“Superstar” by Carpenters
The story behind the Carpenters’ “Superstar” is that the vocalist is actually taking on the role of a groupie, i.e. a girl who is thoroughly sweatin’ a professional musician, who happens to be the addressee.
This is important to note because the Carpenters’ cover of Superstar makes just one slight lyrical modification. But said modification, as intended, makes the piece a lot more mainstream, albeit at the cost of possibly shrouding the adult-oriented nature of what’s actually going down here.
And what is going down, as premised earlier, is that the vocalist is smitten by a professional musician, particularly his guitar playing. And as implied by the second verse, she actually strikes up a romantic relationship with him.
But more to the conclusive point is the fact, by the looks of thing he appears to play her, i.e. use the vocalist for sex and then more or less act as if she doesn’t exist. So that’s why we find Karen, on top of proclaiming her lover for this individual, pining for him to return to her, as promised. But of course, the implication would be that he’s never returning, and therefore this heartbreak she’s suffering from is simply something she must deal with for the time being.
Facts about “Superstar”
This song was written by Hall of Fame inductee Leon Russell (1942-2016) and singer Bonnie Bramlett. And it was first dropped in 1969 by a musical duo the latter was a part of known as Delaney & Bramlett.
Since then, Superstar has been covered by some of the biggest names in the game, such as Luther Vandross in 1983. Ruben Studdard and Usher also covered it in 2003 and 2005 respectively.
But the version we’re covering today by the Carpenters stands as the most-successful out of the lot.
The Carpenters were a brother-and-sister team consisting of Richard Carpenter and his younger sibling, Karen Carpenter (1950-1983). They were in fact one of the better known musical acts of the 1970s heading into the 1980s. But their professional tenure was cut short when Karen, who had grown up with self-image issues, basically starved herself to death in the name of retaining a slim physique.
The Carpenters’ Cover of “Superstar”
The Carpenters’ rendition of Superstar was produced by Jack Daugherty. It officially came out on 14 May 1971.
It topped Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart and scored a number 2 on the Hot 100. Furthermore, it also performed impressively on the UK Singles Chart. It replicated this feat in just about every country it charted. One of these countries was Japan.
And the track was also nominated for a Best Arrangement Instrumental with Vocalist Grammy Award in 1972.
The Wrecking Crew, a group of prominent session musicians who had performed in the background of innumerable hits from the era in which this song was dropped, also participated on Carpenters’ Superstar.
This track is featured on the Carpenters’ third studio album, which itself is entitled Carpenters.
Even though the original songwriters are credited on the Carpenter’s version of Superstar, Richard Carpenter did modify one line therein. The said line previously implied the vocalist and addressee had slept together.
Amongst the Carpenters many hits this one is highly regarded. This is despite the fact that Karen was able to lay down her featured vocals in a single take.
It was Richard Carpenter who came up with the idea that he and Karen should cover this song. He was inspired to do so after hearing Bette Midler perform it in 1970.
But reportedly Midler didn’t take too kindly to their rendition. Some even say she was perhaps jealous of it. And why? Simply because after it blew up, she proceeded to make fun of Karen. She however later recanted these sentiments after Karen’s tragic passing.