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RICHARD CARPENTER gained worldwide fame in the 1970s as half of the Grammy-winning duo, the Carpenters. Richard and his sister Karen combined their talents on a long string of hits, including such classics as “ Close To You,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Superstar,” “Top Of The World” and “Yesterday Once More.”
By any measure, the Carpenters are among the most popular acts in recording history. Their worldwide sales top 100 million copies. Their many honors include three Grammy Awards, the first American Music Award ever presented for favorite Pop Group and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Carpenters were the #1 American hit makers of the 1970s, according to Joel Whitburn’s authoritative Top Pop Singles. And Karen and Richard’s success went far beyond their homeland. They topped the charts from Holland to Hong Kong and in
Japan, remain the best-selling non-Japanese artists ever.
Richard and Karen were born to Harold and Agnes Carpenter, in New Haven, Connecticut, Richard in October, 1946 and Karen in March, 1950. By the age of 16, Richard was studying piano at Yale University. In 1963 the family moved to Southern California, where soon thereafter Richard enrolled in music classes at USC and California State University at Long Beach, where Richard and Karen soon discovered their musical talents complimented each other.
After several years of making demos and enduring the usual rejections, Karen and Richard were signed to A&M Records in April of 1969. Karen and Richard’s first major hit, “Close To You” exploded the following year. With her unforgettable voice, Karen was the star of the act, but Richard’s behind-the-scenes contributions to the teams’ success were enormous. As the chief architect of the Carpenters’ sound, Richard arranged and orchestrated almost all of the duo’s recordings. He produced most of them, composed many and played keyboards on all but a few. He also conceived, and contributed to, the duo’s famed overdubbed harmonies.
Carpenter received five Grammy nominations, recognizing his contributions with such signature Carpenter hits as “Close To You”, “Superstar” and “Sing”. His arrangements have been studied in numerous college music departments, including the prestigious Berklee College of Music and Stanford University. Carpenter is renowned for his ability to create memorable instrumental textures, with delicate interlocked string, horn and background vocal parts. In addition to his work in the studio, Richard took charge of finding the duo’s material, often acting as a one-man A&R department. He spotted future hits in a wide range of sources, from a major Hollywood movie to a children’s TV show. Richard found the Carpenters’ signature song, “We’ve Only Just Begun,” on Los Angeles Television-as a bank commercial. The Carpenters’ recording turned it from a jingle into a standard.
Richard also teamed with lyricist John Bettis to write six of the Carpenters singles. Four reached the Top 10 in both the US and the UK-“Goodbye To Love,” “Yesterday Once More,” “Top Of The World” and “Only Yesterday.”
In his Rolling Stone review of “The Singles 1969-1973,” critic Paul Gambaccini made note of Richard’s role in the Carpenters’ success. “Heard together, the duo’s hits prove that Richard Carpenter didn’t study music at Yale for nothing. His clean arrangements, delicate piano turns and conservatively employed strings enhance almost every cut, and after a few tracks it becomes obvious his contributions have been grossly underestimated.”
Richard’s arrangements have been highly influential. His arrangement of “We’ve Only Just Begun,” which blends the romanticism of easy listening with the pulse of pop/rock, provide a virtual blueprint for the modern “adult contemporary” format. Richard is widely credited with creating the “power ballad” when he hired guitarist Tony Peluso to play a head-turning fuzz guitar solo on the Carpenters’ 1972 single, “Goodbye To Love.”
Carpenter has been generous with his time and money. He is founder and prime benefactor of the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, at the duo’s alma mater, California State University at Long Beach, which bestowed upon him the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, in May 2000.
Richard with his wife, Mary, have created the Carpenter Family Foundation which is a perpetual source of financial funding for causes ranging from medical to arts and entertainment, such as the recently opened Carpenter Family Theater on the campus of Westlake High School.
Carpenter and his wife Mary, live in Westlake Village, California with their five children. To unwind, Carpenter indulges in his other passion-collecting cars, many which have been featured in automotive publications.