Tragic End of Karen Carpenter

On Feb. 4, 1983, singer Karen Carpenter died from the overuse of ipecac syrup – a poison remedy used to induce vomiting.  The continual use resulted in irreversible heart damage.

In 1982-early 1983, friends thought Karen was over her mental illness, except for brother Richard Carpenter who knew her better than anyone else.  He didn’t buy into her “cure” and he was right.

Karen’s obsession with weight began in her teens, due to a negative article that described her as “chubby”.  But there were two events that may have led to her untimely death.

One.  Divorce.  Karen married Thomas Burris in 1980.  Rumors spread that this real estate financier had no money and that he refused to sleep with Karen.  Whether true or not, a failed marriage (with a husband seeking money) must have been a huge blow to her self image.

Two.  Her Solo Album

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While brother Richard underwent detox from his prescription to Quaaludes, Karen embarked on her self-titled album:  a breakaway recording that could have been a new beginning for the singer…except it wasn’t.

When Richard heard about Karen’s debut, he wasn’t happy about it.  It could only mean the beginning of the end of “The Carpenters”.  Upon listening, A & M execs and Richard commented “There are no hits, no singles to promote.”  The album went unreleased.  This crushing defeat may have been the last straw.

Karen and Richard went back to recording two more albums:  “Made in America” (1981) and “Voice of the Heart: (1983), released posthumously.

It may not have made a difference, but not releasing “Karen Carpenter” was crippling to her new identity as a mature woman.  What do you think?

Text © 2023 – ERN

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