After All These Years, Richard Carpenter Exposes the Heartbreaking Secrets Behind The Carpenters

You might have heard their songs at some point in your life. The popularity of The Carpenters is undeniable.

Their timeless songs are still widely played and beloved by most people today.  Most parents and grandparents from the older generation loved them and chances are, your older folks might still be playing them on their car stereos. But this timeless band actually shares a few secrets of their own, and now they’re finally revealed to the public… 

Richard Carpenter had always been interested in music. As a young boy, Richard disliked having piano lessons, he preferred learning the instrument by ear.

Meanwhile Richard’s younger sister, Karen, initially only became interested in music just so she could avoid attending gym class. Karen would join her school band as a drummer, but it would later spark her love for music. 
The two siblings would join various bands separately, until 1965, when they finally decided to join forces. 

Forming a band wasn’t a walk in the park. The siblings along with their dear friend, Wes Jacobs, had to work tirelessly and to make good music. The trio faced a lot of struggles both as a band and individually. 
For Karen, her initial struggle began with her weight.

At 17, she suffered from body image issues. The young woman was only five foot four yet she weighed around 145 lbs at the time. Karen knew that being in a band would mean that a lot of people would inevitably look at her on stage, she didn’t want to be judged harshly for her weight so she decided to start doing the Stillman diet. 

It wasn’t easy for Karen. She had to make a lot of changes in her eating habits and she needed to be consistent about it as well.

During the course of her diet, she needed to eat only lean meat and limit her water intake to eight glasses a day.
Thanks to Karen’s determination and consistency, it didn’t take long for her to slim down to 120 lbs. Contented with her weight, she was now ready to face the next chapter of her life.

Being in a band wasn’t all fun and games. For the trio, they would take every opportunity they could get to be on stage and be heard. But it wasn’t until the trio heard about the Battle of the bands being held at the prestigious Hollywood bowl that they had the opportunity to rise to fame.
Winning this battle of the band would grant them the opportunity to join the RCA.

But their expectations were cut short when the management told the trio that the band’s music wasn’t their cup of tea. It was a devastating blow to them, so the trio decided to pack up their gear on pursuing their music careers individually for a while… 

Karen didn’t let their rejection discourage her from continuing to make music. Karen found herself joining Joe Osborn’s musical sessions.

Osborn took a liking to Karen and decided to offer her a recording deal with his record label, Magic Lamp Records. 
Karen didn’t want to leave her brother behind so the record label also released two of Richard’s songs. It initially sounded promising but to their disappointment, Karen’s songs didn’t do that well and they ultimately decided that it wasn’t working out. 

Richard kept wanting to work as a musician and he eventually landed a job at Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. with his musical partner John Bettis. The two musicians were tasked to wear traditional Dixieland clothes and play the songs requested by the company.

But after a while, the two decided to start taking requests from the park guests which was against what the company wanted. 
Due to their noncompliance in following the rules and breaking character, Disney eventually let them go. Richard was back to figuring out what to do with his music career once again. 

After trying to pursue their music careers separately, Karen and Richard eventually found their way back to each other and decided to start their own band, The Carpenters. In 1969, they signed a big recording contract with A&M Records. Karen was actually just 19 years old at that time and even had to have her parents co-sign it for her.

It was an exciting start. The first song that the Carpenters released was actually a cover of the famous Beatles song, “A Ticket to Ride.” Their song gained phenomenal success, it peaked at number 54 on the Billboard hot 100. 

Karen’s voice was so captivating that even Paul Mccartney himself couldn’t help but comment on it. He considered Karen to have “the best female voice in the world: melodic, tuneful and distinctive.” This was just the start of the Carpenters’ rise to fame. 
During the next year, the band released two of their biggest hits: : (They Long to Be) Close To You and We’ve Only Just Begun.

And since then, The Carpenters were now considered a household name. 

Richard had always been close to their mother, but Karen seems to have a rocky relationship with her. Their mother had always been supportive of Richard’s pursuit of music.

