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Karen Carpenter was a legendary singer and drummer and one half of the brother-sister duo The Carpenters.

Before her death in 1983, she and her brother gave the world songs like “Close to You,” “Top of the World,” “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.”

 

Lisa Rock and her six-piece band will perform “Close to You: The Music of the Carpenters”... It’s a night filled with nostalgia to honor the musical duo’s legacy. This is also the 10-year anniversary of “Close to You: Music of the Carpenters.”

 

“We’ve played in 40 states. We’re coming up on our 300th show. We’ve been seen by over a quarter of a million people,” she said. “My mission with the band has been — we talk about Karen’s anorexia. What we’ve done is … we give back to local food banks in every city that we play in. People donate for the CD and we give back a portion of that to the local food banks. People are so amenable to that.” While she doesn’t skirt Karen Carpenter’s eating disorder, Rock also focuses on her music. “We don’t want to lose the lesson of her having anorexia and what she battled with that but she also deserves to be remembered for the artist that she was,” she said. Carpenter died at 32 years old in 1983.

 

In 10 years, Rock’s show has changed. “Obviously, the Carpenters songs haven’t changed. It’s changed in the sense that … some of the tempos, some of the instrumentations we’ve been doing,” she said. “We pride ourselves on matching their sound exactly. The stories we tell — those are very consistent about them, but the stories we tell about us, that has changed throughout the years. What we’ve experienced now, we include that part too. It’s mostly about them but we still relate it to how we’re touring and what we’re doing.”

 

She thinks there is still an audience for the music of The Carpenters — they still fill theaters across the country. “I’m honored. People still want to see this,” she said. “It’s 50 years later that ‘Close to You’ went number one. It makes me tear up thinking about her. If they’re loving us, can you imagine what they would have been doing for them? It will always be a tragic loss. I think any female performer understands what she went through, to some extent. It’s totally relevant because people still want to hear it.”

 

More proof that people still want to hear this music is that they frequently tell her their memories of The Carpenters. “It feels like an honor to keep going with it and to keep doing it,” she said. “We joke like, ‘How many times are we going to play these songs before we get sick of them?’ And we laugh because we don’t. We find something new every night. We find so much joy.”

 

The show is a journey, from intimate stories about The Carpenters they’ve gathered from research and other accounts to trivia about The Carpenters, as well as stories about themselves and their experiences performing this particular show. “It’s an interactive experience,” she said. “It is a night that everyone that sees it says this was like a journey with you about the Carpenters that they feel a part of too. It’s really a night of enjoying the music of The Carpenters along with stories about The Carpenters as well.”

(UNION, NJ) -- Give your sweetheart an early Valentine’s Day gift and enjoy the soft-rock, uplifting music of The Carpenters as vocalist Lisa Rock performs Close to You: The Music of the Carpenters at Kean Stage.

 

The Carpenters, featuring brother and sister Karen and Richard Carpenter, had a dozen Top 10 hits on the Billboard charts in the 1970s and early 1980s. Rock, who has the same deep, sophisticated, four-octave voice as Karen Carpenter, recreates Carpenter hits such as (They Long To Be) Close to You, Top of the World, We’ve Only Just Begun, Please Mr. Postman and Rainy Days and Mondays. “I miss her, I love her, and I honor her every time I’m on stage,” said Rock of Karen Carpenter. “What she left behind is relevant and, in hindsight, so poignant.”

 

Rolling Stone magazine named Karen Carpenter, who died in 1983, one of the greatest female vocalists of all time. Richard Carpenter worked as a composer, arranger and the band’s keyboardist. 

“I’ve listened to the Carpenters from childhood,” said Rock. “My parents had every album. I always loved her voice.”

 

Since graduating from Eastern Michigan University, Rock has spent the last 30 years working as an actor, playwright, singer and music therapist. She has written dozens of cabarets and has performed everything from theater to pop music to opera. She returned to her musical roots and performed a cabaret tribute to Karen Carpenter in Minneapolis in 2010, and it sold out. Since then, Rock and her band have performed The Carpenters’ tribute show more than 200 times. “It’s been a very amazing ride for me,” she said. “My backup singers and my band are extraordinary, every one of them. Some of them weren’t even alive when this music was out, but they love it. The passion they bring to it is very admirable.”

 

In addition to her spot-on renditions of the hits, Rock encourages audience participation and tells some interesting facts about The Carpenters. One such story involves songwriters Paul Williams and Roger Nichols, who penned We’ve Only Just Begun in 1968. It was originally written as a bank commercial in an effort to attract young couples and newlyweds to Crocker National Bank in California. When Richard Carpenter heard the song on TV, he inquired as to whether there was a full version, which there was. The Carpenters recorded it and it soared to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The record became the second gold single for the pair. 

 

Rock’s vocal range, being so similar to that of Karen Carpenter, allows her to perform these songs in their original key, keeping them more recognizable for the audience. “When she hits the lower range of her marvelous voice, if you close your eyes, you can see Karen Carpenter’s face,” said Chicago theater writer Alan Bresloff. Karen Carpenter’s beautiful voice has certainly stood the test of time. “These songs resonate because they really hit you at your soul,” said Rock. “I’ve sung them hundreds of times and I never get tired of them. I’m transported every single time. Karen’s longevity is a testament to her as an artist.”

 

To honor Karen Carpenter, who died of anorexia, Rock donates a portion of the CD sales at her shows to a local food bank, in Carpenter’s name. “This is our way of giving back and shining a light on what a serious mental health issue anorexia is,” said Rock. “Instead of Karen being remembered for that, we want her to be remembered for her golden voice.”