"[A] heart-rending biography . . . The author relates Karen’s story in writing as fluid and affectless as her singing . . . As Schmidt details Karen’s unstoppable fall, Little Girl Blue becomes one of the saddest tales in pop . . . This compassionate book gives a tortured waif the third dimension she deserved." —New York Times Book Review
“Heartbreaking. . . . Schmidt succeeds in bringing a gifted, troubled musician to vivid life.” —People
“Told with compassion and understanding, this poignant and richly fascinating story of Karen Carpenter reads more like a novel you can’t put down than the extensively and impeccably researched biography it actually is.” David Kaufman, author of Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door
“A fascinating, and at times harrowing, read. . . . Schmidt adds vital new information to our understanding of this contradictory and conflicted artist. . . . We know how her story ends, but Schmidt has made it as absorbing as it is deeply humane.” —Blurt
“[Schmidt’s] fresh perspective reanimates the rise and fall of an American recording icon. . . . [A] dense, fact-filled treatment, which carefully skirts sensationalism while exposing new truths in this haunting tragedy.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Very comprehensive . . . heartbreaking.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
"The copious research and quick-moving narration make this a volume that die-hard Carpenters fans and casual listeners alike will find interesting." —Publishers Weekly
“Like most of Karen Carpenter’s songs, this book pulls you in and triggers more emotion than you bargained for. Finally, the story of this angelic voice is told.” Stephen Cox, author of The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane
The author relates Karen's story in writing as fluid and affectless as her singing. Schmidt makes no ambitious re-evaluations of the Carpenters' work, nor does he place them in any broad sociological frame. But he also avoids a fan's effusiveness. And as Schmidt details Karen's unstoppable fall, Little Girl Blue becomes one of the saddest tales in pop.
The New York Times
From the beginning, Richard, not Karen, was the talented musician whose parents moved across the country for a better career. Karen dabbled in music and tagged along on gigs, but it would be years before her show-stopping voice commanded the spotlight. And that shift, when the forgotten little sister became star of the act, Schmidt argues, marked the beginning of Karen's deadly, lifelong struggle with weight. Schmidt tracks the anxieties that seem to have driven her eating disorder, including a controlling mother and the lack of a stable love life. After the failure of her first solo effort, Karen made a bid for happiness with the dashing Tom Burris that would prove short-lived; he was only interested in her money. This was one setback too many for the gifted singer, and by 1983 she was dead, at 32. The self-destructive pressures of celebrity make for a familiar narrative, but Schmidt treats Karen's death not as an inevitability, but a tragedy that built slowly. His sympathies for the star border on fawning, but the copious research and quick-moving narration make this a volume that die-hard Carpenters fans and casual listeners alike will find interesting. (May)
Schmidt, who edited Yesterday Once More: Memories of the Carpenters and Their Music and served as a consultant for several television documentaries on the Carpenters, has narrowed his focus to Karen Carpenter (1950–83), whose distinctive voice dominated pop and adult contemporary charts during the first half of the 1970s. By the second half of the 1970s, brother Richard Carpenter was fighting an addiction to quaaludes and Karen became increasingly devastated by anorexia nervosa and a reliance on laxatives and thyroid medications. Ultimately, the duo found their popularity waning and broke up. Karen suffered through a brief, disastrous marriage and died at age 32. Schmidt details Carpenter's life, her recordings, and her live engagements and probes into the family's (particularly their domineering mother's) focus on Richard's musical career to an extent not found in Ray Coleman's out-of-print The Carpenters: The Untold Story—in part because Schmidt received no direct editorial input from the family. VERDICT Including a foreword by Dionne Warwick, this well-researched biography offers a nice mix of attention to Karen Carpenter's life and the importance of her work. Highly recommended.—James E. Perone, Mount Union Coll., Alliance, OH
A music teacher's fresh perspective reanimates the rise and fall of an American recording icon. As evidenced by Dionne Warwick's fond introduction, Carpenter (1950-1983) was cherished by many. Schmidt (editor: Yesterday Once More: Memories of the Carpenters and Their Music, 2000) boasts that his biography is, unlike others, "free of an agenda and the Carpenter family's editorial control." The author affectionately chronicles the life of this diminutive daughter of a blue-collar father and a "persnickety," meddlesome mother, whose rural Connecticut childhood was fortified by brother Richard's intensive musical interest, a talent Karen honed by playing drums and singing in grade school, well after the family relocated to Southern California (19-20) in the early '60s. In 1966, the "Richard Carpenter Trio"-Richard on piano, Karen on drums and Wes Jacobs on bass-garnered a short-lived record contact. A "chubby" music major, Karen debuted her vocal versatility in college choir and quickly wowed audiences together with Richard as The Carpenters, who were signed to A&M Records in 1969. Eschewing drumming for lead vocals, Karen stood out. Though somewhat reluctantly embracing her unique vocal blend of "intensity and emotion," her popularity skyrocketed. High-profile appearances in the '70s spawned dabbles in love, an ill-fated marriage and a deadly dieting compulsion ("Her face was all eyes" said friend Carole Curb). Her conservative family turned a blind eye to her struggles and only came to terms with her condition when Karen, at 32, was found face down in her closet in early 1983. Schmidt culled his comprehensive biography from interviews with friends, business acquaintances and family members, many of whom, he claims, spoke about Karen for the first time since her death. Pages of photographs compliment this dense, fact-filled treatment, which carefully skirts sensationalism while exposing new truths in this haunting tragedy.