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Burns & Gambo

Updated Feb 4, 2013 - 5:09 pm

Thirty years ago today, a songbird becomes an angel

Photo courtesy of on biography page

Karen Carpenter, vocalist and drummer for the brother/sister pop group, The Carpenters, who long suffered under the burden of the expectations that came with pop stardom, died on this day in 1983. She succumbed to heart failure brought on by her long, unpublicized struggle with anorexia.

Carpenter had a fixation with her weight from her earliest days performing with her brother, Richard, in and around their hometown of Downey, California.

As a teenager, she dropped at least twenty-five pounds on a popular and severe weight-loss program known as "the Water Diet." By the time she and Richard burst on the pop scene with their smash hit "Close To You" in the summer of 1970, she was a thin but healthy 20-year-old carrying 120 lbs. on a 5' 5" frame. She maintained that weight through the early years of the Carpenters' success, yet it appears that Karen's insecurities about her appearance only grew, even as she was becoming one of the biggest pop stars of her era.

In pictures printed in Rolling Stone magazine in late 1974, when the Carpenters were one of the most successful acts in all of pop music, Karen looks fit and healthy. Yet by mid-1975, the Carpenters were forced to cancel tours of Japan and Europe after Karen collapsed on stage in Las Vegas. Her weight had plummeted to only 90 lbs., and though it would rebound somewhat after a brief hospitalization, the next seven years were a repeating cycle of dramatic weight loss, collapse and then hospitalization.

The name of Karen's condition was virtually unknown to the public at this time, but all that was about to change. Early on the morning of February 4, 1983, while staying in her parents home in Downey, Karen suffered a deadly heart attack, brought on by the physiological stresses placed on her system by the disease whose name soon entered the public consciousness: anorexia nervosa.

She was only 32 years old.

I admit it, I've been a huge Carpenters fan from day one. Check out their web site HERE. But, before you do that, enjoy my favorite song of theirs, a phenomenal cover version of Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell's "Superstar."

About the Author

I was born on a secluded island off the North Atlantic that the Lenape Tribe called Manna-hatta. My earliest memory was being smacked on the butt to the sounds of "That'll Be The Day" by Buddy Holly & The Crickets. It was then I decided to get into radio.

Fast forward 20 years and failed attempts at becoming an astronaut and professional baseball player.

Like Bruce Springsteen before me, I was asked to leave Ocean County College, but not before I made my mark on the radio station there. Actually more like several cigarette burns on the carpet. My professional radio career began at a small station in Ship Bottom, NJ, followed by stops in Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Columbus, New York City and finally winding up in Phoenix.

The best part about what I do for a living? It has never felt like work, especially at 98.7 The Peak. Great people, fantastic music and the best listeners in The Valley. Plus, I get paid!

When I'm not on the radio, I like to spend time with my wife and dogs, eat bacon cheeseburgers or spaghetti, and watch X-Files or West Wing DVDs.

I'm on the air weeknights at 7. Don't be a stranger. Text 411987.


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