She would even go as far as to move from Baltimore to California just so Richard can gain more connections in the music industry. 
Despite outshining her brother some time in his career, their mother never seemed to acknowledge it. This broke Karen’s heart but she didn’t let her relationship with her mother stop her from making music. 

At that time, female drummers were something of a rarity.

Karen was considered one of the female forefronts of the music industry, but despite this, she was surprisingly against the Women’s liberation movement back in the 60’s and the 70’s.
It was because she firmly believed that women were meant to cook for their husbands and remain subservient.

Although the Carpenters had consistent shows at the time and were very successful, it seems Karen’s inner conflict with herself never really stopped. It started when Karen saw a picture of herself taken during one of their shows, she was unhappy with what she saw.
When she looked at the picture, she felt insecure.

All she was reminded of was how fat she felt. 

Not wanting to feel that way, Karen hired a personal trainer to help her get the body she wanted. She underwent a high carb, low-calorie diet.

But sadly, the diet didn’t produce the results that she wanted. 
Instead of getting skinnier, she bulked up instead. This is because she gained muscles through her diet.

This sparked something in Karen, but little did she know, it was just the beginning of her spiraling into something bad. Karen ditched the diet and tried to go through extremes just so she could lose weight.

Eventually, she lost 20 lbs.
Since then, Karen used her own diet plan in order to get the results she wanted. 

Karen admitted in an interview that she never felt comfortable performing with a full stomach, it was a huge red flag that seems to go over everyone’s head. 
“When you’re on the road it’s hard to eat. Period.

On top of that, it’s rough to eat well. We don’t like to eat before a show because I can’t stand singing with a full stomach… You never get to dinner until, like, midnight, and if you eat heavy you’re not going to sleep, and you’re going to be a balloon,” Karen shared.

Gradually, the people around Karen started to take notice. Karen’s ex-boyfriend, Carole Curb confessed that in contrast with Karen's belief, he found Karen most attractive when she had a little more weight.
“She weighed 110 lb. or so, and looked amazing… If she’d been able to stop there, then life would have been beautiful. A lot of us girls in that era went through moments of that.

Everybody wanted to be Twiggy. Karen got carried away. She just couldn’t stop,” Curb said. 

Before Richard started to notice Karen’s obsession with losing weight, it was too late. Karen was still a little over 100 lbs.

and he complimented her over weight loss, but it turns out, Karen still wasn’t satisfied and wanted to lose more.
But even when Richard told Karen that she looked fine already, it seems Karen didn’t really feel the same…

Karen’s addiction to losing weight had started to affect her career, and not in a positive way. With every performance, Karen felt more and more exhausted and had to lie down more frequently.

After one particular show in Las Vegas back in 1975, Karen was rushed to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The doctor diagnosed the poor girl with Anorexia Nervosa and they were discouraged from pushing through with their much-awaited European tour.

It seems Karen wasn’t the only one facing personal problems, her brother Richard was dealing with an addiction of his own. After their 1971 tour, Richard developed a strange addiction to drinking prescription pills.

It became a major addiction and affected the band, despite the fact that they had several shows lined up at MGM grand, Richard had already decided to quit touring. He would even refuse to guest on TV shows.
This led Karen to carry the band alone, and the heavy responsibility started to take a toll on her. 

Eventually, Richard came back after going to rehab but Karen’s condition has gotten worse. Karen had been drinking 80 to 90 laxative tablets every night because of her obsession to lose weight. When the Carpenters were interviewed by Sue Lawley during their European press trip, Karen’s physical appearance had drastically changed and it surprised the masses.  When asked whether she was suffering from anorexia, Karen denied it.

Richard then defended her by saying “It’s really not what we’re here for.” But clearly, something was wrong. By the end of their press tour, Karen weighed less than 80 lbs...

It was a quiet morning on February 4, 1983, Karen got easily tired due to her featherlike weight. She took naps more frequently and seems to be resting a lot due to the exhaustion from their press tour. Karen’s housekeeper knocked on her door, but there was no response.

When she opened it, she was shocked by what she saw. Karen passed out nearly naked. Her housekeeper called her mother, Agnes, it was confirmed that Karen had died from ipecac poisoning, a pill that induces vomiting.