Little Girl Blue is an intimate profile of Karen Carpenter, a girl from a modest Connecticut upbringing who became a Southern California superstar.
Karen was the instantly recognizable lead singer of the Carpenters. The top-selling American musical act of the 1970's, they delivered the love songs that defined a generation. Little Girl Blue reveals Karen's heartbreaking struggles with her mother, brother, and husband; the intimate disclosures she made to her closest friends; her love for playing drums and her frustrated quest for solo stardom; and the ups and downs of her treatment for anorexia nervosa. After her shocking death at 32 years of age in 1983, she became the proverbial poster child for that disorder; but the other causes of her decline are laid bare for the first time in this moving account.
Little Girl Blue is Karen Carpenter's definitive biography, based on exclusive interviews with her innermost circle of girlfriends and nearly 100 others, including childhood friends, professional associates, and lovers.
©2010 Randy L. Schmidt (P)2013 Randy L. Schmidt
Prior to starting this book I had just finished the excellent “Rise and Fall of The Third Reich” and thought that a story about the Carpenters, all ‘Mom’s Apple Pie’ and Church On Sunday, would be an interesting change of pace after 3 months in the company of Hitler, Goering, et al.
Boy, was I ever wrong…
The book paints a picture of a very dysfunctional family, presided over by a controlling, manipulative mother, Agnes Carpenter, who lives vicariously through her son Richard, and who is endlessly suspicious of all outsiders to the detriment of everyone else around, including her husband and their daughter, Karen. Agnes moves the family west from Connecticut to California in order to give Richard all the opportunities for his talent to blossom, and she talks only of Richard and how he is a musical genius. She even tells Karen, ‘Without Richard, there would be no Karen. Your brother is a genius and you must do everything to support him’
But as awful as Agnes most definitely is, equal villain of this sad story is Richard Carpenter, who allowed and often supported his mother’s bullying just so he could remain the centre of attention. And woe betide anyone who upsets that particular apple cart, as Neil Sedaka finds after he consistently brings the house down as the opening act for the duo during an engagement in Las Vegas, for which he finds himself fired by Richard. Sedaka, always the consummate professional, just sighs and quips “That’s the first time I got fired for playing well!”
The bullying and the familial manipulation continues when the band are on the road, and the book details a number of occasions where people who got in the way of the Carpenters juggernaut were simply thrown away, with no thought for who got hurt in the process. Friendships, Relationships, even Family; everything and everybody is sacrificed for the sake of Richard’s career.
But most people will buy this book to try and understand just what happened with Karen, and her losing battle with Anorexia. The erosion of her self-confidence by years of constantly being told she was second-best are undoubtedly a driving factor. And as Karen feels she has no control over her personal and professional life (and she really doesn’t, to an astounding degree), she exercises the only control she feels she still has, that being what she eats. Consequently years of dangerous dieting, strenuous touring schedules (over 150 shows a year on average), and mental bullying by the people she trusted finally came to a head, and her body just gave up. Such a tragic loss…
There’s a lovely section near the end of the book where Karen embarks on a solo recording project whilst Richard is recovering from ill-health and exhaustion. She flies to New York and teams up with producer Phil Ramone, who then introduces her to Billy Joel’s touring band, known to be one of the hardest working bands of the day. Over the ensuing weeks of recording Karen finds a whole new way of working that is exciting and fresh, as the band members and fellow artists Billy Joel and Paul Simon welcome her into their circle, enabling her to relax and have fun. She discovers a totally different approach to recording and really blossoms in the studio away from Richard’s control.
Narration by Cheryl Bentyne is first class, and keeps the listener engaged throughout
A highly recommended book, but be warned; you will never listen to the Carpenters music in the same way ever again.
"Karen Carpenter's real story finally revealed!"
If you love the Carpenters music, and consider Karen Carpenter's voice one of the most precious ever, you're going to enjoy learning more about her! Even those who don't care for the Carpenters music, this is a beautiful, nice, interesting, musical, but also sad and tragic story! But certainly one that will keep you interested from start to finish, and you will be longing to learn more and understand more about this life which was over way too soon! If you already know a lot about the Carpenters and what ultimately happened with Karen, you are going to learn much more, because this book tells this story in a way it's never been told before, with some of her closest friends thoroughly telling us new information for the first time! The more you read, the closer you get to her and her family! In the end, you feel like you know Karen very well, almost personally!
From a childhood in Connecticut, filled with records, sports, and dear friends, through an adolescence with a lot of music and the discovery of her great friend, the drum kit, to a youth full of gold records and awards! The personal conflicts, the struggle for true love and self control over her own life! The extensive touring and the attempt at a solo effort! The big admiration for a dear brother she looked up to and who loved her endlessly, and the unhappy, failed marriage! The depth of a beautiful, velvety, hevenly-sent voice, the disease, and the death!
