• Two exciting new Carpenters releases are now available. The new book Carpenters: The Musical Legacy can be ordered here. A big thanks to the authors and Richard Carpenter for their tremendous effort in compiling this book! Also, the new solo piano album Richard Carpenter's Piano Songbook is available for ordering here.

Sadness, melancholy

cam89

Well-Known Member
I can still see myself with big headphones, leaning and sitting against the wall, hidden between the organ and our bookshelf which held our record player and 8-Track. I was 15 and having a hard time with life. I was gangly, geeky and didn't have a lot of friends although I could be very friendly and outgoing. As an Indigenous person in a non Indigenous community (I was adopted into a white home when I was 6 to move me out of a bad situation into a worse situation within my adopted home. We kept silent...music was MY ESCAPE)...and I remember first listening to the 8-Track of The Singles 1969-1973 with a tiny photo on the back, of two long haired men LOL (it was Karen and Richard but the photo was tiny on the back of the 8-Track) but the music that came out was melancholy and beautiful to me....Ticket To Ride, Rainy Days...Superstar....Yesterday Once More....Goodbye to Love. Although I don't really care for Goodbye to Love now....back then I could so relate to it....the part of "No one ever cared if I should live or die..." Her voice kind of summed up how I was feeling, being happy on the outside but struggling deeply on the inside. That is why I really love the next albums I heard Voice of the Heart and A Kind of Hush...just beautiful singing that pierced my soul....and then I bought in Sept 1988 the Close To You lp and loved it. My fave tracks were Maybe It's You, Baby It's You, Crescent Noon and Another Song....the following Aug I was visiting Winnipeg (our dad was removed from the adopted home for an investigation which saw him eventually jailed and our adopted mother moved us kids to Saskatchewan)I had bought the lp CARPENTERS 1971 tan album and I could relate to the sad songs One Love and A Place to Hideay...my sister in Winnipeg who had been placed in a foster home came to visit me and we talked and cried all night long listening to the CARPENTERS tan album....ha ha ha...we were pretty emotional talking about our childhood and subsequent adoption....about 1992 I finally bought my least fave Carpenters albums A Song For You, Ticket To Ride, Horizon and Passage....although of those 4, Horizon would be the one I enjoyed the most. I enjoyed Now and Then which I bought in a tape bin at Zeller's for about 3 or 4 dollars (in 1988 money).....so for me, I really relate to her sadder songs....but I also enjoy songs about hope too!
 

Mike Cidoni Lennox

Well-Known Member
They had a few other #1's around the world, so they did have more than 8 #1's. I was just reading Carpenters All The Top 40 Hits by Craig Halstead (Createspace, 2021 4th Edition), and he was looking at charts from 19 countries including the US, Canada (before 2000---he couldn't find any charts since RPM ceased in 1999 except the Billboard), Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and Zimbabwe (Rhodesia). He occasionally mentions other countries, like Malaysia where, I think it was "I Need To Be In Love" hit at least #2, but between it hitting #2 and it's final week at #8, there are 6 weeks of charts missing, so it might've even been a #1 in those 6 weeks.
God bless Craig. His book was so invaluable. I regret not giving him a bigger shout out in ours. Bravo, Craig! Every Carpenters fan ... XOXO
 

geo100000

New Member
The posts here are all validating. Songs have meanings that are unique to each individual. A song heard by one going through a trying or challenging time may resonate that way while just the opposite for one in a more upbeat mood. The take away I have is that music has the ability to transcend our experiences further.
 

Chris

Well-Known Member
..and these are people who likely have not attached any kind of psychological motivation to what they hear. When I hear this plaintive tone/phrasing of hers I’m thinking and feeling different things within the context of the lyric and music, but my mind isn’t going to “oh, well we know how much anguish she felt her whole life so I’m going to project that onto what I hear to give it more meaning”. It’s a flurry of complexity with effortless expression that I instinctively respond to. I could know nothing of her personal life and come to this same conclusion.

