• 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!

The Recognition Karen Deserves

Sabar

Member
Thread Starter
A fantasy thread. I'm assuming I'm not alone among Carpenters fans in feeling that Karen has never really gotten the recognition she deserves as one of the world's greatest singers. I think this is particularly true in their home country. It's less true of Britain and Japan. So, I'd be interested in hearing from the members of this site what sorts of awards, media and entertainment projects, etc., they would like to see help rectify this obvious travesty of music history.:) On another thread, Portlander suggested a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys. That's an excellent start. Other ideas?
 

Sabar

Member
Thread Starter
One idea: PBS has a series, "American Masters," that features great artists. I'd like to see them feature Karen as a singer. It would include other well-known singers analyzing Karen's vocal talent, using some of her best vocal performances from lesser known album tracks. Another idea: I'd like to see Richard receive the Kennedy Center Honors on behalf of the duo.
 

Portlander

Well-Known Member
Their hometown of New Haven, CT should be ashamed by not already having a street, plaque, plaza or statue recognizing the Carpenters. Michael Bolton is also from New Haven but his accomplishments (though very impressive) have not reached the same stature as Karen and Richard.
 
Last edited:

Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
How about a street named after karen or does that seem over done.
Good idea. How about the street where the Close To You & We've Only Just Begun apartment buildings in Downey are located. Rename it Karen Carpenter Way (or similar). I don't think they should ever change Newville Ave -- It's too iconic for fans.

I have brought this up before; A bronze statue of Richard at the grand piano & Karen standing next to it with mic in hand. There is a great photo out there of Karen circa 1972 of a similar pose...they could model it off that. Place it in the Downey City Hall Lobby, or perhaps the Downey Community Theater lobby or better yet, in the lobby of CPAC.
 

Greg

Member
If there was any justice, Richard would get the lifetime achievement Grammy - though this will most probably never happen.
 

Portlander

Well-Known Member
Any future awards would be presented to the Carpenters as a duo, not Karen and Richard individually in my opinion. Re-naming streets are very difficult in most municipalities due to the cost and effort of established businesses and residents having to change addresses. It would probably have to be a newly constructed street or one that is not heavily vested with development such as a thoroughfare through a park. Maybe naming the terminal building at Tweed-New Haven Airport would be nice seeing they both grew up within walking distance of it's primary runway.
 

Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
Any future awards would be presented to the Carpenters as a duo, not Karen and Richard individually in my opinion. Re-naming streets are very difficult in most municipalities due to the cost and effort of established businesses and residents having to change addresses. It would probably have to be a newly constructed street or one that is not heavily vested with development such as a thoroughfare through a park. Maybe naming the terminal building at Tweed-New Haven Airport would be nice seeing they both grew up within walking distance of it's primary runway.
The airport idea is a good one Portlander. They have "John Wayne Airport" in Orange County CA & "Bob Hope Airport" in Burbank, why not name the one in New Haven for the Carpenters! After all, New Haven IS their home town. Karen spent 1/3 of her life there and seemed to have a pretty happy childhood in their Hall Street neighborhood.
 

Portlander

Well-Known Member
Renaming the entire airport after the Carpenters would be extremely difficult and would require approval from the city council, Connecticut state legislators along with the FAA at a minimum. However, to name the airport terminal building, school, library, plaza or a concert hall after them would be more feasible.

It has taken many years to finally get local and state approval for a modest extension to New Haven's main runway in order to accommodate larger aircraft. New Englander's can be very resistant to change. Catchy name Harry, but due to New Haven's limited commercial service the "Carpenters It's Going To Take Some Time Airport" may be more appropriate!
 
Last edited:
How about looking for a reason to believe that it may become a reality when we've only just begun to think about the idea. Then again if they were to name an airport after them we would all need a ticket to ride.
 

Geographer

Well-Known Member
Re-naming streets are very difficult in most municipalities due to the cost and effort of established businesses and residents having to change addresses. It would probably have to be a newly constructed street or one that is not heavily vested with development such as a thoroughfare through a park.
Very true. I work for a City government and there is not one person great enough to handle re-naming and existing street! It has happened, but is VERY rare...a huge PAIN and quite costly for all involved especially if one lives or does business on that street. Now, new streets; it's done all the time...I might even have one named after me...just sayin.'
 

Portlander

Well-Known Member
When it comes to recognition that Karen deserves there is one fact that is overlooked and I decided to do a little research on the matter. It is common knowledge that the Carpenters were the top American born recording artists of the 70's according to Billboard's chart history which is an impressive accolade in which both Karen and Richard shared.

However, I claim that Karen Carpenter was the "FEMALE VOICE OF THE SEVENTIES". When it comes to Top 40 radio play during the decade, Karen's voice spent more time on the charts than any other female artist and I'm NOT even including airplay on Adult Contemporary/Easy Listening stations across the country where only Elton John had more chart success. The rankings of the top female singers of the 70's based on the total number of actual weeks on Billboard's Top 40 charts are as follows:

(1) Karen Carpenter, 188 weeks (2) Olivia Newton-John, 177 weeks (3) Gladys Knight, 145 weeks (4) Helen Reddy, 140 weeks (5) Diana Ross, 135 weeks (6) Donna Summer, 133 weeks (7) Aretha Franklin, 129 weeks (8) Barbra Streisand, 118 weeks (9) Linda Ronstadt, 112 weeks (10) ABBA, 111 weeks (2 female voices for good measure!)

