Rainy Days and Mondays" provides positive evidence-Karen is quite the torch singer,par excellence!And,"Rainy Days" is probably one of the greatest torch songs ever done.I've never heard Bette Midler's version of "Superstar",so I can't comment on her style.I think Karen's version of "Superstar" might have been better in a torchier style,but it does show off her commanding vocal prowess very well.Another good example of "Torch" would be "Sometimes" from the selt-titled album.Great track!-something Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald would have done.There's alot of good "Torch" music scattered throughout most of Karen's albums.


New Member
mr J., I have to disagree with you about "Sometimes" - it's a wonderful song, and one of my favorites of all the songs the Carpenters ever recorded, but it would be a stretch to call it a torch song. It's wistful and sentimental, but torch songs are about unhappiness in love.

Two of the best torch song albums by mainstream popular singers in the last twenty years or so that come to mind are "Torch" by Carly Simon, and "2:00 AM Paradise Cafe" by Barry Manilow (Bette Midler's former piano player and arranger, bringing us full circle!). "Paradise Cafe" is an amazing album - one that even Barry-haters end up being captivated by.


I agree - PARADISE CAFE is Manilow's best work so far. I enjoyed it back in the Eighties on vinyl LP, but now I enjoy it even more on the digitally remastered CD. Pure music! :)

His second best work is HERE AT THE MAYFLOWER, in my opinion.

and when October goes.....


Well-Known Member
To me, the best example of torch singer is Helen Morgan from around 1940. Barbara Striesands version of Cry Me A River also comes to mind.

For Karen, she did not belt songs like these singers, but Ella and Julie London appear on many torch song lists, so if we use Mr. J's definition, songs like Ordinary Fool can apply. However, I have always felt like Rosemary Clooney and Karen compare in style, although I prefer Karen, for her voice hits a chord with me and Karen's phrasing was more unique.

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