“Solitaire” – Okay, I Admit It, I Was (And Still Am) A Closet Karen Carpenter Fan

One of the most compelling songs ever written about loneliness, Solitaire, was the result of a collaboration between songwriters Neil Sedaka and Phil Coday http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solitaire_(Neil_Sedaka_song). The song was first recorded by Sedaka himself as the title cut on a 1972 album and, later, re-released on Sedaka’s popular 1974 comeback effort, Sedaka’s Back,  Over the years, the song also was covered by the likes of Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Elvis Presley and, more recently, by Sheryl Crow and Clay Aiken,  In my mind, however, Solitaire will be forever linked with the late, great Karen Carpenter, who, with her brother, Richard, released it as a track on the Carpenters’ 1975 Horizon album.  I was a junior in high school at the time – very much lost emotionally and already feeling more alone than a boy probably should feel at 17.  I remember being struck, as apparently was her brother, who years later would refer to it as one of his sister’s greatest performances, by the unusual intensity that Karen Carpenter brought to that vocal, a connection that could only come from knowing intimately the lonely place from which those lyrics came. Of course, it would be nearly ten (10) years before I (and the rest of the world) would learn of Karen Carpenter’s struggle with anorexia nervosa – a struggle that tragically took her life at 32 and with it one of the most beautiful voices of my generation. Fortunately, however, her death was not in vain. To the contrary, her celebrity often is credited with shining the public spotlight, for the first time, on what, in 1984, was the mostly “invisible” and largely misunderstood world of eating disorders. And so, I am doubly grateful to Karen Carpenter, first for a voice that helped carry me through my teenage years and second for the “gift” of her death (i.e., greater awareness of a collection of life-threatening diseases that, in turn, resulted in their  sufferers beginning to receive the attention (and treatment) they deserve). 

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