It’s Yesterday No More

First things first: It’s 60 degrees here in the Hudson River Valley with occasional bursts of sun through the clouds. There’s definitely an upside to global warming. 

But on to more important issues. The home in Downey, California formerly owned by the parents of Karen and Richard Carpenter is likely to be torn down and replaced by a McMansion, the Los Angeles Times reported this weekend. The current owners, who are sick and tired of Carpenters groupies making pilgrimages to the house, have applied for a permit to tear down the post-war structure. They’ve already demolished the smaller home next door, where the Carpenters worked on a number of their classic tunes.

Fans are organizing to save the home, but admit success is unlikely. Richard Carpenter has stayed resolutely silent on the issue. And a quick Internet search reveals that the home’s owners might well have a point. I mean, would you want to see your house featured on You-tube? And yet …   

Yes, I know it’s hard to make a case for preserving a plug-ugly home just because a photo of it graced the cover of the Carpenters 1973 album Now & Then, (it’s also the home where Karen Carpenter collapsed shortly before dying of anorexia-related heart disease) but still …. You either love the Carpenters or you hate them. You either get the timeless appeal of Sing and Top of the World or you don’t. There’s really no defense for loving melodic kitsch. There is no explanation for why one person might think the Carpenters a major and wonderful music group of the 1970s while another thinks their oeuvre third rate junk. 

One of the first albums I ever bought after my parents began giving me an allowance was the Carpenters first greatest hits album, The Singles 1969-1973. It’s still a favorite today, more than thirty years after I purchased it in the record section of Korvette’s. I could claim I hear all the depression and desperation underneath the chirpiness — and maybe I do on some subconscious level — but the truth is that hearing Karen Carpenter’s voice just makes me happy. 

The world will be a poorer place for the destruction of a home in Downey. And if you don’t agree with me about the Carpenters, let this thought influence your thinking: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

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