I don’t know you in the slightest beyond what I’m reading here and perhaps you are a fully fulfilled, genuinely happy guy, but I think it’s those with a melancholy core themselves that respond so powerfully and truthfully to such a vocal tone on a song that would seemingly suggest otherwise.
You might hear it on Superstar because the mise en scene is highlighting this darker undercurrent, whereas WOJB or CTY you don’t hear this because it’s lyrically something that’s brighter. This is complicated further by the fact that even the arrangements on the latter two songs I think are framing and suggesting something “off” about the supposed sunny simplicity of the words we hear. But all I know is my own psychology enough between the two of us, though broadly speaking, this is what I tend to notice about what certain brains pick up on nuances that others don’t in specific contexts.

Jarred, thanks for this. You clarify and expand on what I was trying to say and much more eloquently than I ever could. The melancholy feelings I get from parts of We've Only Just Begun are not from any kind of logical assessment of the song and lyrics, nor were they from any knowledge of Karen's personal story. And just so no one thinks I'm completely out there :laugh:, of course I hear joy and celebration in the song as well, particularly in the chorus.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts on all this, and apologies to Mike and Chris, as I know we've gotten this thread a bit off topic from the discussion of the book. Glad to be part of this thoughtful group and the great love of Carpenters.
 
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JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
I don't see how anyone could find sandness [sadness] or melancholy in "Top of the World".
Well Shalom, I can assure you "it's in there", somewhere and somehow - at least that's what we'll be told, even though neither you nor I can detect one, single, minuscule, subatomic particle of it - you and I mistakenly think it's a happy, feel good, upbeat, positive, exuberant song, but apparently we're misguided and somewhat delusional - and this wrong-headed reaction of ours is "the reaction" that some people like to muse about - and here's where we go wrong, and here's the twisted logic involved that explains it all: you see the more exuberant a song appears to be on the surface the more this is just an aural illusion, because down underneath it's actually inundated or swamped with oodles of sadness and bunches of melancholy - so, therefore, since TOTW is even more upbeat and positive than even WOJB, (in our distorted way of thinking) by this reverse logic and special reasoning (not available to everyone) TOTW must certainly contain somewhere in it's core or essence measurably more sadness or melancholy than WOJB - in fact, it may be one of the saddest songs the Carps ever recorded - somehow we're going to have to learn to detect this and feel the correct emotion - now, I hope you followed my upside down and backward thought processes here, because I'm hoping you can explain it all back to me :)
 
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Geographer

Well-Known Member
Well Shalom, I can assure you "it's in there", somewhere and somehow - at least that's what we'll be told, even though neither you nor I can detect one, single, minuscule, subatomic particle of it - you and I mistakenly think it's a happy, feel good, upbeat, positive, exuberant song, but apparently we're misguided and somewhat delusional - and this wrong-headed reaction of ours is "the reaction" that some people like to muse about - and here's where we go wrong, and here's the twisted logic involved that explains it all: you see the more exuberant a song appears to be on the surface the more this is just an aural illusion, because down underneath it's actually inundated or swamped with oodles of sadness and bunches of melancholy - so, therefore, since TOTW is even more upbeat and positive than even WOJB, (in our distorted way of thinking) by this reverse logic and special reasoning (not available to everyone) TOTW must certainly contain somewhere in it's core or essence measurably more sadness or melancholy than WOJB - in fact, it may be one of the saddest songs the Carps ever recorded - somehow we're going to have to learn to detect this and feel the correct emotion - now, I hope you followed my upside down and backward thought processes here, because I'm hoping you can explain it all back to me :)
And don't even get me started on how depressing "Sing" is. Is there a more sad and downtrodden song in their cannon?
 

cam89

Well-Known Member
I always found it interesting how certain songs mirrored another almost like bookends or backward bookends....

