The nucleus of the Carpenters was sister and brother Karen and Richard Carpenter, both born in New Haven, Connecticut; Richard in 1946 and Karen in 1950.
Richard began playing piano at the age of nine. Karen wouldn’t realize her music ability until the family moved to Downey, California in 1963 and she took up the drums, whilst in high school. By then, Richard had formed The Richard Carpenter Trio with Frank Pooler and Wes Jacobs. The trio was signed to RCA Records in 1966, but failed to produce any hits.
In 1966, Karen tagged along with her brother Richard, who was auditioning a trumpet player at a studio owned by bassist Joe Osborn. Osborn asked Karen to sing and he was so impressed, he signed her to his Magic Lamp Records label. The label folded before Karen had a winner.
A year later, Karen and Richard joined a band called Spectrum. They performed at the famed Whiskey A Go-Go, but they disbanded in 1968.
After sending out many demo tapes, A&M Records co-owner and family friend, Herb Alpert (of Tijuana Brass fame) signed the duo underneath the name “Carpenters” in 1969. Their first album, “Offering”, produced a minor hit with a slow version of The Beatles “Ticket To Ride. ” It was their second album, “Close To You” that put Karen and Richard “on the map. ”
On the charts, the Carpenters had twenty Top 40 hits on the weekly Billboard charts, with three planning to number one. Here’s a look at the Carpenters twenty biggest hits, based on Billboard’s Weekly Top 40 Charts.
1 . (They Long To Be) Close To You – 1970 – Originally recorded by Richard Chamberlain in 1963, the Carpenters first hit went to number one for four weeks.
2 . Top Of The World – 1973 – When Lynn Anderson went to number 3 on the country charts, this version was released from the “A Song For You” album.
3. Please Mr. Postman – 1975 – A number one single for The Marvellettes in 1961, the Carpenters also went to number 1.
4. We’ve Only Just Begun – 1970 – Richard heard this song on a TV commercial for Crocker Bank in California and decided it would be a great song for them to record. It turned out to be their signature song.
5. Superstar – 1971 – Written by Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlett, Richard heard Bette Midler perform the song on “The Tonight Show” and that he couldn’t wait to arrange and record it.
6. Rainy Days And Mondays – 1971 – Composed by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, this song appeared on their album “Carpenters. ”
7. Hurting Each Other – 1972 – Originally recorded by Jimmy Clanton, Chad Allen and The Expressions (Guess Who) and the Walker Brothers, before the Carpenters got a hold of it.
8. Yesterday Once More – 1973 – Written by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis for the “Now And Then” album.
9. For many We Know – 1971 – From the film “Lovers And Other Strangers.
10. Sing – 1973 – The Carpenters version of this song helped popularize a song written for “Sesame Street.
11. Only Yesterday – 1975 – Their last Top 10 hit came from the “Horizon” album.
12. Goodbye To Love – 1972 – Renowned electric guitarist Tony Peluso contributes the funky guitar work on this song.
13. I Won’t Last A Day Without You – Co-written by Paul Williams, it was also recorded by Maureen McGovern.
14. It takes Some Time – 1972 – Written and recorded by Carole King in 1971.
15. There’s A Kind Of Hush (All Over The World) – 1976 – A number 4 hit for Herman’s Hermits in 1967, the Carpenters took it to #12.