Karen Anne Carpenter (March 2, 1950 – February 4, 1983) was a musician and singer, best known for being one half of the duo known as The Carpenters. She was a 1967 graduate of Downey High School (Downey, CA), where she participated in band, orchestra, pep club, Campus Life, and the school’s variety show.
Carpenter started her first musical group with two friends from Downey High (although the band split up after she suggested that her brother, Richard, join as well). In 1965, the two Carpenter siblings formed a jazz trio with a friend. A couple of years later, they became part of another musical act. Finally, in 1969, Carpenter and her brother signed a recording contract.
The following year brought two of The Carpenters’ biggest hits: “(They Long to Be) Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.” Carpenter started out primarily as the duo’s drummer – a talent she began developing in high school band — but eventually moved to lead singer. Despite this, she always thought of herself as a “drummer who sang.”
In the late 1970s, Carpenter recorded a solo album, but it was not released until after her death. Suffering from anorexia nervosa, which had plagued her for years, she passed away from complications at the age of 32. The Carpenters were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame a short time later. In 2010, she appeared on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest singers of all time.