“Top of the World” and Karen Carpenter
By Ahmet Abdulaziz….
Way back during the 1970s “Top of the World” by the Carpenters had really made a mark in the music world. Apart from everything, the very idea and title of the song was something unique and attractive. Actually, who does not want to be on top of the world? Perhaps so was the desire of Karen Carpenter, who had sung this song, too.
Four years younger than her brother Richard, Karen must have dreamt of reaching the top of the world. I am sure that was the dream of her brother too. The same is with all of us, for sure. We all want to touch the heights of our careers, even if not the physical top of the world. For sure the two young “Carpenters” had set their minds to achieve this goal, while starting their music career back during late 1960.
Karen, the youngest of the two Carpenters, started her music career as a drummer for their music group, where her elder brother Richard was controlling everything. The activities of the group spread over a period of 14 years, from 1969 until 1983, during which time they produced 10 albums and many singles and television specials.
Both Richard and Karen were perfectionists. Richard, in particular, was a workaholic, who was creating music, playing piano and organising everything. Karen had a unique voice. The contralto vocals of Karen were well harmonised with composition skills of Richard. The brother and sister duo, kept on moving ahead during the early 1970s. After signing with A&M Records in 1969, they kept on producing hit songs, Hitting the top of the American charts.
For many, and to some extent statistically too, “YESTERDAY ONCE MORE”, and “MR. POSTMAN”, were better, but for me “TOP OF THE WORLD”, is their best. The music, the tune, the voice and above all the words of the song are simply fantastic.
With this particular song, I believe they had in fact reached the top of the world up in the music world, in their minds, which was more than evident in every aspect of the production of this particular song.
However, while on one side the two carpenters, were moving up in the music world, their personal health had started becoming a big hurdle in their progress, Michael had become addicted to Quaalude, a sedative and hypnotic medication. Karen on the other hand was seriously struggling with Anorexia Nervosa. She was in fact more than usually concerned about her weight. She was never overweight, yet she kept on applying dieting methods, throughout her music career.
Struggling to reach the “top of the world” through their songs, the brother and sister kept on working under heavy pressure of the demands of the musical world. They were frequently producing music and touring the world. Indeed it was never easy to remain on “top of the world” for long. the day came when they were forced to cancel their Japan and Europe trips when Karen collapsed on stage in Las Vegas, in the mid 70s. She could never recover completely from her sickness, though they kept on producing more and more music.
Unfortunately, on 4th February 1983, Karen breathed her last at the young age of 32, she died of a heart attack, in her parent’s home in Downey.
This is how young Karen Carpenter paid the price for being on “TOP OF THE WORLD”.
Below is a video where you can listen to the lyrics of this lovely song. “ON TOP OF THE WORLD”