“AND THEN SHE JUST BREAK YOUR SOUL” (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End # 160)

I’ve spent a lot of my rehab time listening to “Reaction” videos on YouTube. For those who aren’t familiar, the reactions consist mostly of young people, the majority of whom seem to be black people, listening to older music (by what seem to be mostly white performers) for the first time. The results range from hilarious to heartbreaking to cringe-inducing to eye-opening (imagine someone reacting to “Night Moves” without understanding the significance of 1962 or “Ode to Billy Joe” without knowing what the Tallahatchee River represents).

One of my favorite follows is some black kids called Dean Bros, fellow North Florida natives who appear in various combinations but always bring infectious enthusiasm. They just recently discovered Karen Carpenter. I have a delicate relationship with Karen. My mother–also my favorite rock critic–was an incredibly gifted singer, with an appreciation for all kinds of music. I only heard her compare two human voices to angels. One was Karen Carpenter, the other was Martin Luther King.

The spiritual element in Carpenter’s voice wasn’t missed by me…I didn’t inherit my mother’s talent but I did inherit her ear. I’ve always told anyone who would listen that if you had shown me two photographs in 1978, one of Karen Carpenter and one of Johnny Rotten, and guaranteed one of them was a Show Biz lifer and the other was being ridden by a Hellhound, I would have pointed to Karen as the latter. If you had asked me how I knew, I would have said: “I’ve heard her sing.”

As our fat, unhappy nation now resumes the spiral back into spiritual numbness, a process that began in earnest around the time of her death, it’s a treat for me to hear a bunch of kids from my neighborhood get instantly what three generations of crit-illuminati didn’t so much fail as refuse to notice.

Listen again, through their ears:


4 thoughts on ““AND THEN SHE JUST BREAK YOUR SOUL” (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End # 160)

  1. I got chills like I always do from Karen but also from seeing open minds and hearts like theirs. Such a refreshing warm breath in our currently frozen climate. Thanks, Johnny. And I hope you are feeling better day by day.

    • Ain’t it grand? Russell Thompkins Jr. lead singer of the Stylistics recently announced that he was planning to do an album of Carpenters’ covers…One of my favorites singers too, but I’m not sure even Russell should take on Karen Carpenter!

      I am getting better, but still having issues with my side and lower back. I have an endoscopy tomorrow…hoping they can start figuring out what’s going on, if anything!

      Best to you the meantime April!

  2. Karen had an exquisite voice, just sublime. Perfect intonation. And don’t forget, she was a hell of a drummer too. Apparently early in her career, she still played drums and sang! Johnny, it is wonderful to read your writing again, and like your other friends, I wish you a speedy recovery.

    If you, or anyone else reading this comment has the time, here is an interview with the great bassist Buell Neidlinger. It is highly entertaining on its own, but he does talk about his recording sessions, and rates Karen as one of the three greatest voices he had ever heard (the other two were Barbra Streisand and Billy Holiday).

    • Mike you’re too kind….but I can’t argue with what you say about me, because, hey, everything else you say is true! And thanks for the link. Great to hear that assessment from such an accomplished player.(Hal Blaine said similar things about Karen’s voice)….Hope yo have a great Christmas)


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