Who doesn’t fondly remember The Carpenters? The brother-sister duo began in the late '60s and exploded in popularity in the 1970s. Everyone was listening to Karen and Richard Carpenter! And though they became the leading sellers of easy listening, frequently topped the charts, and were one of the best-selling music artists of all time, they weren't always living on top of the world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?vUPwkDFhSAdI While on stage, Karen was in her element and appeared happy, but behind that "Sweet, Sweet Smile" she battled demons. Today, we’re going back to the 70s, to learn a little more about the incredible highs, and tragic lows of Karen Carpenter. INow, we gotta get to the details, because "we’ve only just begun." RELATED: The Untold Truth Of Karen Carpenter “A Musical Life for Me” The Carpenters, Richard Carpenter, Karen Carpenter, ca. 1970 / Everett Collection Karen Carpenter was born on March 2, 1950, in New Haven, Connecticut. Her brother Richard, who was three and a half years older, was already considered a child piano prodigy. Then in 1963, a 13-year-old Karen and her family moved to Downey, California - a suburb of L.A. Karen joined band in high school and learned the most popular instrument in the world, no not drums, the glockenspiel. Yep, but since she didn’t enjoy playing this, which is similar to the xylophone - the band director allowed her to mosey on over to proper drums, and The Carpenters were beginning to form. Karen begged her parents to buy her a Ludwig drum set. The drum kit cost $300 at the time - which would be about $2,500 today. Perhaps Karen’s parents had a crystal ball or just immense trust in the musical talents of their offspring, as they agreed. Karen enthusiastically absorbed all the skills she could, and It only took her a year to learn some of the most complex drum beats out there at the time. Incredibly impressive! Karen was even awarded the prestigious John Philip Susa band award in 1967 and went on to attend Cal State University at Long Beach where both she and her brother, Richard were members of the choir. Now that the siblings can easily rock out together. It was time for the duo to hone their singing chops. The choir director recognized Karen’s potential and gave her further lessons to develop the three-octave range she became known for. The director knew she had the potential to become a star! “A Drummer Who Sang” Karen’s first band Two-Plus-Two was a group of three girls from Downey High School. But The band split up after Karen asked if her brother Richard could join the group. Apparently, Two Plus Two did not equal 4. Karen and Richard then formed a new group with one of Richard’s college friends, Wes Jacobs. They called themselves the Richard Carpenter Trio, with Karen on drums. But she didn’t sing for the group. Then they signed a contract with RCA Records and made two instrumentals, that were never released. Wes Jacobs left their trio in 1967 to further his classical music education and later joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. So it was just Karen and Richard experimenting with new sounds, before one more short-lived band called Spectrum was formed. And the middle-of-the-road sound didn’t provide much success besides opening for Steppenwolf early in their career post-Spectrum. A Genie and 3 Wishes The Carpenters, from left: Richard Carpenter, Karen Carpenter, 1971. photo: Raphael/TV Guide/Courtesy Everett Collection In 1966, The Carpenters had a session with Joe Osborn, who was so impressed with Karen’s singing ability that he signed her to a contract with his label: Magic Lamp Records. Did Karen just stumble upon a genie in a bottle? What 3 wishes would she make? Well, Magic Lamp Records quickly folded. They made their first public television appearance in 1968 as The Dick Carpenter Trip on Your All American College Show. With Karen drumming and singing "Dancing in the Street," obviously they moved on to the finals round as The Carpenters were beginning to get some traction. They continued making demos with Osborn, and one sent to Herb Albert at A&M Records did the trick. In April 1969, Albert signed The Carpenters to a contract saying of Karen’s voice, quote: "It touched me ... I felt like it was time." Wish #1 granted. Karen was the drummer and co-lead singer for the group. Initially, she sang from behind the drums, and you could barely see her as she was only 5’4”! A few audience complaints about not having a true focal point forced the pair to make a change. As the band’s frontwoman, she was catapulted from behind the set and into the limelight. She wasn’t comfortable at first, but adjusted. In the latter years, she only drummed at special live shows or on the occasional album track. The Carpenters became a huge pop sensation achieving commercial and critical acclaim in the 1970s! They won 5 Grammys and were nominated for 4 more. With all of their success, you would have never guessed that both of the Carpenters were struggling with personal issues in the mid-to-late '70s. The Carpenters had to cancel a tour in 1975 due to