Aurora....Eventide....perfect alignment
Boat to Sail....Sailing on the Tide....made for each other...
Superstar....Druscilla Penny....
We've Only Just Begun....For All We Know....(For All we know should come first, the uncertainty, then We've only Just Begun....a decision of hopefulness has been made).
Sing...I Can't Make Music (both on the same album)
 

Chris

Well-Known Member
Well Shalom, I can assure you "it's in there", somewhere and somehow - at least that's what we'll be told, even though neither you nor I can detect one, single, minuscule, subatomic particle of it - you and I mistakenly think it's a happy, feel good, upbeat, positive, exuberant song, but apparently we're misguided and somewhat delusional - and this wrong-headed reaction of ours is "the reaction" that some people like to muse about - and here's where we go wrong, and here's the twisted logic involved that explains it all: you see the more exuberant a song appears to be on the surface the more this is just an aural illusion, because down underneath it's actually inundated or swamped with oodles of sadness and bunches of melancholy - so, therefore, since TOTW is even more upbeat and positive than even WOJB, (in our distorted way of thinking) by this reverse logic and special reasoning (not available to everyone) TOTW must certainly contain somewhere in it's core or essence measurably more sadness or melancholy than WOJB - in fact, it may be one of the saddest songs the Carps ever recorded - somehow we're going to have to learn to detect this and feel the correct emotion - now, I hope you followed my upside down and backward thought processes here, because I'm hoping you can explain it all back to me :)

I haven't seen comments from anyone stating that others are "wrong" for their perceptions or opinions, JohnFB. There is no correct or incorrect way you or any of us should experience the music. Just because I share what I felt when hearing these songs, and even as a young boy I felt that way about some of them, doesn't mean I'm trying to define the recordings as a whole with some certain inherent quality for others. It's wonderful when someone finds great joy in their music. I have never made fun of others for their feelings and thoughts on the Carpenters recordings, yet several others seem to take delight in doing that, I see.

Listening to the Carpenters is a layered and varied experience in my opinion. Ultimately I find great pleasure and comfort in their sound and songs. If they were 'one note' type of artists without all those layers to their sound and performances, I doubt I'd find them so brilliant and endearing.
 

Matthew Smith

Well-Known Member
I haven't seen comments from anyone stating that others are "wrong" for their perceptions or opinions, JohnFB. There is no correct or incorrect way you or any of us should experience the music. Just because I share what I felt when hearing these songs, and even as a young boy I felt that way about some of them, doesn't mean I'm trying to define the recordings as a whole with some certain inherent quality for others. It's wonderful when someone finds great joy in their music. I have never made fun of others for their feelings and thoughts on the Carpenters recordings, yet several others seem to take delight in doing that, I see.

Listening to the Carpenters is a layered and varied experience in my opinion. Ultimately I find great pleasure and comfort in their sound and songs. If they were 'one note' type of artists without all those layers to their sound and performances, I doubt I'd find them so brilliant and endearing.
Everyone’s interpretation is subject to be different. It’s really about how the songs make you feel personally. So essentially, everyone is right, when it comes to how the music makes them feel. That’s no excuse for anyone sarcastically belittling you for how you feel about the music. I think the point of this forum is to learn and share our thoughts and opinions in a civil way without mocking others. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with how you feel, and nothing wrong with you expressing yourself about it.
 

David A

Well-Known Member
Everyone’s interpretation is subject to be different. It’s really about how the songs make you feel personally. So essentially, everyone is right, when it comes to how the music makes them feel. That’s no excuse for anyone sarcastically belittling you for how you feel about the music. I think the point of this forum is to learn and share our thoughts and opinions in a civil way without mocking others. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with how you feel, and nothing wrong with you expressing yourself about it.
^^ THAT.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
As I transferred this copy and pasted text from screenshots taken from this book I didn’t even realize that this was on the eve of the anniversary of Karen’s passing, which makes it all the more fitting given the subject matter of this chapter is about her image after her death (if on your phone I would watch view this with the “reader” option to see the text better):

 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
^^^ A mesmerizing article! In no means a new thought but presented in a gripping way.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
^^^ A mesmerizing article! In no means a new thought but presented in a gripping way.
Keep in mind this is from 2005, some time before LGB and many other articles and such dissecting what happened. I think there’s some fresh angles in here much like the ones I hadn’t considered when I read Karen Tongson’s recent book.
 

