Rick Beato analyzes Karen Carpenter

November 1, 2022 • 10:45 am

Reader Norman sent me this informal 37-minute Rick Beato analysis of why Karen Carpenter and her songs were so great. It’s not heavily structured like many of his videos, but worth watching—IF you like the Carpenters. (I’m beyond being ashamed of liking them: they were terrific talents who produced some good music.)

Beato names his favorite Carpenters song (below), and mentions the importance of their backup session musicians, a loose affiliation of players known as “The Wrecking Crew“. Two of them—Leon Russel and Glenn Campbell—later became stars on their own.

Beato proclaims his favorite Carpenter song at 22:25. I disagree, but I’ll let you find it for yourselves.

Here is my second favorite Carpenters song; both this and my favorite, right below it, have what Richard called Karen’s famous “money notes”: her ability to sing low and throaty. This song was written by written by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell with a songwriting credit given to Delaney Bramlett; it was written in 1969 and recorded by the Carpenters in 1971:

And without a doubt, the piece below is my favorite Carpenters song, replete with low notes, especially in the title phrase.. It was written by Fred Karlin, Robb Wilson (Robb Royer),and Arthur James (Jimmy Griffin), and was created for the 1970 movie “Lovers and Other Strangers” (it got the Oscar in 1971 for Best Original Song).

Wikipedia notes that the first studio recording of “For All We Know” by the Carpenters had an intro by another well known musician:

According to Richard, the intro was originally played on guitar. They had run into Jose Feliciano in a restaurant, who was a big fan of theirs and wanted to play on one of their records. They went into the studio and the intro was devised by Feliciano, using his nylon string acoustic guitar. The next day, though, Richard got a phone call from Feliciano’s manager, demanding that he be removed from the recording. Richard essentially did as requested and replaced Feliciano’s guitar intro with that of Earle Dumler’s oboe. The other instruments heard on the song were recorded by session musicians later known as the Wrecking Crew.

The oboe intro is great, but I would love to hear the original Feliciano version.

I never get tired of this song. She had a voice like an angel, always with perfect pitch, both high and low, and a vibrato that could shake you in your shoes.

But Karen herself always claimed that the song below was her own favorite, and it’s certainly in my top five. This one was written by  Richard CarpenterAlbert Hammond and John Bettis in 1976.

Karen died in 1983 at only 32, and even in this video you can see the signs of the anorexia that killed her. What a loss! As I’ve always said, Karen Carpenter and Barbra Streisand were the two best pop songstresses of our era.

28 thoughts on “Rick Beato analyzes Karen Carpenter

  1. Arguing about music is like dancing about architecture. In that spirit……

    Streisand never caught my ear. I waffle between Karen Carpenter and Linda Ronstadt for greatest female singer in that era. Ronstadt was one of the first pop/rock singers to put out albums of songs from “The Great American Songbook.” Those records with The Nelson Riddle Orchestra are among the best recorded, best arranged, best produced recordings I have ever heard.

    I think I prefer Ronstadt based on the sound/style. But the low notes at the end of each verse of Top of the World *always* give me chills. I work retail, and I will interupt my conversations with customers just to point out those notes when the song comes on the radio.

    I tend to like these discussions because somebody always brings up a song or artist that I missed or forgot. I hope to wander through the YouTube rabbit hole later today based on other folks contributions.



    1. A favorite of mine from Linda Ronstadt was “Different Drum”. I totally lose it over that song. I don’t think her voice is as lovely as Karen C’s , but that isn’t everything.

      1. Hear, hear. DD credited as Ronstadt’s first hit, penned by future Monkee Michael Nesmith. I lose it also over LR’s contribution on Little Feat’s “Voices on the Wind”–her honeyed phrasing in the verses and her high harmony with Craig Fuller’s tenor in the chorus.

    2. From that (or any) era, Ann Wilson stands out to me – in the same league with Grace Slick and Janis Joplin. Here she is bringing tears to the eyes and a standing ovation from Led Zeppelin themselves with a fantastic arrangement of Stairway to Heaven. Also a highly talented accompaniment and many recognizable figures in the audience.

    3. Of the three you mention by name, all great, Linda Ronstadt is an easy choice for me. Many great songs / vocals, but Blue Bayou in particular just takes me to a different world, for a while.

      1. The album cut of “Blue Bayou” I never got tired of. But Ms. Ronstadt told an interviewer after she had to retire that she thought she really nailed it for the music video, which the producer included in the broadcast to show us why. I had never before heard that version, not being a fan of videos as a genre and yes she really did nail it. Hear it if you possibly can.

