Carpenters fans flocked to their TV sets last weekend to catch the remastered documentary of the brother-sister duo on PBS stations across America. TJ Lubinsky’s My Music presented Close To You: Remembering The Carpenters starting December 5, with repeat performances that weekend.
Despite many of those fans knowing the fatal end of one-half of the talented 1970s hit-making duo, they still watched rapt, as if for the first time. That’s because the documentary lovingly chronicles the rise, ebb, and fall of the Carpenters as if for the first time, from the breathless, giddy excitement of a fan’s perspective.
The focus throughout the documentary remained on what mattered most in the end: the music, music, music, from the Carpenters’ surprising start as an award-winning jazz instrumental group to that one magical moment when bassist Joe Osborn of L.A.’s Wrecking Crew said, “Forget the trumpet player. This girl can sing,” to how they changed a famous Beatles pop confection into a harmonic jazz masterpiece on their first real recording effort.
Interviews gave even more of a loving, firsthand glimpse of the duo in action and behind the scenes — juicy quotes dropping all over the place.
Those interviewed included surviving brother Richard — one of the most underrated and admittedly mocked musicians in American history, Karen herself talking about the day Herb Alpert gave them a shot, because he was the music half of A&M, A&M co-founder Herb Alpert, who recognized the special appeal of that voice right away, and a compassionate fellow singer Petula Clark, who bonded with Karen right away.
The best part of the documentary was seeing all that rare footage of the Carpenters performing in front of the cameras and backstage, remembering the music that they cared so much about, the music that ultimately left them a lasting legacy.
By the time Richard Carpenter talks about the death of his sister from complications of anorexia, resigned and weary, the best had already made its mark. The music, vibrant, indelible, free, original, and alive, was stronger than the tragedy that cut Karen Carpenter’s promising career short at the tender age of 32.
Fans, new and old, rushed to their record collections or YouTube to remember the Carpenters all over again — many making pledges for the special offer of a three-CD box set, including bonus DVD, as a special part of the PBS My Music series.