Karen Carpenter Biography: Age, Death, Net Worth, Spouse, Height, Family, Children, Wikipedia, Songs

Posted By Johnson Ajiboye

Karen Carpenter was a renowned singer and drummer who formed the successful pop duo the Carpenters in the 1970s along with her brother Richard.

Her voice, which spanned three octaves, was praised by critics and peers as one of the most distinctive and expressive in the music industry.

She also showcased her talent as a drummer, playing for the Carpenters until she became the lead vocalist.


  • Full name: Karen Anne Carpenter
  • Date of birth: March 2, 1950
  • Age: 32 years old (at the time of death)
  • Gender: Female
  • Place of birth: New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Singer, drummer
  • Height: 5 ft 4 in (163 cm)
  • Parents: Harold Carpenter (father), Agnes Carpenter (mother)
  • Siblings: Richard Carpenter (brother)
  • Spouse: Thomas James Burris (ex-husband)
  • Children: N/A
  • Relationship status: Divorced
  • Net worth: $6 million

Early Life & Education

Karen Carpenter, who would have been 73 years old in 2023, was born on March 2, 1950, in New Haven, Connecticut.

She was the younger of two children of Harold Carpenter, a printer, and Agnes Carpenter, a housewife. She had a close bond with her brother Richard, who was three years older than her. They shared a love for music and often sang and played together.

When Karen was 13, her family moved to Downey, California, where she attended Downey High School.

She was an active student in the school band, orchestra, choir, and drama club. She also excelled academically, earning good grades and being elected class president in her senior year.

She developed a passion for drumming and took lessons from a local teacher named Frank Pooler. She soon became proficient in playing various percussion instruments, such as the marimba, the vibraphone, and the glockenspiel.

After graduating high school in 1967, Karen enrolled at Long Beach State College and joined the college choir. She also continued to play the drums and sing with Richard, who studied music at the same college.

They formed a trio with a bassist named Wes Jacobs and performed at local clubs and events. They also recorded some demos and auditioned for various record labels, hoping to launch their musical career.

Personal Life

Karen Carpenter had a few romantic relationships in her life, but none of them lasted long. She dated fellow musicians like Mike Curb, Steve Martin, and Mark Harmon, but none of them proposed to her.

She also had a brief affair with her married manager, Sherwin Bash, in the late 1970s.

In 1980, she met Thomas James Burris, a real estate developer nine years older than her, and had a son from a previous marriage. They married on August 31, 1980, in a lavish ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

However, the marriage was unhappy and short-lived. Burris was reportedly abusive and controlling, and he refused to support Karen’s desire to have children.

He also squandered her money and pressured her to sign a prenuptial agreement that would leave her with nothing in case of a divorce. Karen filed for divorce in 1981, but it was not finalized before her death.

Karen Carpenter did not have any children of her own, but she loved children and was a devoted aunt to her brother’s children, Kristi Lynn and Traci Tatum. She also had many friends in the music industry, such as Olivia Newton-John, Dionne Warwick, Herb Alpert, and John Denver.


Karen Carpenter’s career as a singer and drummer began in the late 1960s when she and Richard signed a contract with A&M Records, a label owned by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss.

They initially called themselves the Richard Carpenter Trio but later changed their name to the Carpenters.

They released their debut album, Offering, in 1969, which featured a cover of the Beatles’ song “Ticket to Ride.”

The album was not a commercial success, but it caught the attention of radio personality Burt Bacharach, who invited them to perform at a charity event.

The Carpenters’ breakthrough came in 1970 when they released their second album, Close to You, which contained two hit singles: “(They Long to Be) Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.”

Both songs reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and earned them their first Grammy Awards.

The album also showcased Karen’s vocal range, versatility, and Richard’s skills as a songwriter, arranger, and producer.

The Carpenters continued to release successful albums and singles throughout the 1970s, such as Carpenters (1971), A Song for You (1972), Now & Then (1973), Horizon (1975), and A Kind of Hush (1976).

Some of their most popular songs include “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “Superstar,” “Top of the World,” “Please Mr. Postman,” “Yesterday Once More,” and “Only Yesterday.”

They also had several television specials and concerts and collaborated with artists like the Sesame Street cast, Ella Fitzgerald, and Perry Como. They sold over 100 million records worldwide and became one of the best-selling music acts ever.

Karen Carpenter also pursued a solo career in the late 1970s, recording an album with producer Phil Ramone in 1979. The Karen Carpenter album was a departure from the Carpenters’ style, featuring more upbeat and contemporary songs.

However, the album was released later due to Richard’s objections and A&M’s lack of interest. It was only released posthumously in 1996 and received positive reviews from critics and fans.


Karen Carpenter’s death was caused by heart failure due to complications from anorexia nervosa, a disorder that causes extreme weight loss and starvation.

She had been suffering from anorexia since the early 1970s, but it was not widely known or understood at the time.

The media and the public often criticized her for her appearance and weight, which affected her self-esteem and confidence. She also faced stress and pressure from her career and personal life, which worsened her condition.

She tried to seek help and recover from her illness, undergoing therapy and medication. She also gained weight and resumed her musical activities in the early 1980s.

However, her recovery was short-lived and fragile, as she relapsed and lost weight again. She also developed cardiac problems and irregular heartbeat, which were aggravated by the use of laxatives and thyroid pills.

On February 4, 1983, she collapsed in her parents’ home in Downey, California, where she had been staying after her divorce.

She was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 9:51 a.m. She was 32 years old. Her death shocked and saddened the world and raised awareness and research on eating disorders and body image issues.


Karen Carpenter’s life and death were surrounded by some controversy and speculation, both during her lifetime and after. Some of the controversies include:

Her marriage to Thomas James Burris was widely seen as a mistake and disaster. Many people blamed Burris for Karen’s unhappiness and deterioration and accused him of being abusive, greedy, and unfaithful.

Burris denied these allegations and claimed he loved Karen and tried to help her. He sued her estate for $1.5 million but later dropped the lawsuit.

Her solo album was shelved by A&M Records and Richard Carpenter, who did not approve of its style and content. Some people believed Karen was unhappy with the Carpenters’ image and wanted to express herself more freely and creatively.

Others argued that she was loyal to the Carpenters and respected Richard’s opinions and decisions. The album was eventually released in 1996 after Richard remixed some of the tracks and added some overdubs.

Her autopsy report revealed that she had traces of ipecac, a substance that induces vomiting, in her system.

Some people speculated that she had been using ipecac to purge herself, which could have contributed to her death.

Others doubted this theory and suggested that she had taken ipecac by mistake or for another reason.

The truth remains unclear and disputed.

Social Media

  • Instagram handle: N/A
  • Twitter handle: N/A


  • Close to You
  • Yesterday Once More
  • Top of The World
  • I Won’t Last a Day Without You
  • I Need to Be In Love

Net Worth

Karen Carpenter’s net worth at the time of her death was estimated to be around $6 million.

She earned most of her money from her music career as a member of the Carpenters and a solo artist.

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