How did Karen Carpenter Died?

If we’re to talk about the biggest-selling musical acts of the 70s and 80s then The Carpenters will come at the top of the list. Karen Richard and her brother Sister Richard were the top artists, they had over 20 hits such as  “Goodbye to Love”, “Rainy Days and Mondays”, “Yesterday Once More”, and “Close to You”. 

 We still can’t believe that over 4 decades have already passed since Karen Carpenter died on February 4, 1983. She suffered from heart failure, she was only 32 during her demise. The world will never forget about Carpenter’s death and her final moments. 

The Rise Of The Carpenters

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Karen Carpenter was introduced to music at a very young age. Many believed that she and her brother both were music prodigies. According to PEOPLE, Karen managed to teach herself drums by using chopsticks on barstools.

Karen and Richard, the siblings knew they had to pursue their dream of becoming a musician after their parents moved to Downey, California from New Haven. To pursue their dreams, the duo formed a band with their friend  Wes Jacobs in 1965.

Richard was a keyboardist, Karen was on drums and Jacobs was responsible for keyboard and bass. After 5 years of forming the band, the group finally signed with A&M Records and their official name was “The Carpenters”.

The Carpenters started to rise and gain popularity in the mainstream and they soon became one of the best. Unfortunately, this caused problems, especially for Karen and her anorexia.

Karen’s Obsession With Diet

Karen set a goal to remain thin since her high school days. After school, she started to practice the Stillman water diet. She was never overweight, when she was 17, she was at 10st 5lb.

She managed to shape herself to 8st 8lb by controlling her eating style, but she never tried starving herself. She got a habit of eating less and even during tours, she wouldn’t eat much, “When you’re on the road it’s hard to eat. Period. On top of that, it’s tough to eat well,” she described in 1973.

“We don’t like to eat before a show because I can’t stand singing with a full stomach… You never get to dinner until, like, midnight, and if you eat heavy you’re not going to sleep, and you’re going to be a balloon.”

The weight loss wasn’t enough for Karen and she hired a personal trainer for her, who taught her a diet that was high in carbohydrates but low in calories. Looking at how she gained muscle and got heavier, Karen got mad and fired her personal trainer.

She then ventured on her solo journey to lose weight. Every morning she used to practice with her Hip Cycle and “She lost around 20lb” said Carole Curb, sister of Karen’s then-boyfriend.

“She weighed 110lb [7st 12lb] or so, and looked amazing… If she’d been able to stop there then life would have been beautiful. A lot of us girls in that era went through moments of that. Everybody wanted to be Twiggy. Karen got carried away. She just couldn’t stop.”

Karen continued with her weight loss journey continued and her weight weighed 6st 6lb. She then started to find ways to hide her weight loss.

Everyone was shocked when they saw the state Karen was in and the only solution they had in mind was: to eat. Band member John Bettis then explains that in Anoreixua wasn’t a simple disorder to deal with.

“From the outside the solution looks so simple. All a person has to do is eat. So we were constantly trying to shove food at Karen… My opinion about anorexia is it’s an attempt to have control – something in your life you can do something about, that you can regiment. That just got out of control with her” he said.

Karen’s Anorexia Started To Worsen

Even the band members were concerned about her health, Bash then confronted Karen about her health. “The fact that she was anorexic was discussed innumerable times… There was every attempt to get her to seek professional help,” he said.

He added, “But I believe her family was the kind of family where the mother would say, ‘We can take care of ourselves. We don’t need to have someone help. This is a family matter.’

Bash explains that one of the reasons why Karen overdieted was because she never had proper attention from her family. “Karen had never had attention from Agnes before – her mother doted exclusively on Richard – so she liked it,” he said,

“The experts say that one of the things that seems to drive young girls to overdiet is that they were oftentimes the kids that never got attention. It’s a way of getting the love from their family that they never got before.”

For the next five years, her health started to worsen and in 1981, her weight was around 5st 10lbs. Unfortunately for Karen, her health never showed signs of improvement and it only started to eat her stamina.

Karen Carpenter Died At The Age Of 32

In 1983, on February 4, Karen woke up and went to the kitchen downstairs. She turned on her coffee shop and went back upstairs, to her bedroom to get dressed.

Agnes realized that the coffee was ready and went upstairs to call her daughter upstairs but there was no response. When she went inside her room, Karen was motionless. She was naked and lying face down. Her eyes were rolled way back and “She had just laid down on the floor and that was it,” said Agnes.

The autopsy report stated the cause of the death which was “emetine cardiotoxicity due to or as a consequence of anorexia nervosa.” It was revealed that Karen was poisoned with ipecac syrup.

Levenkron, Karen’s personal therapist was also unaware of her using ipecac. During their conversations, she made sure to tell him that he had already stopped using laxatives.

“According to the LA coroner, she discovered ipecac… and started taking it every day. There are a lot of women out there who are using Ipecac for self-induced vomiting. It creates painful cramps, tastes terrible, and it does another thing that the public isn’t aware of. It slowly dissolves the heart muscle,” Levenkron stated in an interview.”

He added; “If you take it day after day, every dose is taking another little piece of that heart muscle apart. Karen, after fighting bravely for a year in therapy, went home and apparently decided that she wouldn’t lose any weight with ipecac, but that she’d make sure she didn’t gain any. I’m sure she thought this was a harmless thing she was doing, but in 60 days she had accidentally killed herself. It was a shocker for all of us who treated her.”

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