122intheshade

Well-Known Member
For sadness and melancholy and . . . ? take a look at the picture of Karen on page 290 from "The Musical Legacy".

Reminds me of the Nietzsche quote, "When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you."
 

CraigGA

Well-Known Member
I certainly don’t agree with a lot of these reviews but I always try to see why it was said or felt for the listener can’t really be criticized for what they hear. In the appropriate songs I feel the darker tones, but also hear the hope of resolve. That has always attracted me to a great torch song singer. It’s difficult for most to achieve. I also hear happiness where it’s appropriate. Please Mr Postman, sad in lyrics of longing is an upbeat happy song. Some of the other oldies a similar feeling. I have never heard anything but happiness in Sing and Begun. Although, …and when the evening comes is my favorite phrase in Begun and I can hear shades of what some describe but the hope of a bright morning is also felt, but I also feel an accomplishment of “well done” depicted. There are few “happy” songs in the hits so I can see both sides. I also think that sometimes too much is read into a song, but I don’t doubt a listener hears differently. She had the voice of s unique artist, and that’s why it feels personal to us. It can bring out our own feelings.

There is also nothing performed better than Solitaire or Where Do We Go From Here. It brings out what many describe and really, it can all be felt.

I also enjoy the different character shaped in the backing vocals from the different voice parts and how the range of a singer can play a part in the description. It’s sometimes said Caruso was the greatest singer and many studied his voice and pictures were taken of the inside of his throat so people could be “taught” in voice training. But he just opened his mouth and with little effort or thought out it came. I think the same can be said of interpretation.
 
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Don Malcolm

Well-Known Member
Sadness has more shadings to it than is the case with joy, which is why Karen (perhaps foremost amongst so many of our greatest singers) can convey so many emotional nuances, often simultaneously. Her ability to combine melancholy with a wistful form of happiness is innate, and it adds a boundless emotional depth in her work that permits undercurrents of sadness to co-exist with what for other singers would be 100% unalloyed joy/abandon. Since Karen never quite got past the notion of her existence as a kind of "contingent being" in the Carpenters' scheme of things, it's natural that some listeners will emphasize that aspect of her as it manifests in her singing even from the start, while others will discount it. Even in her unparalleled intimacy she is still somehow elusive, which is why there is literally no one else like her--and it's why her work will continue to stand the test of time.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Here is an excerpt from LA Times , back when the If I Were A Carpenter tribute album was released:
"Larry Hamby--vice president of artists and repertoire at A&M; Records, which released all the Carpenters’ records--agrees.
“I think Karen was sort of emblematic of an alternative type of soul,” he said. “It’s there in her story, her presence, her voice.
There was always this sad, melancholy quality in her voice--even on the happiest, most up-tempo songs that she sang.
And I think a lot of these alternative artists have picked up on that.”
Here:
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
Sadness has more shadings to it than is the case with joy, which is why Karen (perhaps foremost amongst so many of our greatest singers) can convey so many emotional nuances, often simultaneously. Her ability to combine melancholy with a wistful form of happiness is innate, and it adds a boundless emotional depth in her work that permits undercurrents of sadness to co-exist with what for other singers would be 100% unalloyed joy/abandon. Since Karen never quite got past the notion of her existence as a kind of "contingent being" in the Carpenters' scheme of things, it's natural that some listeners will emphasize that aspect of her as it manifests in her singing even from the start, while others will discount it. Even in her unparalleled intimacy she is still somehow elusive, which is why there is literally no one else like her--and it's why her work will continue to stand the test of time.

Wow. Awesome post. That might just be the best critique of Karen’s magic I’ve ever read! 👍👍
 
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