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28m · July 21, 2021
We've Only Just Begun
The Carpenters - brother and sister duo Richard and Karen - were one of the most popular groups of the 1970s. His outstanding compositions and her stunning vocals created several massive hits including We've Only Just Begun. Originally written as a TV advert for a bank portraying happy young couples embarking on married life full of hope, they loved it and released it as their third single in 1970. Karen's wistful voice gave the song a melancholy that has long resonated with fans. After her premature death from heart failure due to anorexia nervosa, the song took on an extra poignancy with lyrics like "so much of life ahead". Fans tell their stories about the song and how it relates to their own life journeys. For Professor Karen Tongson (named after the singer), We've Only Just Begun is about growing up in the Philippines where The Carpenters epitomised the American Dream. When she emigrated to the USA, the song became a metaphor for the immigrant experience. Nomad and writer Jeff Read remembers his childhood in a poor part of Los Angeles brought up by a single mother who eventually died homeless on the street. The song brings back memories of childhood optimism and his longing for a stable family life. Poet Abigail George recalls seeing a film about Karen Carpenter's life and identifying with the singer's struggles with an eating disorder as she herself had to cope with a difficult family life in South Africa. Retired policeman John Weiss was reminded of the song when he attended the death of an elderly person at a care home. John looked at the deceased man's wedding photos and was struck by the brevity of life. The singer Natasha Khan aka Bat For Lashes always loved The Carpenters and recorded her own version of We've Only Just Begun as part of an album where things don't end well for the young bride. Ironically, her version now features in a commercial for a British bank so the song has come full circle. Randy Schmidt is the author of Little Girl Blue (The Life of Karen Carpenter). Versions of the song featured are by Grant Lee Buffalo Paul Williams Natasha Khan The Carpenters The Carpenters with the Philharmonic Orchestra Producer for BBC Audio in Bristol: Maggie Ayre