They Long to Be Close to You
Writer(s): Burt Bacharach (music), Hal David (lyics) (see lyrics here)
Released: May 14, 1970
First Charted: June 5, 1970
Peak: 14 US, 12 CB, 14 GR, 12 HR, 16 AC, 6 UK, 12 CN, 13 AU, 3 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.2 UK, 1.24 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 99.02 video, 134.19 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
“The Carpenters didn’t invent easy listening music…But the Carpenters took that music, with all its lush and syrupy orchestration, and fused it with the starry-eyed sensibilities of late-’60s rock. In doing so, they became a commercial juggernaut and helped to invent the somnambulant sound of ’70s studio-pop. It’s not hard to figure out why a lot of people might resent them.” SG
The brother and sister duo of Richard and Karen Carpenter were born in Connecticut, but the family moved to Los Angeles in 1963 when their parents realized the sibilings’ musical ambitions. After failed efforts with a jazz trio called the Carpenter Trio FB and a band named Spectrum, Richard and Karen signed to A&M as a duo. Their 1969 debut went nowhere, but their cover of the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” caught the attention of songwriter Burt Bacharach. FB
Herb Alpert, who co-owned A&M and had hits of his own, suggested the Carpenters record “They Long to Be Close to You,” FB an obscure song Bacharach wrote with Hal David for TV star Richard Chamberlain. It was released as a B-side to “Blue Guitar,” which reached #42 in 1963. Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, and Alpert all recorded versions, but they were all “big, traditional showstopping ’60s orchestral-pop ballads.” SG Richard didn’t listen to any of them, instead coming up with his own piano arrangement. The Carpenters’ recording included members of the famed Wrecking Crew group of session musicians who served as the de facto house band for famous producer Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound in the 1960s.
The “lyrics are exaggerated to the point of absurdity…Birds and stars and all the girls in town are hovering around this mythical beloved figure. The day this person was born, angels sprinkled gold dust in this person’s hair and starlight in his eyes of blue.” SG THe recording is “toothache-sweet and impeccable to the point of being antiseptic” SG but Karen’s “warm, controlled delivery…manages to get across both sadness and silliness.” SG
When Albert asked Richard how he though the song would do, Carpenter said “it would either be number one of the biggest stiff the label had ever released.” FB It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks and earned the Carpenters a Grammy for Best Contemporary Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus.
First posted 11/28/2022.