A question I’ve been pondering ever since I started this course is – what are all the ways for music to become timeless?
Many artists and pieces are iconic because they have a unique story behind them, because they were innovative, or they emerged at just the right moment to shine. Sometimes it’s the flashy or interesting personalities behind them. But can music be mundane, safe, even outdated – and still become timeless? And if so, what are the necessary conditions for such a thing to occur?
The 70s were an era of great innovation in music. From Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, to Queen, to Bowie, from Funk and Punk to Psychedelic Rock, it was a decade of experimentation, innovation, birth of new sounds and genres, led by charismatic and iconic superstars. Amidst all that was a pair of siblings, a brother and sister, who didn’t do any of that.
They didn’t innovate new genres.
They didn’t seek to break the rules.
They weren’t ‘bad boys (or girls).’
Their music was considered ‘square’ and outdated by their contemporaries.
They didn’t have controversial or interesting lifestyles.
They were regular, down-to-earth folks. And so was their music.
So why do people of my generation (born in the 1990s) still know their names?
Karen and Richard Carpenter were a sister and brother duo. They debuted with the hit “Close to You” (1969) and were active until 1983 (a year after the END OF THE WORLD), when Karen died from complications related to anorexia.
Some of their songs were their originals. You can usually recognize them by having the word ‘yesterday’ in the title. like this one:
Or this one:
But not this one:
While some of their songs were covers:
So why are they still one of the best-known artists to this day?
Watch Karen’s enthusiasm as she drums:
And listen to the perfect arrangement Richard has made to this song, with a fairy-tale-like intro, leading to Karen’s mesmerizing yet simple singing, with her rich and warm voice, building up perfectly to the crescendo of the chorus:
And the answer is – they really loved music. When Karen sang, she sang simply and completely. When Richard wrote the songs or their arrangements, he put incredible effort into bringing them to perfection and to complement Karen’s voice.
I think the Carpenters are proof that music doesn’t have to be innovative or flashy or cool to become timeless. Sometimes, when you really love music, and are really talented, it shows. It tells a story, a story of enthusiasm and authenticity – and it becomes relatable to audiences across generations, and makes them feel on top of the world.