Drummers lay the foundation of the track. Their beats are the pulse of a song. But unfortunately, they don’t get the same amount of attention vocalists, and guitarists get. However, they are appreciated in their own communities. But did you know in 1975, Playboy magazine’s readers voted the most unlikely drummer of the year?
Readers of Playboy magazine voted Karen Carpenter as the Best Rock Drummer in the 1975 annual opinion poll. Carpenter outvoted John Bonham of the rock band Led Zeppelin.
Who was Karen Carpenter?
Karen Carpenter was born on March 2, 1950, in New Haven, Connecticut. Carpenter’s career started when she explored her interest in music when she and her family moved to Downey, California, and she was trying to avoid gym class in high school.
Carpenter switched to playing drums and forming a band with her brother in 1966. The Carpenters won a battle of the bands’ competition in 1966 and later landed a recording deal with A&M. The duo released their first album in 1969, but their fame took off with their release of Close to You in the 1970s.
The brother and sister tandem won a Grammy for best contemporary vocal performance with their hit single. The Carpenters’ We’ve Only Just Begun helped them win the Grammy for best new artist at the same time.
The tandem did extensive touring in the seventies. They even had the chance to perform in the White House at the request of President Richard Nixon. In the mid-seventies, Carpenter lost so much weight due to exhaustion. She ended up being hospitalized. This led to the cancellation of their European tour. Doctors then found out about Carpenter’s eating disorder.
Carpenter recovered from her condition, and the duo continued with their music, but their popularity declined in the early eighties. She then got treatment for her anorexia. But due to complications with her heart, she passed away on February 4, 1983. (Source: Biography)
Karen Carpenter’s Musical Career
Carpenter’s first musical instrument was the glockenspiel, but Frankie Chavez inspired her to learn the drums in 1964. She convinced her parents to buy her a drum set. Chavez mentored her and helped hone her skills that she was able to play some of the most challenging pieces.
Carpenter stopped playing the drums in the latter part of her career to focus on singing, but even so, she was still voted as the best rock drummer of the year on Playboy’s 1975 poll. This result shocked Led Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham. Bonham felt outraged with the survey result, saying that Carpenter wouldn’t even last ten minutes with a Zeppelin piece.
This achievement shocked Carpenter, and she wasn’t expecting such recognition. In one of her interviews, she mentioned that she felt both humbled and embarrassed when she learned that she won the poll. Carpenter also said that she heard that John Bonham was quite upset and hoped he wasn’t mad with her because she had nothing to do with the poll. But she did respond to Bonham’s claim that she couldn’t do a Zeppelin piece. On national TV, she proceeded to play and sing Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You, one of Led Zeppelin’s pieces. She proved that she was a great drummer and deserved her spot on the poll. (Source: The Famous People)