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Karen Carpenter's legacy lives on

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Back in the days of WIN buttons and bell-bottoms, Karen Carpenter was the least-likely candidate for a hip icon. But in the nostalgia-conscious ’90s, anything is possible. Carpenter, who died in 1983 at the age of 32 of causes related to anorexia nervosa, has been the subject of two recent movie biographies, one by underground filmmaker Todd Haynes, the other a TV movie starring Cynthia Gibb as Karen. There also is a Karen-in-heaven song (”Tunic [Song for Karen]”) by Sonic Youth, the darlings of the alternative-rock set, on their latest album, Goo. In England a new Carpenters anthology, Only Yesterday, went to No. 1 on the pop album charts in April. And now comes word of a four-CD Carpenters boxed set due next year on A&M. The collection is being compiled by brother Richard Carpenter and will include outtake versions of their hits, Karen’s duets with Ella Fitzgerald from a 1980 TV special, tracks from Karen’s never-released solo album, and rare recordings of one of the siblings’ first bands, Spectrum. Why the sudden interest in the ultimate ’70s square? ”When you die so young,” says an A&M spokesman, ”there’s a sympathy factor.”

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