In the studio, they called her “One Take Karen” because Karen Carpenter always hit her notes perfectly.

“She handled harmonies like it was second nature,” says author Joel Samberg. “She was a born musician.”

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Yet even as her velvety voice turned songs like “Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun” into gold for The Carpenters, Karen led a sad and lonely life. “She has this unbelievable talent,” says Samberg, author of the new book Some Kind of Lonely Clown: The Music, Memory and Melancholy Lives of Karen Carpenter, “But she would have been enormously happy just staying at home with a husband and kids.” Sadly, Karen never realized those dreams before she died in 1983 at age 32.

karen carpenter 1981

Karen and her brother Richard in 1981.

Despite her prodigious talent, Karen was never comfortable in the spotlight and obsessed over her weight. “Karen had been a little overweight as a teenager — she loved tacos and chili,” revealed Richard Carpenter, 69, the other half of The Carpenters, adding that his sister started dieting at age 17 and lost from 20 to 25 pounds. This success likely began her addiction to dieting.

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“When a person starts losing weight, those around them typically respond with praise. This can be highly reinforcing to someone with low self-esteem,” explains Dina Zeckhausen, an eating disorder specialist.

To read the full story on Karen, pick up the new issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now!