Karen’s weak condition caused by an undisclosed eating disorder. The Carpenters took a hiatus in the late 1970s after Richard had developed an addiction to Quaaludes and decided to seek treatment. The Carpenters: Karen Carpenter, 1971. photo: Raphael/TV Guide/Courtesy Everett Collection Karen took this chance to record a solo album with producer Phil Ramone. Her brother and record label hated the music and it wasn’t released until much later and after some remixing. Some of the songs were released after her tragic death, but then the entire album was released in 1996. Wish #2 granted. What could have been Karen’s 3rd wish? She wanted to be married and have a family, but knew that her touring job would make that difficult… until one day she met “Prince Charming” or so she thought. Much like Cinderella, Karen married Thomas James Burris after a short courtship. Burris was a divorced, real-estate developer with an 18-year-old son from his previous marriage. He was also 9 years older than her but was everything supposedly perfect? Think again. Karen wanted to have children, but her husband previously had a vasectomy and refused to have the surgery reversed. Needless, to say their marriage didn’t last and ended after only 14 months. Karen’s close friends said her marriage to Burris was one of the worst things to happen to her and suggested that he was abusive. A Tragic Final Chapter View this post on Instagram A post shared by Karen Shelagh (@thedrummerthatsings) Karen Carpenter struggled with a secret demon that her fans didn’t know about… Although many fans knew that something was wrong when she began rapidly dropping weight. Karen had been a healthy child, but then sometime in high school, she decided that she needed to start dieting. She followed diets and remained at a consistent weight for several years before seeing a picture of herself from a show and being unhappy with how she looked… She hired a personal trainer in 1973 hoping to lose weight, but fired them after she began gaining muscle. She began her own fitness routine and obsessively counted calories. She lost over 20 pounds in an extremely unhealthy way. By late 1975, Karen was gaunt and very underweight. Her fans would gasp when she stepped onto the stage, seeing how skinny she was with their own eyes. She was taking many different kinds of medication to aid in her unhealthy weight loss - even going as far as to use her married name and stage name to get more medication. Karen admitted to Richard that she had a problem in 1981. Prior to this, Richard and her parents didn’t know what to do for her. Eating disorders were not talked about during that time and they didn’t know how to help her. Karen’s condition continued to worsen until in September of 1982, Karen was finally admitted to a hospital in New York. She was extremely weak. The doctors gave her an IV with the nutrients her body so desperately needed. They were successful and helped her gain some of the weight back. Karen returned home to California in November 1982. She continued making public appearances and making new music with Richard. On February 1, 1983, Richard and Karen had a meeting about their upcoming tour. Little did Richard know this would be the last time that he saw his beloved sister. Karen woke up on the morning of February 4 like normal, but then things quickly turned tragic. She collapsed in her parents' home and when paramedics found her, her heart was barely beating. She was rushed to the hospital, but her body couldn't handle the trauma any longer and Karen Carpenter tragically passed away at the young age of 32. It was later discovered that she had suffered heart failure from complications of anorexia. The term anorexia was not really used in public until the tragic passing of Karen Carpenter. Her family, friends, and fans were all devastated. Her career was thriving and she had been such a positive light in the world. Her family decided to set up a memorial in her honor. The Karen A. Carpenter Memorial Foundation researched eating disorders and how to help people with the resources that they need. Today, it is called the Carpenter Family Foundation and it supports many charitable causes - still including eating disorder research. Her family sought to make sure that other people knew the dangers of eating disorders and that there was help out there for people who were suffering. Today, there is a National Eating Disorder Association hotline where people can call, text, or chat online with a professional. If you need help or are struggling with an eating disorder please contact your doctor and get the help you need! Do it for Karen, and do it for yourself. Karen Carpenter’s legacy still lives on today. Rolling Stone even named her one of the top 100 greatest singers of all time in 2010. And her voice just stays with you. From here to eternity..!! No one can match her voice..forever. Do you have a favorite song that the Carpenters sang? Or that Karen herself sang? How did the Carpenters’ music affect you growing up? Let us know your favorite in the comments below. We read every single one of them!