    4. Rick,
      I love your videos! On February 4, 1983, my childhood officially ended. I remember
      how saddened I was when I learned of Karen’s death. I was twenty.

      –Glenn Gallagher
      Morgantown, WV

      1. The Carpenters were a huge hit during the years I was enlisted in the Navy. One of the cooks said he wanted to see who could outdo the other when it came to receiving letters from women. I asked him if he knew and especially cute girl who caught his eye while he was in school and he mentioned one named Barb. My first letter to her started with a sentence that pretended I was already a friend and asked her how she’d been doing. She knew I wasn’t for real, yet we wrote for nearly 3 years during my service. However, that was not the end, for we have been writing to one another now for over 50 years and still have never met.

  2. “(I’m beyond being ashamed of liking them: they were terrific talents who produced some good music.)”

    I’m so with you on that!

    The Carpenters played a big role in my musical background. My mom used to play the Carpenters when I was very young so I’m always transported when hearing them.
    Close To You and We’ve Only Just Begun are my sentimental favorites.

    It’s been cool to acknowledge the genius of The Carpenters for many years now. Musicians especially, whatever genre they work in, tend to give props to The Carpenters. You can’t argue with Karen’s simply incredible voice. Her unique caramel tone, and incredibly effortless phrasing and control. I’m astounded by everything she sings. And then of course the impeccable and intensely melodic arrangements from Richard.

    Karen Carpenter has been my favorite female vocalist for a long time. (My loyalty to Karen Carpenter was only recently supplanted by Agnetha Faltskog of ABBA, whose unique tone I like at least as much, but I also find Agnetha even more versatile in tone and style).

  3. Beato’s reactions make me like the music I thought was sort of ho-hum. The Carpenter’s style did not fit the image I had of myself and my culture, which was a mix of Beatles, Stones, Dylan, and Simon. But listening back on it, you can see why it can be considered great music.

  4. I generally enjoy Beato’s videos, although they can get too technical for a musical idiot like me.
    Not directly related, but given our host’s interests in popular music and (a)theism, I’d be curious to read others’ suggestions and opinions of songs they like and which dis religion. This came to mind a few days ago after hearing, on a locally produced NPR program, a gospel-like version of Randy Newman’s “God’s Song” from his album Sail Away. Which reminded me there were a few others from that album, including He Gives Us All His Love, which I interpret as sarcasm or irony (as He watches the children die), and Old Man, about the reality of dying without the wishful thinking of religion. Which reminded me of Sting’s “All This Time” from his album Soul Cages (composed in the aftermath of his father’s death?), which also portrays the pathetic attempts of religions (past and present) to try to re-assure the dying of a better world to come, in contrast to the seeming timelessness of the natural world.
    I’m sure there are other songs out there, but these were the first few that I thought of. Doubt Beato has a program on that subject.

    1. Dear God by XTC, from 1986

      “And if you’re up there you’ll perceive
      That my heart’s here upon my sleeve
      If there’s one thing I don’t believe in
      It’s you
      Dear God”

    2. How about Neil Peart of Rush in the song Faithless:

      I don’t have faith in faith
      I don’t believe in belief
      You can call me faithless
      I still cling to hope
      And I believe in love
      And that’s faith enough for me.

      1. Chapter six and verse eleven
        If you wanna get to heaven
        You’ve got to ask the man who owns the property
        Ya gotta dance your dance
        And do your act
        And get his big attention that’s a natural born fact
        I’m on my knees, one question please
        Will the real God please stand up?

  5. Though not a Carpenters fanatic, I heard a ton of their music when I was growing up. For my money, there has never been a better pop/rock female vocalist than Karen Carpenter. Her voice is just astounding to me.

    I don’t know how “edited” or manipulated it may or may not have been on studio albums, but I’m assuming it really was as great as we can hear on her many songs.

  6. Superstar is definitely my favourite and I love the version by Sonic Youth off the 1990s tribute album If I Were A Carpenter

  7. I’m a huge fan of The Carpenters — always have been (but might not have admitted it in the 70’s 😁). I guess I’d pick Rainy Days and Mondays as my favorite but I like all the other songs mentioned here as well. That said, this joke dates back to the 90’s.

    Jerry Garcia wakes up alone in a large room full of musical instruments. Suddenly a door opens … people walk in … Jimi Hendrix picks up a guitar, John Lennon sits at the piano, Elvis Presley steps up to the microphone. Jerry says “Far out, man, I’m in heaven!” Elvis looks at him and quizzically replies “Heaven?” Just then, Karen Carpenter strolls in, sits down at the drums, and says “OK everybody, Close To You. 1, 2, 3, 4 …”

Leave a Reply