Together with her brother Richard Carpenter, American vocalist and drummer Karen Carpenter was a member of the band The Carpenters. Carpenter was renowned for her soothing vocal style and distinctive voice.
Karen Carpenter was not only a well-known singer but also a skilled drummer. She began playing the drums in high school and frequently played in the duet as the lead vocalist and drummer, but she was later recommended to concentrate on singing. Despite this, respected drummers like Hal Blaine, Cubby O’Brien, and Buddy Rich lauded her drumming abilities. Her drumming abilities have been displayed in recently uncovered performances by the Carpenters videos.
She was able to sing lovely toplines while simultaneously rattling through rhythmic fills in a manner that was as effortless and flawless as whistling in the shower. Karen herself once said, “I picked up a pair of sticks, and it was the most natural-feeling thing I’ve ever done.”
Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre also told that she was a “top tier of musicianship.” Clem Burke also further stated her drumming talents. He said, “Karen was a fantastic drummer only overshadowed by her fantastic voice and femininity.” Karen’s drumming abilities have been lauded by Sheila E. and Cindy Blackman Santana, who regret that they did not receive greater recognition.
However, John Bonham didn’t have the same sentiments. The fact that the youthful singing sticksmith placed higher than him in Playboy’s 1975 “Best Drummer” poll clearly infuriated John Bonham. He was irritated and said, “I’d like to have it publicised that I came in after Karen Carpenter in the Playboy drummer poll! She couldn’t last 10 minutes with a Zeppelin number.”
The drummer roared in a drunken stupor, according to Vanity Fair journalist Lisa Robinson, who was in the dressing room that night to see his battered ego’s response to the vote. He told to Robinson, “I was a carpenter for a few years [the trade not a bandmember], I’d get up at seven in the morning, then change my clothes in the van to go to gigs at night. How do you think I feel, not being taken seriously, coming in after Karen Carpenter in the Playboy poll. … Karen Carpenter … what a load of shit.”
He may have been speaking in a misogynistic manner and focusing on random polls, which is probably the opposite of rock ‘n’ roll, but he was tragically not the only person at the time who shared this opinion. Carpenter’s drumming was underrated not only because of her sexuality but also because of the less thrashy style she adopted, as though decibel levels were the primary yardstick of ability. This is being readdressed positively.
Aside from the fact that she typically kept things straightforward for the sake of the song and the health issues that limited her productivity, it’s possible that another factor contributing to her underappreciation as a musician was her sincere humility in a time when ego was king. Yet, Karen’s vocals continued to take center stage in the Carpenters’ music despite her adept drumming. When she found out, John was mad at the poll, she had commented, “[I am] humbled and embarrassed. I heard John Bonham is quite upset. I hope he is not mad at me, as I had nothing to do with the poll.”