Karen was a truly beautiful young woman, she was pretty! But, behind the golden voice, there were many layers of a life with which she was happy, but it was not yet close to a life she dreamed of. She could never seem to find true love, despite being the center of attention to the Carpenters audience! The author Randy Schmidt did a wonderful and extensive job of years to make interviews and fill the gaps of this story, in a very well done tribute to this amazingly talented lady who inspired and still inspires the lives of many people, from all ages and different parts of the world.
Her voice talks straight into my soul, the songs she sang talk straight into my heart, and the connection I feel with her is unaccountably natural, even though we're separated by time and space, so I wanted to get closer to her and learn about her story, and that was when this excellent book came out! And I've read it a bunch of times since then!
Now we have this amazing audiobook version of this best-seller! It was read beautifully by Cheryl Bentyne, who has this incredible voice, and she was present on the day of Karen's last public appearance in January 1983, less than a month prior to Karen's passing, in the context of a reunion of Grammy-winning artists. She adds her beautiful voice to the telling of this story, with a soft and excellent reading, a great choice! Very good job! I loved both the book and the audiobook version of Little Girl Blue, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!
"Bait and Switch"
The writer leads you to believe he's got the inside track on Karen and her eating disorder but instead he goes on and on about the parents, and the family, and the family's friends, and their move to California, and Richard, and how he got into the music industry, and how karen started singing, and how the music industry took on the Carpenters, and their accounting practices... I've listened to 11.5hrs of this book, total amount of time that focused on Karen was 1hr. All you learn about Karen is that she was a tomboy, started out playing drums, and fell into her singing career, he doesn't even touch on her eating disorder. 11.5hrs and that's all I get?! Ridiculous! He should have called it THE CARPENTERS AND THEIR RISE TO THE TOP not THE LIFE OF KAREN CARPENTER. This book is a total fraud.
"rare glimpse into the life of Karen carpenter"
Listening to the story unfold of Karen Carpenter's life gives an individual a feel of what is was like for her living on this Earth. I always wondered what her Mother was really like and also sensed that Richard wasn't divulging the true nature of his mother, when in fact, he was covering up for her. I got the rare opportunity to see the Carpenters perform when I was a teenager in the seventies and was impressed by her drumming. And oh that wonderful voice! Listening to this account also makes you want to stop at times and listen to their recordings. Enjoy
"Beautifully written. Excellent book."
I was born in 1979, so I missed out on the phenomenon of the Carpenters. My only real idea of her was of a singer who died of anorexia.
This book really opened my eyes to the remarkable life and outstanding talent of Karen Carpenter. Many things in this book surprised me: I love that she started out playing the drums! She was one of the first well known female drummers in the genre (probably in any genre.) I respect her complete loyalty to her brother, despite her potential to have a very popular solo career. Most of all, I just love her voice. Because I had little knowledge of the music, I kept pausing this book to look up Carpenters music online. I fell in love with her voice!
I enjoyed reading about Karen as a young woman: about her early musical career on the drums, her fantastic collaboration with her brother Richard, and the serendipitous discovery that she had the voice of an angel
I highly recommend for anyone, certainly not just carpenter fans. In fact I think those who are not fans will find this very interesting as well. The author explains issues the Carpenters had with their "goody-goody" image, and how it limited them and their music! There's also a great discussion of other stars like Olivia Newton John, the Jackson Five, and others.
I was really impressed by this book, and can't praise the narrator enough.
I was confused by the reviewer who disparaged the book for making "Karen a victim".
I disagree 100%. There is NO BLAME placed on any one person for Karen's eating disorder. Instead this book succeeds in demonstrating how the illness slowly came about. There's no one thing that caused her condition. She developed a poor body image, meanwhile she was constantly in the public eye, placing incredible pressure on herself to be perfect. It's also a complicated function of many issues like control and self confidence. I never felt like she was victimized!
An excellent book for everyone. I think music lovers will be surprised by how good this book is. A must buy!
Someone in need of a very good nap.
I do like Karen Carpenter
Not worth the read.
"I'm going to remember the narrators name"
I'm going to have to read it myself instead of listening to it. I will remember the narrators name for future reference. I will not listen to another book narrated by Cheryl Bentyne. She almost put me to sleep.
"Karen as Victim"
I was pleased to see this in audio format. I don't regret listening to it. However it was disappointing. I was hoping to hear a deeper account of Karen's creative process, not just an anecdotal account of her life with excessive detail about her death.
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