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Carpenters

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Los Angeles, United States (1969 – 1983)

With their light, airy melodies and meticulously crafted, clean arrangements, the Carpenters stood in direct contrast with the excessive, gaudy pop/rock of the ’70s; yet they became one of the most popular artists of the decade, scoring 12 Top Ten hits, including three number one singles.

Karen Carpenter’s calm, often somber voice was the most distinctive element of their music, settling in perfectly amidst the precise, lush arrangements provided by her brother Richard. The duo’s sound drew more from pre-rock pop than rock & roll, but that didn’t prevent the Carpenters from appealing to a variety of audiences, particularly Top 40, easy listening, and adult contemporary. While their popularity declined during the latter half of the ’70s, they remained one of the most distinctive and recognizable acts the decade produced.

The Carpenters formed in the late ’60s in Downey, CA, after their family moved from their native New Haven, CT. Richard had played piano with a cocktail jazz trio in a handful of local Connecticut nightclubs. Once the family had moved to California, he began to study piano while he supported Karen in a trio that featured Wes Jacobs (tuba/bass). With Jacobs and Richard forming her backup band, Karen was signed to the local Californian record label Magic Lamp, who released two unsuccessful singles by the singer. The trio won a Battle of the Bands contest at the Hollywood Bowl in 1966, which led to a record contract with RCA. Signing under the name The Richard Carpenter Trio, the group cut four songs that were never released. Jacobs left the band at the beginning of 1968.

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