Friday, February 03, 2006

The day the music died ...

Some people remember exactly where they were when John F. Kennedy was shot; or when they heard the news about Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper.

Me, I remember exactly where I was when I heard that Karen Carpenter had died.

It was a rainy Friday morning, February 4, 2003. I was sitting in my pickup truck in the parking lot at Fireman's Fund Insurance Company in Tustin, California, where I worked as a word processing operator. As I sipped my morning coffee, I turned on the radio just in time to hear the last few bars of "Superstar" by the Carpenters on KFI AM 640 - which was still a Top 40 music station at the time, and not the combative talk radio station it's grown into since.

"That was 'Superstar'," said the DJ, "and if you're just joining us, we've just learned the sad news that Karen Carpenter passed away this morning from a heart attack."

I was stunned. Karen Carpenter? Dead? of a HEART ATTACK for God's sake?? She was only 33 years old! Who dies of a heart attack at age 33? But of course, not long afterwards we, the public who'd loved her and her beautiful voice for so long, found out what everyone in the entertainment industry seemed to have known all along - Karen was a victim of a strange disease called anorexia nervosa.

Now I'd been a Karen Carpenter fan since my early teen years. She was everything I wanted to be - beautiful face, beautiful hair, beautiful voice, beautiful everything. Oh, how I longed to sing like Karen Carpenter! I would sit in my room and sing along with her, playing their albums on one of those old plastic turntables, trying and failing to match that clear, sweet tone. (I'm still trying, even today.)

And she was beautiful too, and slim! Yes, I envied her for that too. And could never understood the sniping critics who, early in her career, insisted Karen was "too chubby". When was this lovely young woman ever "chubby"? To me and millions of young girls who were FAT, not just "chubby", Karen was "just right".

If only she'd been able to listen to us, and not to the critics. But she took their nasty comments to heart, and because of them, it is now 23 years since that beautiful voice has graced the world.

And those critics - the ones who drove her to her grave - they're still out there, alive and thriving. Ever watch a show called "American Idol"? Now I have to be honest - I enjoy the show. But watch it sometime. Watch how the judges, particularly Simon Cowell, never EVER miss an opportunity to insult a contestant's weight. Many of those contestants are young, impressionable women - about Karen's age when her career began.

How many of them will hear that voice - instead of their own - and wind up like Karen Carpenter?


Post a Comment

<< Home