Karen Anne Carpenter (March 2, 1950 – February 4, 1983) was an American singer and drummer. In addition to being a drummer and a singer, Karen Carpenter could also play the electric bass guitar. She and Richard Carpenter, her brother, formed duo The Carpenters in the 1970s. Her skills as a drummer earned admiration from drumming luminaries and peers. she is best known also for her vocal performances. She had a contralto vocal range. Carpenter suffered from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that was little known at the time.
She died at age 32 from heart failure caused by complications related to her illness. Carpenter's death led to increased visibility and awareness of eating disorders. Carpenter started out as both the group's drummer and lead singer, and she originally sang all her vocals from behind the drum set. Because at 5 feet 4 inches tall it was difficult for people in the audience to see her behind her drum kit, she was eventually persuaded to stand at the microphone to sing the band's hits while another musician played the drums.
After the release of Now & Then in 1973, the albums tended to have Carpenter singing more and drumming less. At this time her brother developed an addiction to Quaaludes. The Carpenters frequently cancelled tour dates, and they stopped touring altogether after their September, 1978.
The acting Los Angeles County coroner performed the autopsy on Karen Carpenter. The results of the autopsy and cause of death were released to the public on March 11, 1983 by way of a press conference and accompanying press release. A drug or medication overdose was explicitly ruled out. The cause of Karen Carpenter's death was stated as "emetine cardiotoxicity due to or as a consequence of anorexia nervosa. What was not specified in the report was how the emetine got into Carpenter's system.