Even though they were only able to record together for some 14 years before the sad death of Karen Carpenter, age does not dim the timeless contribution of the Carpenters, with hits like “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.”
There was almost three and a half years’ difference in their ages, Richard born on October 15, 1946 and Karen on March 2, 1950. But the sibling act from New Haven, Connecticut practically invented the modern idiom of mature, beautifully constructed soft pop, with one ear for the music they grew up with and another for winning melodies, sympathetic instrumentation, and, of course, those gorgeous harmonies.
Their music is often characterized as “oldies but goodies” and they’re frequently used as wedding songs because of their slow, gorgeous nature. Spotlighting their legacy, we’ve put together this special 20-song playlist of the Carpenters’ best songs.
Broadly chronological, the list draws from all of Karen and Richard’s studio albums released during her lifetime, with the exception of 1978’s festive Christmas Portrait. We begin with the early cover of “Ticket To Ride,” from the 1969 debut first released as Offering and then renamed after the Beatles’ number. It was our first notice of their depth of imagination and songcraft, which they applied both to classic material, new works by top writers such as Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, Richard’s collaborations with John Bettis, and other sources.
Soon, they were underlining that again with their revival of Bacharach & David’s “(They Long To Be) Close To You,” which became the definitive rendition and gave them a glorious four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1970. It set in motion a sequence of superb singles and albums, including 11 more US Top 10 hits, two of them No.1s.
Of course, no Carpenters playlist would be complete without gems like “Superstar,” “Top of the World,” or “For All We Know.” The rich tones of “Goodbye to Love” make an appearance, as well as the sorrowful “Hurting Each Other.” From Horizon, we’ve added “Only Yesterday” and “Please Mr. Postman” to include that era.
Other highlights in our list include album tracks such as “Crescent Noon,” from Close To You, the Bacharach-David medley from Carpenters, their sultry take on Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade,” and elegant later singles such as “I Need To Be In Love.” Our playlist ends with “Solitaire,” “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft,” and “Touch Me When We’re Dancing” to round it out. Enjoy this pure musical sophistication.