In 1969, Karen and Richard Carpenter signed to A&M Records and released their debut album. Forty years later, the Carpenters are recognized not only as the most successful brother-sister act in music history and one of the best-selling acts of all-time but also as a pop culture phenomenon that continues to resonate today. Celebrating that legacy, the two-CD 40/40 (A&M/UMe), released October 20, 2009, produced by Richard Carpenter, brings together 40 of the duo’s greatest hits and best-loved recordings, each digitally remastered.
40/40 includes all of the Carpenters’ dozen Top 10 Pop hits, 19 of their 20 Top 40s and 23 of their 28 Top 75 Pop singles, from 1969’s cover of the Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride” to 1981’s “Those Good Old Dreams.” Among the 17 other tracks are covers of Leon Russell’s classic “This Masquerade,” Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On The Bayou)” and Tim Hardin’s “Reason To Believe,” and a pair of recordings originally released in 1983, following Karen’s passing earlier that year, “Now” and “Your Baby Doesn’t Love You Anymore.”
The Carpenters’ hit streak began with “(They Long To Be) Close To You” in 1970, which stayed at #1 on the charts for four weeks. Over the next four years, they reached #2 or #3 with such gems as “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “For All We Know,” “Rainy Days And Mondays,” Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlett’s “Superstar,” b/w “Bless The Beasts And Children” (featured in producer/director Stanley Kramer’s film of the same name), the “Sesame Street” anthem “Sing” and “Yesterday Once More.” In 1973 they snared a #1 with “Top Of The World” and the following year their third #1, a re-imagining of The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman.” Added to four multiplatinum albums, one platinum album, and a 1973 singles collection that reached seven times platinum, the Carpenters had become the best-selling American act of the Seventies.
Change and experimentation followed, including “All You Get From Love Is A Love Song,” “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft” and a Top 10 Country hit with Juice Newton’s “Sweet, Sweet Smile.” 1981’s “Touch Me When We’re Dancing,” from their last contemporaneous album, became their final Top 40 hit.
In recent years, artists from Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani and Shania Twain to Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys and Madonna have noted Karen Carpenter’s influence on their careers. And when 40/40 was released earlier this year in Japan, the collection quickly shot to #1 and gold certification. The popularity of the Carpenters continues to grow 40 years after they had just begun.