31 Days of Faves: The Carpenters – Goodbye to Love

#5 The Carpeters – Goodbye to Love

The rise of the “Soft Rock” radio format owes parallels the singular career of The Carpenters. Between Karen‘s unique contralto voice and Richard‘s production prowess, the duo charted three number-one singles, five number-two singles and have sold over 90 million records worldwide.

While “(They Long to Be) Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun” are their signature songs, my all time favorite is “Goodbye to Love“.

Richard Carpenter and John Bettis wrote it after Richard heard the song mentioned again and again in the 1940 Bing Crosby flilm, Rhythm on the RiverHe later recalled, You never hear it in the movie, they just keep referring to it“.

That was enough to fire his creative imagination.

The song begins ice cold with Karen’s intonation of the classic lyrics:

I’ll say goodbye to love.
No one ever cared if I should live or die.
Time and time again, the chance for
Love has passed me by…

And it builds from there, with layer after layer of instrumentation, until the tune seems to end with Karen repeating the key phrase twice, trailing off into silence.

And then Tony Peluso‘s guitar solo kicks in. We get a small taste of it in a brief instrumental break before the tune modulates into a new key. But it’s when he cuts loose at the end with the Carpenters’ layered “ahhs” behind it that the drugs take full effect.

Legend has it that when Tony ran it for the first time, Richard said, “No, no, no! Play the melody for five bars and then burn it up! Soar off into the stratosphere! Go ahead! It’ll be great!”.

And it was.

I had never heard anything like it on a Carpenters record. The segment lasts for a full minute, 1/3 of the recording’s run time. Every hit has a memorable “hook” that seduces us. “Goodbye to Love” has two: the three opening words that denote the title and that incredible guitar performance. Hearing it was bearing witness to the power ballad genre being born.

There was no way to end such an incredible record, except for a slow fade, one that we DJ’s kept turning up louder on our control consoles. Like the many thousands of fans who gobbled up the single, it was an experience we didn’t want to let go. As I was writing this, I found myself listening to the entire record four times. Even then, I wanted to hear it again.

The tragedy of Karen Carpenter’s early passing only added to the poignancy of the song. And “Goodbye to Love‘s” appearance, two months after the death of my favorite Detroit radio station, WKNR, seemed like the perfect, eulogy for the conclusion of the 1960s, a page turning in our lives with all the mixed emotions that came with it.