If the Country hits were included there is no doubt that Olivia would easily take the top spot due to her crossover success on both charts. And if the R&B charts were included Aretha, Gladys and Donna Summer would rank higher. But these numbers are based on Top 40 airplay only and at the worse, Karen would be considered the "The Pop Music Female Voice of the Seventies'"!
 
How about the girl with silky smooth voice that could make you feel the emotion and sorrow every time she would sing. Or make you smile with her wonderful stage presence.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
(1) Karen Carpenter, 188 weeks (2) Olivia Newton-John, 177 weeks (3) Gladys Knight, 145 weeks (4) Helen Reddy, 140 weeks (5) Diana Ross, 135 weeks (6) Donna Summer, 133 weeks (7) Aretha Franklin, 129 weeks (8) Barbra Streisand, 118 weeks (9) Linda Ronstadt, 112 weeks (10) ABBA, 111 weeks (2 female voices for good measure!)
The flaw in this method of accounting doesn't take into account the many weeks when any of these artists were NOT on the charts, but were still being played as re-currents or oldies. We know that from about 1976-on, Carpenters records were sort of dropped like hot potatoes off of radio station rotations as the duo became viewed as too old-fashioned, too sweet, too negative in music tests, whatever excuses they used. Thus, for the latter part of the decade, there wasn't much heard from them.

Still, the sales success cannot be denied.
 

Portlander

Well-Known Member
Excellent point Harry, but the Carpenters at least had consistent airplay for 7 out of 10 years during the decade. "Calling Occupants" faded off the charts at the end off 1977 prior to their 4 year drought but it still made it into the Top 40. I agree that 1976 was the beginning of the downward slide but they still had two songs reach #1 on the AC charts that year. I do think that Karen had the most success (maybe Streisand) out of all of them when it came to annual Christmas playlists which still put her voice on the radio during the holiday season.

Donna Summer didn't even chart until late 1975, Linda Ronstadt had a 5 year gap with no hits, Aretha Franklin had a 4 year gap and Barbra Streisand had a 3 year gap. Diana Ross fits your above observations perfectly however, she remained relevant throughout the entire decade and her legacy with The Supremes certainly added to her re-currents and oldies rotation.
 

Chris

Well-Known Member
The flaw in this method of accounting doesn't take into account the many weeks when any of these artists were NOT on the charts, but were still being played as re-currents or oldies. We know that from about 1976-on, Carpenters records were sort of dropped like hot potatoes off of radio station rotations as the duo became viewed as too old-fashioned, too sweet, too negative in music tests, whatever excuses they used. Thus, for the latter part of the decade, there wasn't much heard from them.

Still, the sales success cannot be denied.
It's sad that happened, Harry. As you said, we didn't hear them on top 40 radio after late 70's. At least in New Orleans I'm happy to say that I continued to hear Carpenters played very often all through the 80's and even into the 90's on a couple of alternate radio stations. I know our city was probably the exception, but I'm so grateful. Both our light rock station, and the other very popular AC station, were saturated with Carpenters. I miss those days, but realize how lucky I was to have had those to listen to.
One particular station played select album cuts along with all the hits. "You", "A Song For You", etc. ..And of course during Christmas time you'd swear it was Carpenter radio across the entire dial. It only changed through the 90's and then suddenly at the turn of the century, it all came to a stop. I still hear them once in a great while on our oldies station, and somewhat at Christmas.
 
Last edited:

Jarred

Well-Known Member
Excellent analysis. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. Thank you.
Thank you! I’ve written a few pieces on Karen and this was only originally intended to be just a small blurb before the passionate writer in me came out and I was able to get down my thoughts. I might edit and expand upon this article later because I feel the subject deserves a longer analysis than this, but I’m happy with it as is.

Karen wasn’t just an icon of the era because she worked as a prismatic lens into the underlying truths of the decade, but that the body of her work and glory was from 1970-1979. Streisand, Ronstadt, ONJ, among many others, all had major success in this era, but their images and cultural significance isn’t rooted specifically just in the 1970s. Karen’s death kept her locked into this decade in the pop cultural psyche, so to speak. The music is timeless yet her star image is anchored within the parameters of a wildly shifting period of time in America.

For me, when Karen sang it’s as if there was no woman inside, as if she’s in a permanent state of incompleteness. Something in the center missing, suggesting much but specifying little about who she is and her connection to the lyric, through her phrasing/intonation, tone, pitch, etc. That she can be so enigmatic and elusive, playing with (usually) darker mood shades, and not getting too detailed (she makes us do some of the “work” emotionally speaking) while still being 100% emotionally satisfying to hear is a gift like no other.

(Interestingly, she dipped a bit into the 60s with Offering and the 80s with MIA but only briefly and both times the public wasn’t taking much notice of her.)
 
Last edited:

Sabar

Member
Thread Starter
Statues and naming streets and airports are all nice ideas. However, these are limited to a place. People who never travel to New Haven or Downey will never see them. Instead, I was thinking of something that would gain Karen's talents more national or international recognition, such as an award, documentary, feature film, or Broadway production. The last three could be viewed by an audience of unlimited size, theoretically. In any case, my ideal is that the production inself--or a national conversatoin started in response to the production--would involve their musical critics from the seventies doing the equivalent of crawling on their knees over cobblestone streets, begging forgiveness for their poor judgment in the past, and recognizing Karen as one of the greatest singers of all time. And, of course, Richard could be recognized for his great talents as an arranger/producer. Again, this has largely been done in the UK, but this act of historical repentance hasn't happened in the United States among the self-appointed arbiters of good musical taste. I would really like to see that. But like I said in the initial post, this is a fantasy thread.
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom