Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My First Concert ... Shoobie Doobie Doooooooo ...

My first concert.  I think I was a high school freshman.  The brother and sister team of Karen and Richard Carpenter, the #1 group of the 1970s, were performing at Grady Gammage in my hometown of Tempe, Arizona.  My friend Kathy and I sat in the center near the front.  Wow.  We were all grown up and at a concert.

This was in the days barely beyond the Rat Pack and the Beatles.  Rock was all the rage, and the Carpenters were a marked departure.  We'd listened to Karen and Richard Carpenter since junior high when Janet introduced us to the world of pop hits radio.  Looking back, the lyrics were a hair behind sappy.  Maybe more.  But her voice ... no matter if she'd been singing about our science homeworkOne of us bought their album, and we had a slumber party and we hung on every saccharine word.

Those were such happy times
And not so long ago
How I wondered where they'd gone
But they're back again
Just like a long lost friend
All the songs I loved so well.

Every Sha-la-la-la
Every Wo-o-wo-o
Still shines
Every shing-a-ling-a-ling
That they're startin' to sing's
So fine.

Fast forward a decade or so, I was standing in the living room of our drafty, rented two-family home in the Boston suburbs when I learned Karen Carpenter died at the age of 32.  As her family and fans grieved, this would be the first time America acknowledged the struggle with anorexia and the pressure to be thin, especially in the entertainment business.  Karen's crystal pitched voice was silenced forever.

I listened again to Karen's incomparable vocals on You Tube a couple weeks ago.  In the almost three decades since her death, the music world has conquered new horizons, complete with video backdrops and choreographed background dancers.  Every album finds its way to a DVD or so it seems.  And yet, Karen Carpenter's musical magic -- complete with her warm, soft spoken, smooth, and perfectly balanced tone, not to mention perfect pitch and the ability to harmonize at the drop of a hat -- has yet to be rediscovered in an artist of our times.  She was amazing and legendary, and before we knew it, she was gone.  {there's always going to be a hush heard 'round the world where her voice once sang}

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