Little Girl Blue - The Life Of Karen Carpenter

Published April 06, 2011

Whether you love them or loathe them, Carpenters certainly had everything to carve their own unique niche in pop music history: a distinctive sound, a strong image – and a back-story that simply couldn’t have been made up. Out of a conservative, wholesome, little-too-close-knit family emerges a brother-and-sister duo, who, despite being adult millionaires, are more or less unable to leave home because their domineering mother won’t let them. And when they finally do, they move in together. At the height of their career the male half of this supposedly “squeaky-clean” act has to take a year out to rid himself of a Quaalude addiction, and the girl develops Anorexia Nervosa, ultimately leading to her death.

If you’re a long-time Carpenters fan, like me, you may have already watched a number of documentaries and perhaps even read Ray Coleman’s authorised biography of the group. But even though Coleman touched on many of the uncomfortable aspects of the Carpenters story, it was clear that he was held back here and there and was unable to tell the full, uncensored story. Randy L Schmidt had no such considerations in his biography Little Girl Blue – The Life Of Karen Carpenter (published last year in the United States and Great Britain). Although it was already quite obvious that Richard and Karen’s mother, Agnes, with her curious combination of coldness, inhibition and the need to control everything and everybody, was probably not someone I would like to spend a lot of time with (regardless of the positive qualities I'm sure she had as well), Schmidt’s book makes it clear that she was often even worse than that.

But Little Girl Blue is mainly about Karen, of course: her amazing voice, the fantastic music and all the other fascinating aspects of the Carpenters story are not forgotten. I was hooked from the first page and found the book virtually unputdownable, although in the final few chapters I kept wishing that the story would not end the way it inevitably would.

A highly recommended book, and I urge you to use one of the ordering links to the right for an engrossing read.