31 May 2011

The life and times of Karen Carpenter

I guess many who know me would wonder why on earth I should be bothered about this –and  have I not anything better to do with my time. And my response on the issue of time would be that I decide what I do with my time and what my priorities are.

Karen Carpenter died in 1983, at the age of 32 due to complications of anorexia nervosa (AN) i.e. a heart attack. Yes – some of you didn’t know that could be a complication of AN. Take it from me who is knowledgeable on this, that it is a genuine complication of AN (and you can Google it if you wish).

Karen was destined to be probably the biggest name in music in her era! There was a certain kind of feeling that came through in her voice that connected with millions around the globe – her voice had instant impact on people. It wasn’t just her voice, but her manner too that brought out something inside. She sang from something deep inside the soul. Something that disturbed her perhaps. We know of this in lots of singers. Another example is Gerry Rafferty. His song Baker Street was to foretell the way his life would flow and end. But Karen Carpenter had never let on what was wrong inside. Like most anorexics, she was an accomplished liar in respect of her condition.

Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness. Some people get into debates about whether it is a physical illness. I entertain no debates or questions about any of that. It makes little difference and is a moot academic point, I could argue for example that all mental illnesses are physical illnesses, because without the physical existence of a brain their could be nothing mental. You see where that’s going.

AN is a particularly troublesome condition to treat because the will of the mind is turned against itself. I call it a kind of suicide – but there may be no clear wish or intent to commit suicide. Karen Carpenter was intelligent enough to know that what she was doing to herself could lead to death – after all she ended up in a hospital a few weeks before she died.

There are several documentaries and re-enactments of her life story on YouTube. The one to the left is probably most accessible. The other 9 parts become obvious if you get to YouTube.

There are many lessons to be learned from the life and death of Karen Carpenter. No – I’m not the type to start telling you what to extract. If you’re the kind of person who thinks more deeply about things you’ll find your own lessons in this.

Best wishes to all.